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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MEDV5330M The Medieval Tournament: Combat and Spectacle in Western Europe, 1100-1600

30 creditsClass Size: 10

Module manager: Dr Alan Murray

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will study the main forms of the tournament and their development from the High Middle Ages to the Early Modern period, as well as associated topics such as the use of arms and armour, and heraldry.


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
a) understand the origins and development of different forms of tournament between the High Middle Ages and the early Modern period, including the tourney, behourd, joust, and passage of arms;
b) develop critical analysis and interpretation of medieval and early modern primary source materials which describe and define tournament practices;
c) analyse the practical use of weapons and armour as used in tournaments, and how this related to warfare;
d) learn the technique of blazoning (heraldic description), so as to be able to write technical descriptions of illustrated coat of arms, and conversely, to draw coats of arms from written blazons.

Skills outcomes
a) ability to produce textual commentary on medieval primary sources
b) ability to write and interpret of blazon (ie the technical language of heraldry)
c) ability to write concise catalogue descriptions of medieval arms and pieces of armour


Tournaments originated in the 12th century as a mass combat designed as training for war, but gradually came to include other forms such as the joust and foot combat (featuring individuals) as well as more theatrical effusions such as the passage of arms. This module will explore the origins and development of these diverse forms as well as the equipment and heraldry that were associated with them.

This is an interdisciplinary module, involving the study and interpretation of descriptive and prescriptive primary texts, artistic sources and arms and armour in the collections of the Royal Armouries. Texts will be studied in English translation; the module tutors will provide their translations of a number of key sources hitherto unavailable in translation.

Finally, students will learn to interpret and write the technical language employed in blazon (heraldic description).

Classes will deal with the following topics:
1. Introduction: Sources fo the Study of Tournaments
2. Medieval Weaponry and Armour
3. The Tourney (1): Origins, Definitions and Organisation
4. The Tourney (2): Development, Rules, Criticism
5. Heraldry (1): Origins and Development
6. Heraldry (2): Practical Blazonry
7. The Passage of Arms
8. Joust of War
9. Joust of Peace
10. Foot Combat
11. Tournament as Spectacle.

Teaching methods

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

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Feedback on blazon exercise and source commentary.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Assignment1 x 1,000-word Blazon exercise due by 12 noon Monday of teaching week 917.00
Essay1 x 2,000-word source commentary due by 12 noon Monday of teaching week 733.00
Essay1 x 3,000-word essay due by 12 noon Tuesday of exam week 150.00
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: 29/04/2022 15:25:10


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