Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO3761: The Reformation and Its Legacy

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO3761: The Reformation and Its Legacy

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • THEO2511


  • To engage students at an advanced level with scholarly study of the theology and history of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations and their legacy to modern times.
  • To lead students into advanced and independent analysis of the works of key theologians of the Reformation era and of their subsequent interpreters.
  • To enable students to analyse and critique the political, social and economic consequences of religious change in the early modern period.
  • To integrate this material with students’ prior knowledge of the history of Christianity.
  • To equip students for the close reading of complex text and for forming tight, focused and apposite arguments.


  • 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 falls into four study units. The first introduces the medieval context and the major religious parties that emerged from the Reformation crisis. The second focuses on the key theological issues at stake between the parties. The third looks at the socio-political impact of the disputes in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with particular attention to religious violence and issues of tolerance and intolerance. The final unit looks at longer–term consequences including the Reformation’s purported connections to shifting gender norms, to economic change and to secularisation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the religious history of the period and of theological developments within it, along with an appreciation of the interrelationship between religious, theological factors, social, cultural, political and economic developments.
  • Advanced understanding of a substantial set of 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 precise, focused and contextualised comment on selected texts.
  • Skills in independent researching, thinking and working within a loosely 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 workshop consisting of intensive whole-class work on the planning and structuring of essays, with various examples discussed and critiqued. Lectures are the main focus for the subject specific knowledge; the workshops test and extend the generic key skills. Lectures and workshops run concurrently with the same classes for THEO2511. The subject-specific knowledge required in the lectures is the same for both modules; in the workshops, the L2 students will benefit from witnessing and contributing to a discussion led by more experienced L3 students.
  • Each of the three classic lectures in each study unit will be succeeded by a seminar focusing on primary texts set for the week, provided in advance for all students in both hard-copy and electronic format. This will of course be specific to this module, with a more extensive body of texts than those studied in THEO2511. 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.
  • Each student will have a one-to-one tutorial meeting with the module convenor early in Epiphany Term to discuss choice of topic for summative essay.
  • 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 500-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: (1) Extended essay, on a topic agreed individually with the module leader, worth 40%: of the module mark: this tests all of the learning outcomes but places particular weight on the key skills in independent research. (2) Examination, in which comments on extracts from set texts and essays 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
Tutorial 1 Early in Epiphany term 1 hour 1
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%
Component: Written Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Four essay plans and four 500-word comments on extracts from the set texts, spread across the four study units of the module.

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