Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

This module is inactive in the selected year. The information shown below is for the academic year that the module was last running in, prior to the year selected.

2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3515 The Baltic Crusades: The Conquest and Conversion of North-Eastern Europe, 1180-1410

20 creditsClass Size: 14

Module manager: Dr Alan Murray

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Between 1180 and 1386 most of the lands between the Baltic Sea and the Russia principalities were incorporated into Christendom by a dual process involving conversion of the indigenous pagan populations by Catholic missionaries and military campaigns by Western crusaders and monastic orders. This process established Christian states ruled by the Teutonic Order and German ecclesiastical institutions in Livonia and Prussia, and the kingdom of Denmark in Estonia. Only pagan Lithuania was able to accept Christianity on its own terms in 1386, finally ending the Christian onslaught in alliance with Catholic Poland in 1410. This module will study the complex confrontation between Christian and pagan cultures, the imposition of Western governmental and social structures, and the resistance to the crusades by the peoples of the region, especially pagan Lithuania and Orthodox Russia. Particular attention will be given to the nature of conversion to Christianity as well as to the changing character of warfare, including personnel and equipment, strategy and tactics. The Baltic Crusades ensured that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania preserved distinct societies in the tsarist and Soviet periods, and have been the subject of renewed popular interest since the independence of the Baltic States in 1990. The module thus brings up many controversial issues of modern historiography.


To identify the causes of the incorporation of the Baltic lands within Catholic Christendom in the period 1180-1410.
To examine the historiographical debates provoked by crusade and conversion.
To develop a detailed understanding of themes associated with these events, including paganism, mission and conversion, warfare, and governmental structures.
To arrive at a comparative and differentiated assessment of the course of Christianisation in the cases of Livonia-Estonia, Prussia and Lithuania.
To critically interpret key primary sources.
To understand the significance of the medieval history of the Baltic lands in the modern history of the region.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be able to:
Demonstrate a broad understanding of the principal political, religious and cultural changes affecting the Baltic region in the period.
Develop a sophisticated understanding of medieval written sources, in particular with regard to their depiction on non-Christian cultures.
Show analytical and presentational skills in essay writing.
Show analytical and critical skills in source commentary.
To identify and raise problematic issues in the source materials and deploy evidence in debate.


Topics may include: Historical geography and historiography of the medieval Baltic; Baltic and Finnic paganism and the early mission in Livonia; The Sword Brethren and the origins of the armed crusade; The conquest and conversion of Estonia; Alexander Nevsky and the German and Swedish crusades against Russia; The conquest of Prussia; The Teutonic Order as a religious corporation and its government in Prussia;Lithuania as a pagan power; The pan-European crusades (Reysen) against Lithuania;The Polish-Lithuanian coalition and the defeat of the Teutonic Order.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will prepare for each seminar by reading primary sources and secondary literature as directed by the module convenor, as well as undertaking oral presentations and various discussion formats in class. They will also be expected to undertake further, self-directed reading for each class and for the examination.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through observation of class performance, including contributions to debate. In addition, students will be expected to seek advice about reading and planning ahead for preparing essays.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignment2,000 word primary source analysis due week 940.00
Essay3,000 word essay due Exam Week 160.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:40:27


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019