HIST 2000A: Medieval Europe
Fall 2022-Winter 2023
Instructor: Sarah Keeshan
Introduction: This course is a broad survey of European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern history from c. 300 CE – 1500 CE, covering the historical period we now refer to as the “Middle Ages” (sandwiched between the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the modern world). The Middle Ages is simultaneously familiar to us, thanks to medieval-themed popular culture, and foreign, as medieval individuals and peoples often understood themselves and the world in very different ways than we do today. This – along with the large scope of the course – makes the Middle Ages a period of history that is particularly difficult and exceptionally rewarding to study. As we have a lot of ground to cover, this course is concerned with the broad sweep and themes of medieval history. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which medieval peoples organized their communities and made sense of the world, and the ways in which they formed connections with their neighbours via trade, religion, learning, warfare, and disease. Throughout, the course will demonstrate the diversity and complexity of the Middle Ages.
Class Format: The class is offered online and consists of asynchronous lectures as well as an hour-long, weekly synchronous discussion group. This structure allows students to work through the lectures on their own time and to discuss the material and assignments with each other and with the TA and instructor. The discussion time will consist of informal large and small group discussion, the examination of a wide range of primary sources (e.g. laws, art, architecture, textiles, poetry, chronicles, letters, maps, etc.), as well as providing an opportunity for the instructor to respond to weekly “Clearest, Muddiest Points” reflections.
Aims and Goals: This course will introduce students not only to a variety of historical approaches to the medieval world, but also to the challenges and opportunities offered by the study of pre-modern paradigms. It engages students in the identification and interrogation of modernist and post-modernist assumptions and in the challenging of our preconceptions of both the Middle Ages (as a foil to modernity) and ourselves. To do this larger work, students will engage in both creative projects and independent research, and work in inventive and structured ways with both medieval sources and post-medieval scholarship.
Assessment: Students will complete diverse assignments, namely: a guided primary source exercise, scaffolded research paper (due at the end of the second term), “Mentality Modules” that explore different thematic elements that help us to engage with some of the material realities and mentalities of medieval life (e.g. manuscripts, food culture, map-making), and an exploration of primary source translation across several editions. Several low-stakes reflections also give students the opportunity to reflect on the issues raised by the materials throughout the year.
Texts: Rosenwein, Barbara. A Short History of the Middle Ages. 5th ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018, and it’s partner sourcebook: Rosenwein, Barbara. Reading the Middle Ages. 3rd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018. Shopkow, Leah. The Saint and the Count: A Case Study for Reading Like a Historian. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021. The books will be available at the Carleton University bookstore and both physical and less expensive electronic copies of the books are available directly through University of Toronto Press.