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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST1310 The Medieval World in Ten Objects

20 creditsClass Size: 150

Module manager: Jonathan Jarrett

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Forget texts: objects are the actual stuff of history. Be it a crystal setting perhaps commissioned by an heirless king for the lover he could never wed; a dulled silver penny that has passed through no-one knows how many hands; the dressed-stone architecture of a Gothic abbey—and its kitchen—or an illuminated Book of Hours used by a Low Countries gentlewoman to guide her daily prayers, objects can speak to the historian without the need of translation. This module uses a cast of 10 medieval objects to introduce students to the study of life in the Middle Ages. Exploring themes such as the practice and transmission of religion, the performance of belonging, travel, communication, authority and power and the work of making a medieval living, from societies ranging across the 'Global Middle Ages', it will equip students to tackle historical questions from new angles, places and times, enriching their ability to make historical comparisons and envisage differing lives.


The aim of this module is to:

- Introduce students to the attitudes, understandings and activities of the pre-modern medieval world, both within and outside Western Europe, through study of objects and material culture
- Develop contextual knowledge of the times, places and natures of different medieval societies
- Allow students to acquire new skills in understanding and analysing sources

Learning outcomes
1. Demonstrate an understanding of the resources, ideas and events which shaped different pre-modern societies.

2. Demonstrate an awareness of the ways in which historians can use material culture and objects as a key to understanding past societies.

3. Recognise different historical arguments about the causes and consequences of the changes examined in this module.

4. Appreciate the range, value, and challenges of a selection of primary sources including but not limited to material culture and objects.

5. Present a structured and coherent analysis based on appropriate and relevant historical sources in assignments set by tutors.

6. Apply fundamental standards and practices of historical study for research, discussion, and assessed work.

Skills outcomes
Historical source analysis


Using a variety of objects including small-scale items such as coins or jewellry, manuscripts and records (treated materially), through tools, sculpture or fighting equipment, up to whole buildings (in illustration or even in physical or digital walk-through), this module introduces different societies and periods of the ‘Global’ Middle Ages. Each lecture (after the introduction) focuses on a single object and its supporting historiography. The seminars will encourage further reflection on the object and explore its wider context and significance. The range of objects will differ each year but may engage with the following indicative seminar topics: World Views; Power and Authority; Religious Beliefs and Practices; Warfare and Conflict; Travel; Daily Life, Work and Family.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- Undertaking core reading and other activities in preparation for seminars: 55 hours
- Reviewing and consolidating notes on lectures: 22 hours
- Identifying gaps in their knowledge and self-directed reading to address these: 22 hours
- Researching, preparing, and writing assignments: 75 hours
- Reflecting on feedback and implementing suggestions in future assignments: 5 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

There will be a formative exercise, comprised of a 1,000-word critical review of an existing wiki page on a medieval object. Students will receive full written feedback on this work, in sufficient time for the feedback to be taken into account in students’ work on the group project.

Formative feedback will also be provided by tutors through in-class discussion and office hours.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 word essay50.00
Group ProjectWiki page on a medieval object50.00
Literature ReviewCritical review of existing wiki page on a medieval object0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The resit for the group project will be an individual version.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/07/2022


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