Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20X1: Cross-Cultural Iberia: identity and diversity ca. 600-950 CE

Department: History

HIST20X1: Cross-Cultural Iberia: identity and diversity ca. 600-950 CE

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to aspects of political, religious and cultural history of early medieval Iberia;
  • To engage students with a range of textual, visual and archaeological evidence to explore questions about interfaith relations and identity in late-antique and early medieval Iberia.
  • to introduce students to historical topics such as religious diversity, culture, conquest, multiculturalism, and to the institutions in this period in the Iberian Peninsula.
  • To contribute towards the achievement of the Department’s generic aims for study at Level 2.


  • Medieval Iberia has been often described as the ‘the land of the three religions’. In the sixth century, under the rule of the Visigoths, Iberia was predominantly Christian, but important Jewish communities also existed therein. In 711CE, Muslim forces crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from North Africa, entering the peninsula. In the subsequent decades, an Islamic emirate was formed in southern Iberia, and with it a new monotheistic religion – Islam – was established in the West. Between the late-sixth and the mid-tenth century, Iberia saw gradual transformations as well as outright change. In the early eighth century, the Visigothic kingdom collapsed in the face of the Islamic Umayyad caliphate, but not all aspects of everyday life changed. Simultaneously, new Christian kingdoms began to emerge in the north, and progressively expanded their influence southwest into al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia); while Jewish communities, albeit still a minority, negotiated their existence amongst Christians and Muslims. For its complex sociopolitical, cultural and religious environment, early medieval Iberia is seen as a distinctive milieu in Western history. This module explores the culture, society and religious experience in Iberia between the late sixth and mid-tenth century, focusing on its multicultural makeup and how these different but interconnected communities engaged with each other. Students will have the opportunity to examine a wide range of different sources, including literary works, theological treatises, visual art, architecture, and archaeological materials as evidence to explore the history of the period. We will consider topics such as the Muslim conquest, the influence of Islamic culture in science and learning in the West; interfaith relations; the development of Christian intellectual and visual culture (from the time of Isidore of Seville to the period of frontier monasticism); as well as the old Iberian capital cities and their historical importance.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • an awareness of the source material used by historians to understand the religious, political, social and intellectual history of late-antique and early medieval Iberia.
  • an understanding of some of the key themes, issues and historiographical debates around the Iberia peninsula in the period
  • a basis for more advanced work (at level 3) on the history of the Iberian Peninsula and the Western Mediterranean in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • he ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

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:
  • 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.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The 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 and skills.
  • Summative coursework will test students’ ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures (Online) 17 16 in Term 2, 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 7 6 in Term 2, 1 in Term 3 1 hour 7
Preparation and reading 176
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2000 words, not including bibliography or footnotes 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the summative assignment and from work done during and in preparation for seminars.

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