NOTE: This course was last taught in 1994. The syllabus will undergo major revision the next time I offer it.
Instructor: Bruce L. Venarde
Meetings: Mondays and Thursdays, 1:10-2:30
  Catalogue description: England from the end of Roman occupation to the later Middle Ages. Themes will include Germanic and Danish invasions; conversion to Christianity; Anglo-Saxon culture and society; the Norman Conquest and its impact; religious and social change in Anglo-Norman England; kingship and the beginnings of parliament; the Arthur story; war, plague, and revolt at the end of the Middle Ages. Emphasis on scrutiny of medieval source materials: chronicle, biography, law, and imaginative literature.   This is a lecture-discussion course; we will talk about some or all of the readings for each section. Like the making and study of history, ours is a collective enterprise. Your active participation in discussions is absolutely essential to your understanding of the material and the success of the course.
Books for purchase:
  • C. Warren Hollister, The Making of England, 55 B.C. to 1399
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ed. G.N. Garmonsway
  • Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People
  • Alfred the Great
  • King Harald's Saga
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
  • Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds
  • William fitz Stephen, Norman London
  • J.C. Holt, Magna Carta, 2nd ed.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
Books on reserve:
  • D.C. Douglas, general editor, English Historical Documents , vols 1-4
  • L.B. Smith and J.R. Smith, The Past Speaks, vol. 1
  • John Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers
Please familiarize yourself with the geography of England early in the course, and update your knowledge as we proceed. To start, you will find excellent maps in the volumes of English Historical Documents. There will be a map identification portion of the final examination.
Written work
5-page source paper due by October 17th -
10-page research paper due by November 23rd -
Final examination on December 15th
Grade components
Class participation: at least 30%
paper: up to 20%
Long paper: up to 35%
Final examination: up to 35%
9/8 Introduction

9/12 Origins and Roman Britain

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC). pp. 3-11 [N.B. In this and all assignments of the ASC, read only the Laud Chronicle (E).]
Bede, Ecclesiastical History, pp. 41-62
Warren Hollister,The Making of England,pp. 1-20

9/15 Anglo-Saxons: migration, settlement, conquest?

ASC, pp. 13-21
Bede, pp. 62-72
Hollister, pp. 20-31

9/19 The Roman mission and conversion of England

Bede, pp. 72-77, 90-142, 322-331
Hollister, pp. 34-45

9/22 Early Anglo-Saxon society and culture

"The Wanderer" (handout)
ASC, pp. 21-55 Bede, pp. 248-251
English Historical Documents (EHD), vol. 1, pp. 357-372 (early Anglo-Saxon law codes)
Hollister, pp. 45-55

9/26 New arrivals, new response: Alcuin to Alfred

L.B. Smith and J.R. Smith, The Past Speaks, vol. 1, pp. 15-17 (Alcuin's letter)
Alfred the Great , pp. 67-101 (Asser's Life of King Alfred )
ASC , pp. 57-105
Hollister, pp. 55-65

9/29 Tenth-century England

The Past Speaks, pp. 7-11 ("The Battle of Maldon")
ASC, pp. 105-133
Hollister, pp. 66-84

10/3 Whose England?: the early eleventh century

ASC, pp. 133-197
Hollister, pp. 85-92

10/6 Harold Godwinson and the Conquest

King Harald's Saga

10/10 NO CLASS: Columbus Day

10/13 William of Normandy and the Conquest

ASC, pp. 197-222
EHD, vol. 2, pp. 232-278 (The Bayeux Tapestry)
Hollister, pp. 93-121

10/17 Anglo-Norman England: what price peace?

ASC, pp. 221-225, 233-239, 256-269
Hollister, pp. 122-138


10/20 War, culture, and society in the twelfth century

Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, pp. 212-284
Hollister, pp. 138-143

10/24 Christianity and its discontents

John Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers, pp. 452-458 (Aelred on the nun of Watton)
Hollister, pp. 205-218

10/27 The first Plantagenet and his realm

EHD vol. 2, pp. 407-410, 438-440, 446-448, 416-417
J.C. Holt, Magna Carta, 2nd ed., pp. 23-49
Hollister, pp. 144-161

10/31 Toward Bouvines and Magna Carta: Henry's sons

Holt, pp. 75-122
Hollister, pp. 161-173

11/3 A medieval city

William fitz Stephen, Norman London
Hollister, pp. 179-205

11/7 Magna Carta and its results

Holt, pp. 188-236, 297-346, 449-473
Hollister, pp. 173-176

11/10 NO CLASS (Think about/work on term papers and get a jump on next week's reading)

11/14 Economy and mentality at the turn of the thirteenth century

Jocelin of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds

11/17 Governance in the thirteenth century

EHD vol. 3, pp. 396-410, 924-934 (parliaments)
Hollister, 219-250

11/21 Economic apogee and a very bad (?) king

EHD, vol. 3, pp. 799-805, 823-832 (economy and society)
EHD, vol. 4, pp. 282-288 (Edward II)
Hollister, pp. 253-268


11/28 The beginning of the end, I: war and deposition

EHD, vol. 4, pp. 60-69, 77-82, 92-99 (Edward's war), 172-184 (Richard's troubles)
Hollister, pp. 269-281

12/1 The beginning of the end, II: plague and revolt

The Past Speaks, pp. 199-205 (Henry Knighton on the Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt)
EHD, vol. 4, pp. 127-140 (The Peasant's Revolt)
Hollister, pp. 282-303

12/5 English lives in the fourteenth century

Geoffrey Chaucer, General Prologue and the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale from The Canterbury Tales

12/8 Conclusions

12/12 Review section