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2019/20 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MEDV5026M Coinage, Power and Identity in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

30 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Dr Jonathan Jarrett

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

This module is mutually exclusive with

HIST2006Small Change and Big Changes: Money and Power in Europe, 284

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

One source for the Middle Ages that appears to need no translation is its money: do we not all know what a coin is and does, after all? Perhaps not. The Roman Empire was a highly monetised society that took its taxes in coin; most of the early medieval West did not and could not, while even the Byzantine Empire that continued Rome in the East did not keep money the same for long. So what purposes did coinage really serve in these centuries? Were they even economic? And what do the coins of this era have to tell historians now? This module takes economic, iconographic and art-historical approaches to the coinage of late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages to address these questions, using the coinage itself and whatever other sources can be brought to bear. The module will include classes in Special Collections in the Brotherton Library in which ancient and medieval coins will be handled and studied.


The module is intended to make available the material culture source that is coinage to students engaged in independent research in the late antique and medieval periods. As well as training in numismatics and in the handling of monetary objects, gained in hands-on training using materials from Special Collections, it provides an introduction to some key ideas about money and its operation in the pre-modern period and the historical context for the coinages under study, drawn from the period of the collapse and transformation of the Roman and Persian Empires up to the Viking Age. Students will be taught how the study of coinage can raise and sometimes answer questions that other forms of source material cannot address, and will thus broaden their perspective not just on late antique and medieval society but on historical study more widely.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students will be able to:
1. demonstrate an awareness of the potential of coinage as a historical source;
2. put to work their training in the handling and study of coinage and material objects in collections;
3. demonstrate their familiarity with academic literature in the specialised field of numismatics and the questions it answers;
4. apply their new knowledge and understanding to historical questions of the late antique and early medieval period.

Skills outcomes
Heritage Object Handling and Conservation


The module will consider a broad range of study material, most obviously the coins themselves but also written and other material sources relating to money, economy and political representation, as well as art history, with a broad grouping of classes around four themes, which are likely to be: 0) Background and Subject Skills; 1) Propaganda and Messages, 2) Exchange and Interchange and 3) Tax and Tribute, not necessarily in this order. Geographical coverage will centre on the Roman and Byzantine Empires and those polities which emerged in succession to them during the time period of the module, but will also consider the use of money beyond imperial borders where appropriate.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

11 seminars total will take place; these will vary between 1 and 2 hours on length depending on the weekly content.

Students will need to locate and read specified materials each week and also to research a weekly identification assignment independently, using designated catalogues and online resources. They will also be encouraged to read more widely around the various topics in preparation for essays and assignments, using the reading lists provided and their own research ability.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

An element of formative feedback will be made available in class via presentation of the weekly identification assignment for the class. Feedback meetings will also be held after marking of the literature review, and formative guidance will also be provided in meetings to choose essay titles, as well as in office hours when required.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 word research-based essay due by 12 noon Monday of exam week 150.00
Literature Review1500-word review of state of research on a given coin series over a span in time and space, in consultation with module convenor. Due by 12 noon Monday week 630.00
PortfolioPortfolio of 5 coin drawing and identification tasks (chosen from 10) distributed in weekly seminars for completion next class. Due by 12 noon Monday week 1120.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

In the event of resitting a coursework element a new essay title or coin series will be assigned by the module convenor, without student consultation. In the event of a resit being required for the portfolio, a new portfolio of 5 items will be assigned by the module convenor, of which all must be submitted without selection.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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