Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST1401: New Heaven, New Earth: Latin Christendom and the World, 1000-1300

Department: History

HIST1401: New Heaven, New Earth: Latin Christendom and the World, 1000-1300

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Normally an A or B grade in A-Level History, or an acceptable equivalent (e.g. in terms of Scottish Highers or IB)


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to key themes and developments in western Europe during a period of fundamental importance for the formation of European society, thought and culture.
  • To illuminate the role played in these developments by the varied contacts and interactions which took place during this period between western Europeans and other peoples, cultures and regions of the world.


  • Then I saw new heaven and new earth. .. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
  • Around the year 1000, Western Europe was engulfed by dramatic and far-reaching changes. Over the next three hundred years, European society was to be transformed utterly, in ways which still shape our everyday lives (universities are just one European legacy of these centuries). In this period, it is no exaggeration to say, the foundations were laid of what some people still call ‘western civilisation’. Towns sprang up and commerce flourished where once had been only forest. Churches spread across the landscape. Kingdoms were founded, natives subdued, and empires built. Humanity itself, and the proper relations of human beings with God, with one another, and with their environment, became urgent topics for debate. ‘Europe’, whether as political map, cultural programme, or ideological agenda, took on the contours which remain familiar (and controversial) today.
  • To explain how these changes came about, we must examine the new ways in which Europeans began at this time to relate to neighbouring and more distant peoples, lands and cultures: as conquerors, colonists, merchants, and missionaries, but also as scholars and teachers avidly in search of new ideas and sources of knowledge. The complex and troubled relations which were forged in this period – with Muslims, Jews, and eastern Christians, and between Europe’s heartlands and the peoples at its margins (such as Slavs and Celts) – remain the stuff of today’s, and tomorrow’s, headlines. Paradoxes abound. As crusaders and preachers, European Christians fought Islam with sharp words and sharper swords – and plundered its treasury of ancient learning. They installed Jewish immigrants in the engine-room of their surging urban economy – only to segregate, stereotype, slaughter and ultimately purge them from their lands. They rediscovered the ancient Romans as their ideal conqueror-civilisation – and sacked and looted its glittering eastern capital of Constantinople. Europeans themselves faced a whole new array of religious doctrines and possible ways of thinking and living from which to choose – at a time when powerful institutions of Church and State were being established to make sure they chose ‘correctly’. Making sense of this vibrant, turbulent and compelling period is the weighty challenge which awaits students taking this module.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of some of the key themes and developments in the religious, cultural, intellectual, social and political history of western Europe during this period;
  • An awareness of some of the ways in which these developments related to the contacts and interactions which took place during this period between western European Christians and other peoples, lands, religions and cultures.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/;
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at:http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/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:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • 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. The seminar will also be the primary forum for developing students skills in reading and criticizing primary sources.
  • 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;
  • The summative essay remains a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills it develops. It allows 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2, revision lecture 1 hour 20
Seminars 7 3 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2; setup seminar 1 hour 7
Pre-seminar consultation and structured group activity 1 1
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay, 2000 words not including footnotes or bibliography. 100%

Formative Assessment:

One short essay of 1500-2000 words focused on primary source analysis (for delivery in Term 1). Students will also prepare one or more short assignments for oral presentation. Summative essay submitted in Term 2 also has formative purposes.

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