Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST21B1: Socialising the Household in Late Medieval Cities

Department: History

HIST21B1: Socialising the Household in Late Medieval Cities

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the household; a core institution within medieval society
  • To develop students’ understanding of medieval urban society, political culture and material culture through a precise case study over a three-hundred year period
  • To develop students’ ability to engage with a diversity of medieval texts (civic, court, and ecclesiastical) and material culture, and subsequently interpret history by situating these sources in their wider context


  • This module focuses on the household as a way of opening up much bigger questions about late medieval society: what kind of political power did small groups of people have? How were bonds of loyalty established and maintained? How much was social order a product of individual action vs governmental control? In attempting to answer these questions, students will have the opportunity to work closely with material sources such as seals and domestic objects; legal sources such as witness statements and inquisitions into heresy and civic records. Such sources not only provide us with detailed glimpse of household loyalties in this period, but also ask us to consider the physical, political, religious and social impact of how medieval society was ordered. Themes considered include the fashioning of household identity of different social groups; the physical space of the house and its material make-up; the roles of childhood and gender in the household; and the household’s role as a political centre. It will look at order and disorder in the household, and how disorder in a space that we now consider ‘private’ could disrupt the harmony of medieval cities.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed understanding of the way the household developed in importance in social and political urban culture in the late middle ages
  • An understanding of the political and social history of late medieval cities
  • A familiarity with and critical understanding of a range of primary sources relating to late medieval citie
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to identify and to critique conflicting historical interpretations
  • 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
  • The 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:
  • 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 Hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 Hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1,000 word 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