Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2321: Inventing France, 1300-1500: Kings and Communities

Department: History

HIST2321: Inventing France, 1300-1500: Kings and Communities

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 the concepts of royal power in the late middle ages through the example of France.
  • To develop students' understanding of medieval society and political culture through a precise case study over a two-hundred year period.
  • To develop students' ability to engage with texts from the late middle ages and interpret history by situating these in their wider context.


  • To paraphrase Emmanuel Todd, such was the diversity of the political space we call France in the late Middle Ages that by rights it should not have existed: 'it had to be invented'. But by whom, and with what success? This course presents you with 'another France', quite different from the centralised, 'Parisified' one you may be familiar with: a realm governed by a king who claimed to be 'emperor in his kingdom', but who had extraordinarily limited means to enact that ambition, and whose ideology was not automatically embraced by peasant communities, urban elites, noble networks, leading churchmen and even the most powerful princely members of his own extended family. The relationship between royal power and these many other forces in the kingdom lies at the heart of this course, set within a context of plague and social change on the one hand, and the many phases of the Hundred Years' War on the other. Along the way we will investigate the ideas of key figures whose thoughts we will read in translation, including the chivalrous chronicler Jean Froissart, the visionary Joan of Arc, and the court writer Christine de Pizan.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A developing sense of the way in which the French polity was conceived and indeed 'invented' in the late middle ages.
  • A detailed understanding of the way royal power developed during this formative period in French history
  • A growing sense of the way in which historians analyse royal power and its social and institutional construction.
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
  • 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. The additional summative assignments will test knowledge and skills specific to the module, such as analysis of relevant primary sources, or critical engagement with the historiography as demonstrated through book reviews and article abstracts.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 17 in Term 2 1 hour 17
Seminars 7 Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 176
Total 200

Summative Assessment

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 2,000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography. 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 Hours 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