Medieval History, II
Fall 1998 (99-1)
Instructor: Bruce L. Venarde, Assistant Professor of History
Office: Forbes Quadrangle 3M26, 624-8437
Office hours: Thurdays, 1:30-3:30 and by appointment
   History 1111 traces the transformation of Europe from fragmented and impoverished backwater in the 10th century to major world society by 1500. How did medieval Europeans imagine themselves and the world around them, and what about the ways they acted on their imaginations allowed them to build a society sufficiently strong to withstand the natural and manmade disasters of the 14th and 15th centuries? The course will proceed chronologically and thematically, with special attention to continuity and change in the economy, the exercise of power, Christian organization and practice, and the world of thought and imagination. Lectures and discussions will also consider the relationship of these different aspects of human experience and evaluate the meaning of change for various social groups.
   The primary goals of History 1111, then, are for you to become familiar with the geography, chronology, and important themes of European history from ca. 950 to ca. 1500; to learn critical reading in historical sources; and to develop skills in analytical writing. This course is taught in a lecture-discussion format that will require that you keep up with the assigned reading. Frequent discussions will focus on medieval sources, addressing among others the questions outlined on the "Considering the Source" handout (attached).
  • Active participation in discussions (up to 25%)
  • In-class midterm examination, October 1st (approximately 20%)
  • Second midtern or paper, November 10th (approximately 25%)
  • Final examination, December 16th (approximately 35%)
   Please note:1) Examinations will consist of short answers and essays. Topics for exam essays and the short paper will be distributed in advance. 2) Grade weightings are approximate to allow some discretion in awarding final grades. The instructor is inclined to reward consistently good class participation and steady improvement in written work, and inclined to assume lack of committment in the case of intermittent participation or declining written performance.
This course meets TTh, 11-12:15. There will be no class meeting on Tuesday, October 13th. Otherwise, your faithful attendance, preparation, and participation are expected.
(available at the Book Center)
  • Alfred J. Andrea,The Medieval Record
  • David Herlihy,The Black Death and the Tranformation of the West
  • David Herlihy,Medieval Culture and Society
  • C. Warren Hollister,Medieval Europe: A Short History 8th edition
  • The Story of Abelard's Adversities
N.B.: The syllabus is "proposed" because we may cover some topics in more or less depth than anticipated, based on class interests. I am more concerned with quality of discussion and understanding than with quantity of reading or coverage of all subjects. Specific assignments for each class meeting and questions about the readings will be given as we go along.
I. The New Millennium, ca. 950-ca. 1100
Week of August 31st: Orientation

Andrea,The Medieval Record, pp. 180-185, 194-198

Week of September 7th: Changes in the land

Andrea, pp. 228-234
Herlihy,Medieval Culture and Society, pp. 154-158, 176-180
Hollister,Medieval Europe, pp.138-146

Week of September 14th: "Civilization" and capitalism

Andrea, pp. 246-257
Herlihy, pp. 180-185
Hollister, pp. 136-138, 156-172

Week of September 21st: Lords, vassals, knights, and kings before government

Andreas, pp. 171-176, 185-188
Herlihy, pp. 254-269
Hollister, pp. 123-129, 172-176

Week of September 28th: The Church and the world

Andrea, pp. 311-317, 202-206
Hollister, pp. 225-234, 206-214

II. The Medieval Synthesis, ca. 1095-ca. 1300

Week of October 5th: Crusades and other campaigns

Andrea, pp. 202-206, 234-236, 257-259, 340-360
Hollister, pp. 189-205

Weeks of October 12th and October 19th: Culture, intellectual life and social change

Andrea, pp. 260-266, 289-296
Herlihy, pp. 158-168, 234-254 , 282-287
Hollister, pp. 172-188, 272-281, 296-314
The Story of Abelard's Adversities

Week of October 26th: The Church supreme

Andrea, pp. 206-227, 270-289, 317-322
Herlihy, pp. 292-302
Hollister, pp. 235-247, 282-296

Week of November 2nd: Government and the nation-state

Andrea, pp. 242-246, 297-310, 322-339
Hollister, pp. 248-271

III. Crises and Horizons, ca. 1300-ca. 1500
Week of November 9th: Enough and too much?

Andrea, pp. 266-270, 364-375
Herlihy, pp. 314-328, 334-331
Hollister, pp. 281, 307-314


Week of November 16th and 23rd: The crises of the late medieval world

Andrea, pp. 379-388, 397-405, 432-434
Herlihy,Medieval Cultural and Society, pp. 342-345, 351-361
Herlihy,The Black Death and the Transformation of the West
Hollister, pp. 326, 335-362

Week of November 30th:The Church challenged

Andrea, pp. 388-397, 434-443
Herlihy, pp. 345-350, 405-410
Hollister, pp. 329-335, 362-369

Week of December 7th: New (?) Europe and new worlds in the 15th century

Andrea, pp. 417-421, 443-453, 460-473
Hollister, pp. 369-375

Reading historical documents is a more demanding and complex activity than reading the packaged information in a textbook. You need to put the selections in the context of what other things you know about the period of time in which they were produced. In order to relate each document to its particular historical context and to the general problems with which we deal in this course, you should read through the entire document and then attempt to answer the following questions where they are appropriate to the assignment.
  1. Author(s): Who were they? What was their authority? (Personal? institutional?) What was their specialized knowledge or experience? How would you describe the authors' tone of voice? (Formal, angry, respectful, other?)
  2. Audience(s): Who were the intended reader(s) or listener(s)? Were there other readers or listeners beyond those originally intended? Who? How did the audience affect the ways the author(s) presented ideas?
  3. Purpose(s): What was the explicit intent behind this document? (To do what? Or cause what to happen?) What was the relation between this intent and other policy or practice? Was there an implicit purpose, or hidden agenda, behind this document? Who benefitted, directly or indirectly, from the policy reflected in the document?
  4. Context: What were the date and place of the document? What was the interval between the initial problem or event and this document which responded to it? What medium or form was the document communicated through? (Newspaper, government record, letter, other?) Where was the document written and read? What were other events or conditions at the same time that could have affected the reading or writing of the document?
  5. Meanings: Is there any ambiguity in the literal meaning of the document? Which words? Are there striking omissions in the document? How does this affect its meaning? Does the organization of ideas or the repetition of themes in the document suggest those that the writer(s) believed most important? Are there any confusing terms in this document? Which words? Can you detect bias in the choice of any words or terms? Which? Can you detect any underlying assumptions (of values or attitudes) revealed in any loaded remarks or passing remarks? What? Can you sense any contradictory or conflicting attitudes or issues expressed in the document? What? How does the form or medium affect the meaning of this document?
  6. Corroboration: Do other sources support this document? How do other documents from this period illuminate or contradict this document?