Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2008-2009 (archived)


Department: Theology and Religion


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2008/09 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to questions and problems arising from the interaction between violence and religion, through a detailed study of violence of various kinds in the Reformation era.
  • To foster a study of religious cultures which is both historically and theologically situated.


  • Like our own era, the Reformation age was one of violence carried out in the name of faith; from state persecution of heretics and other religous deviants, through religious riot, lynching and iconoclasm; through to full-scale wars of religion. This module will examine the violent faces of early modern Christianity. We will be asking questions such as: what really motivates 'religious' violence? Are some religious traditions more violent than others? And how does violence change the religious cultures which inflict it and which suffer from it? The content of the module will fall into two halves. The first half will focus on state persecution and responses to it. Here we will look principally at the persecution of both Catholics and Protestants in the English Reformation: motives for persecution and for resistance, the impact of persecution on religious cultures, the growth of martyrology, and alternatives to persecution. For comparison, we will also consider the witch-hunts of this period, and persecution of Jewish and Anabaptist minorities. The second half will focus on riot and religious war, and will centre on the French Wars of Religion: we will consider the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the role of preaching and print in forming religious violence, the ritual dimension of violence, the links between religion and shifting political theory, and the difficulties of pacification. For comparison, we will also look at iconoclastic riot in Scotland and the Netherlands, and at state uses of religious warfare in the brutal struggles of the Thirty Years' War.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed understanding of the course of the English Reformation and the French Wars of Religion, and in particular of the role which violence of various kinds played in shaping their outcome.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • A thorough awareness of the anthropological, sociological, theological and political-theory issues surrounding religion and violence in this period, and of the interaction between them.
Key Skills:
  • An ability to contextualise, sift and analyse complex sources and to develop arguments based on detailed research into both historical and theological questions.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lecture conveys information and exemplifies an approach to the subject matter, enabling students to develop a clear understanding of the subject and to improve their skills in listening and in evaluating information.
  • Seminars enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of different viewpoints and appraoches.
  • Formative essays develop subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the acquisition of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of information in written form.
  • Examinations assess subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the structured presentation of information in written form under time constraints.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 2 Weeks 2 and 12 1 hour 2
Seminars 18 10 1-hour classes, 8 2-hour classes 26
Student preparation & reading time associated with the contact hours listed above, coursework, general background reading, reivison for written examinations etc. 172
SLAT totals 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Seminar presentation 2000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University