Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module HIST45530: Writing the medieval and early modern past

Department: History

HIST45530: Writing the medieval and early modern past

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • • HIST45430 Writing the medieval and early modern past

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to a range of key themes, approaches, ideas, movements and institutions for the interdiciplinary study of the medieval and early modern periodss.
  • To introduce students to ways of examining change and continuity over the longue durée.
  • To enable students to develop advanced skills in analysing and using a variety of different types of approach for the medieval and early modern periods.
  • To enable students to develop essential research skills for the successful completion of an MA programme in medieval and early modern studies, and in particular to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to design and complete a dissertation.
  • To enable students to develop their written and oral communication skills.
  • To study the emergence and development of a range of major issues and approaches in the medieval and early modern periods through focused study of multiple types of evidence.


  • This module focuses on major themes, approaches, key ideas, movements and institutions which are relevant to the study of the medieval and early modern periods, and which can be best explained by close study of change and continuity over a long period of time. These themes will invite interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approaches, and thus will allow students to develop their skills in bringing together different kinds of evidence for the study of the past.
  • There will be eight fortnightly two-hour seminars, each taught by one or more specialists, with regular contributions from the MA convenor to ensure continuity and coherence. Each seminar will take as its focus a major topic in the study of the medieval and early modern past, and students will be encouraged to focus in on areas within each topic which are of particular relevance to their own research interests.
  • In addition to the seminars there will be 1) an initial two-hour set-up meeting which will include an introduction to the module and the means of assessment, and a session on on public speaking to prepare for giving presentations; 2) a two-hour concluding workshop on defining the terms ˜Medieval and Early Modern", and on the transition between them; 3) a conference after the Easter break where students will make presentations on their chosen approach to dissertation research projects.
  • Students will be required to read specified items in advance of each seminar, and encouraged to engage in further reading afterwards. For each seminar one or two students will be asked to prepare a brief presentation as a way of opening up discussion and offering an in-depth examination of some of the issues to be discussed, and as a preparation for the Summer term conference.
  • The topics chosen for study will depend on staff availability in any given year and will be organised around Directions in the Humanities (eg. visual culture, medical humanities, digital humanities, the animal turn, material culture), Key Words (eg. magic, science, archives and knowledge, the Global Medieval/Early Modern, allegory) or Theories and Approaches (Social history of archives, quantitative approaches, performativity).
  • Student presentations in seminars will offer the opportunity for ongoing formative assessment, provided by the MA convenor.
  • The summative assessment for the module: Students will submit an essay of up to 5000 words, on a topic connected with the themes of the module. Students should devise their own questions in consultation with the module co-ordinator and/or one of the tutors teaching on the module. Essays will be due at the latest at the end of second term.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge and understanding of the key themes, ideas and approaches explored in the module, and of the interpretations made by scholars from a range of disciplinary traditions and periods.
  • Detailed knowledge and understanding of the evidence and contexts which explain the issues of continuity and change across the medieval and early modern period examined in the module.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to understand and use a range of approaches relevant to the medieval and early modern period.
  • An ability to understand social, political, religious and cultural changes and trajectories by means of a variety of different kinds of evidence.
Key Skills:
  • A high level of ability in writing cogently and persuasively on a specialised topic within the subject area of the module, drawing on the work of previous scholars as necessary.
  • A high level of ability in formulating questions for research into the medieval and early modern past.

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

  • Teaching is delivered through seminars and workshops; participation in these and the independent reading required for these will enable students to achieve the module’s specified learning outcomes.
  • Students will be allocated an advisor (who may be their dissertation supervisor) to work on the research proposal, and who will offer guidance on preparation for the assessed presentation.
  • Formative assessment will involve at least one presentation within seminars (assessed by the convenor and session tutor together).
  • The summative assessment for the module has two parts. 1) An essay of up to 4000 words, on a question/topic to be devised by the student in consultation with a module tutor and/or the student’s dissertation supervisor. This is worth 80% of the mark for the module. 2) A 15-minute presentation (with 5 minutes of questions). This is worth 20% of the mark for the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Introductory Meeting 1 Once 2 hours 2
Seminars 8 Fortnightly 2 hours 16
Workshops 1 2 hours 2
Tutorials 4 Two in Term 1, fortnightly during Term 2 0.5 hours 3
Preparation & Reading 277
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed essay on a topic connected with the themes of the module 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

At least one seminar presentation.

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