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10 cp from 100-level units in History or Politics and International Relations

Unit rationale, description and aim

The thousand-year stretch of European history between 500 and 1500, known as the 'Middle Ages, ' was a formative period in the development of European government, society and culture that continues to exercise a strong influence on the popular imagination. In this unit, students examine the slow emergence of a distinctive medieval civilisation in Europe during the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire, and consider the development of such defining features of the period as social structure, gender relations, manorialism, feudal relations and medieval religion. The economic, political and cultural expansion of the High Middle Ages will be an important focus, as will the upheavals of the late Middle Ages. Students will explore important cross-cultural interactions and exchanges between Europe and its neighbouring civilisations in the Middle Ages, and consider the emergence of 'early modern' Europe in the sixteenth century. Students will draw on both primary and secondary sources to develop their understanding of the unit's themes through Inquiry-based research activities. The aim of this unit is to develop students' capacity to provide persuasive analyses of major themes in the development of Europe in the Middle Ages that are supported by scholarly research practices.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss theoretical and factual knowledge of Medieval (and where appropriate Early Modern) Europe, and an awareness of historical debates surrounding it (GA5, GA6)LO2Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA9) 

LO3 - Locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to Medieval (and where appropriate Early Modern) Europe to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument (GA3, GA8, G10) 

LO4 - Apply critical reading skills to your understanding of Medieval (and where appropriate Early Modern) Europe and the methods that historians have used to research it. (GA4, GA5) 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:  

  • Defining features of medieval civilisation, including medieval social structure, gender relations, feudal relations, manorialism and medieval religion 
  • Significant historical developments in the period, such as: 
  • the transition between the late antique and the early medieval period 
  • the Carolingian Empire 
  • the Viking incursions 
  • the Crusading movement 
  • centralised government in the twelfth century 
  • the twelfth-century renaissance 
  • urbanisation and the growth of urban government, urban institutions (such as hospitals), and urban identity 
  • developments in medieval religion: monasticism, the centralised papacy, pilgrimage and the cult of the saints, the mendicant orders, and heresy 
  • cross-cultural interactions and exchanges (for example, with Muslim Iberia) the upheavals of the late Middle Ages, including the Black Death  
  • the transition from the late Middle Ages to the ‘early modern’ religious, social and political landscape which emerges in Europe in the sixteenth century [This module will not be included in states where HIST105 is offered.] 
  • Significant individuals from the period and the sources for their lives 
  • Consideration of significant historiographical issues such as the debates surrounding periodisation of the Middle Ages, and the emergence of ‘modernity’ in the early modern period  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10 credit-point unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. It may be taught in attendance mode across a semester or intensive mode (Short-term International Study Experience). To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, film screenings, skills workshops, and assignments etc. 

In both Face-to-Face and Intensive mode, this unit draws on Inquiry-based learning models to explore the unit content. The Intensive model combines Inquiry-based Learning with Field-based learning strategies.  

A. Face-to-Face mode 

When taught in Face-to-Face mode, learning and teaching in this unit will take place through face-to-face classes, through the online LEO environment and through independent study.  

  1. Students will develop an understanding of the content of the unit by means of interactive lectures and tutorials, in which key themes of the unit will be presented and analysed.  
  2. Students will develop analytical skills that will enable them to produce sound historical analyses in their lectures and tutorials. Tutorials will focus on the structured analysis of current research on selected topics, and through this weekly analysis and discussion students will practise the critical reading skills that will form the basis for the unit’s major research task.  

When taught in Intensive mode, as a two-week Short-term International Study Experience, learning and teaching in this unit will be primarily designed around site visits, but will also include learning through the online LEO environment and through independent study. 

  1. Students will develop an understanding of the content of the unit by means of structured site visits; there will be tailored learning opportunities before, during and at times after the visits. Sites visited will include, as examples, locations illustrating the transition from late Antique to the Early Medieval period, the nature of medieval religious experience and practice, the aims and ambitions of the papacy, urban identity and urban institutions, or the revival of interest in antiquity in the Early Modern period. The unit’s LEO site will enhance student learning in particular by providing access to resources such as videos and interactive maps for the sites visited. 
  2. Students will develop analytical skills that will enable them to produce sound historical analyses by analysing current research that relates to their site visits. Research analyses may for example be presented on-site. These analyses will give students the opportunity to practise the critical reading skills that will form the basis for the unit’s major research task, which will also focus on themes presented in their site visits. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to suit both Face-to-Face and Intensive modes. Intensive mode assessment tasks will draw on the themes presented in site visits.  

The assessment tasks in this unit have been sequenced to promote cumulative, inquiry-based learning. The first assessment task, “Research Analysis,” is designed to develop and assess Learning Outcomes 1 and 2, by requiring that students focus on an in-depth analysis of current research, usually in the form of research articles or book chapters, on selected topics.  

The second assessment task builds on the techniques and knowledge gained in the first assessment task and then develops and assesses the research-focused Learning Outcomes 1-4, by requiring that students complete a substantial research task, that is in keeping with the inquiry-based learning approach. This task will demonstrate engagement with relevant contemporary scholarship, and where applicable, relevant primary sources.  

The final summative task assesses students’ ability to synthesise the knowledge, concepts and skills developed in this unit to provide well-supported analysis of major developments and themes in medieval (and where applicable, early modern) Europe. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Research Analysis: The purpose of this task is to develop students’ capacity to isolate and analyse the arguments made in current research on a key topic in Medieval (or, where applicable, Early Modern) history. 


LO1, LO2 

GA5, GA6, GA9 

Research task: The purpose of this task is to develop students’ ability to produce an extended written historical argument about the European Middle Ages (or where applicable, early modern period) that is supported by scholarly research in primary and secondary sources. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Summative task: The purpose of this task is to develop students’ ability to synthesise and reflect on the key themes of the unit. 


The lecturer may designate this task to be in the form of short answer responses, test/s, take-home exam, exam, reflective essay/poster or simulation exercise. 


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Bitel, L. and F. Lifshitz, eds. Gender and Christianity in Medieval Europe: New Perspectives. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. 

Brentjes, Sonja, Alexander Fidora, and Matthias M. Tischler. "Towards a New Approach to Medieval Cross-Cultural Exchanges."Journal of Transcultural Medieval Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 9-50. 

Cobb, Paul, M. The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Crum, Roger J. and John T, Paoletti, eds. Renaissance Florence: A Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 

Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.  

McKitterick, R., ed.The Early Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.  

Mews, Constant M.  Abelard and Heloise. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.  

Romano, Dennis, Markets and Market Places in Medieval Italy, C1100 to c1140. Yale: Yale University Press, 2015. 

Rublack, Ulinka, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.The Trial of Joan of Arc. Translated by Daniel Hobbins. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. 

Wickham, Chris. Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400-800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. 

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