Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO2511: The Reformation and its Legacy

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO2511: The Reformation and its Legacy

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


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • Students who have previously taken THEO2301 MAKING OF MODERN CHRISTIANITY may not take this module.


  • To engage students in an informed and critical manner with major debates on the theology and history of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and their legacy to modern times.
  • To enable students to analyse and critique key theological debates and leading thinkers of the Reformation era.
  • To enable students to assess the political, social and economic impact of religious change in this period.
  • To build on students’ prior knowledge of the history of Christianity.
  • To equip students to write concisely, effectively and pointedly in analysing primary sources and in debating contentious issues.


  • This module examines the traumatic fractures in western Christendom that were triggered by Martin Luther from 1517 onwards: their theological substance and also their short- and long-term impacts on European society (and beyond). It will fall into four study units. The first will introduce the medieval context and the major religious parties that emerged from the Reformation crisis. The second will focus on the key theological issues at stake between the parties. The third will look at the socio-political impact of the disputes in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with particular attention to religious violence and to gender roles. The final unit will look at longer–term consequences including the Reformation’s purported connections to the rise of tolerance and to economic change.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the overall religious history of the period and of theological developments within it, along with an appreciation of the interrelationship between, on the one hand, religious and theological factors, on the other, social and cultural developments.
  • In-depth knowledge of a series of selected key primary texts and of their contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Skills in the handling of primary texts and secondary sources, with an appreciation of the associated problems.
  • Skills in the application of historical methods to theological questions.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in structuring and presenting evidence-based arguments in concise form.
  • Skills in analysis and concise, contextualised comment on selected texts.
  • Skills in independent researching, thinking and working within a guided framework.

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

  • Each of the four study units comprises four ‘lectures’: three of these are traditional lectures providing an overview of key aspects of the subject and exemplifying approaches to the topic. The fourth is a whole-class essay workshop in which structures and outline answers to the model essay questions on the unit are discussed, informed by the essay plans which all students will prepare (see below). The workshop will focus intensively on questions of essay planning, structure and technique.
  • Each of the three classic lectures in each study unit will be succeeded by a seminar focusing on primary texts set for the week, which will be provided in advance for all students in both hard-copy and electronic format. This will enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of a range of viewpoints and approaches.
  • Formative assessment: at the end of each of the four study units, all students to hand in (1) a one-page essay plan addressing one of the model essay questions set for that unit, laying out the structure to be adopted, the argument to be advanced, the evidence to be used (in summary) and the conclusions to be reached; (2) a 250-word comment on a set extract from one of the set texts studied in that unit. These exercises will train students in formulating concise arguments and in applying their knowledge to specific questions in a focused manner.
  • Summative assessment: entirely by examination, in which comments on extracts from set texts and essays will test students’ knowledge and understanding, their ability to handle texts and sources historically, and their ability to formulate effective arguments drawing on their wider reading.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 18 1 per week (with breaks), MT weeks 1-5, 7-10, EpT weeks 1-4, 6-9, ET week 1 (revision class) 1 hour 18
Seminars 12 4 blocks of 3 consecutive weeks, MT weeks 2-4, 7-9, EpT weeks 1-3, 6-8 1 hour 12
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Final Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Four essay plans and four ‘gobbet’ answers, one of each per study unit.

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