Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least TWO level two modules in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This course will provide students with the opportunity to study in detail a selection of particularly important texts and images dating from the late Roman and early medieval periods.
  • By close attention to their historical contexts students will come to understand the developing articulation of notions of just and holy war by Christians, and those of other faiths.
  • The course will provide training and experience in deploying the evidence of pertinent texts and images for broader historical and cultural debate, including for contemporary discussions. o Concurrently, it will expose students to the work and practices of modern art historians and textual scholars as well as of medieval historians of both east and west.


  • This course offers an extended exploration of one theme: Christian attitudes to warfare. It examines notions of 'Just War' and 'Holy War' and the roles they played in Christian thought and practice from the conversion of Constantine to the preaching of the First Crusade (c. 312-1095).
  • It begins with an exploration of how Christian ideas were embraced by the late Roman state with a highly elaborate 'theology of victory', and proceeds to explore how these ideas developed within radically changing contexts in the early Middle Ages.
  • Most attention is given to eastern lands, where Christians who called themselves Romans, but whom we call Byzantines, fought first Zoroastrian Persians and later Muslim Arabs and Turks.
  • Consideration is also given to western attitudes to warfare, from St. Augustine of Hippo to Pope Urban II.
  • While the chronological parameters of the course appear broad, its focus remains acute. Similarly, while key sources may appear disparate and wide-ranging, investigation will illuminate common themes and ideas.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed knowledge of some of the principal medieval texts reflecting attitudes to war that were produced in Byzantium and Western Europe between the fourth and the eleventh centuries.
  • An ability to understand and interpret primary visual evidence, and to combine it with relevant primary written sources for historical debate.
  • An awareness of the relevant modern historical, textual and art historical secondary literature, and an ability to compare and evaluate often divergent conclusions presented therein.
  • A knowledge of the ideological issues pertinent to the emergence and development of just war and holy war, and an understanding of certain ideological responses, notably the Islamic articulation of jihad.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

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

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals;
  • tutorials either individually or in groups to discuss topics arising from prepared work, allowing students the opportunity to reflect upon their personal learning with the tutor.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources;
  • Assessment of Primary Source Handling Students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students' ability to bring that knowledge to bear on 'cutting edge' research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate an understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 & 2 30 mins 1
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 3 hours 57
Revision Sessions 1 Revision 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum of 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 50%
Essay 2 maximum of 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 35%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen examination (gobbet paper) 3 hour 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen examination (essay paper) 2 hour 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2500 words (not including footnotes and bibliography), submitted in Term 1. This will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet. Coursework essays are formative as well as summative. They are to be submitted in two copies, of which one will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet. Preparation to participate in seminars and tutorials. At least one oral presentation in each term, and at least two practice gobbets in each term.

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