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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2105 Medieval Romans and the shape of Afro-Eurasia today

20 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Dr Rebecca Darley

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Roman Empire once stretched from the Euphrates to the Irish Sea. It furnished later European and American empires with legal, ideological and material tools of imperialism - from columns to senates to the idea of an unending contest between civilisation and barbarism. Those new empires promoted the view that the Roman Empire was a European phenomenon and that it fell in the fifth century, only to be revived after a ‘backwards’ and bleak Middle Ages. To create this narrative they had to obscure the critical importance of North Africa and West Asia to Roman power and identity and disguise the fact that the Roman Empire, its capital legally transferred to Constantinople in 330 CE, continued for another thousand years. They called these medieval Romans ‘Byzantines’ and marginalised their pivotal role in shaping the geopolitics and culture of Afro-Eurasia, a colonial historiography that we still live with today.In this module you will have the chance to explore the diverse, dynamic world of the medieval Roman/Byzantine Empire through written, visual and material sources. We will see how its changing shape and encounters with the Persian Empire, the Islamic Caliphates and European kingdoms marked the slow division of the Mediterranean, from a unified Afro-Eurasian power centre to a contested frontier between Islam and Christianity. We will explore the medieval Roman/Byzantine empire as a lens through which to understand and rethink dominant narratives of culture clash, globalism and diversity and to identify the living legacies of the Roman Empire that continue to connect and divide the world.


The aim of this module is to introduce students to the history of the Roman/Byzantine Empire from a global perspective; to enable students to interpret, read and debate primary sources (textual, visual and material) associated with the Roman/Byzantine Empire; to give students experience engaging actively with the historiography of the Roman/Byzantine Empire, including debates about the legacy and continued resonance of Roman/Byzantine history today; and to support students in developing their written and oral communication skills through the analysis of Roman/Byzantine history.

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module students will:
1. be familiar with a core narrative of medieval Roman/Byzantine history and key debates about evidence, interpretation and modern relevance.
2. be able to describe, discuss and use analytically a range of primary sources associated with medieval Roman/Byzantine history.
3. be able to situate and present their own arguments about the medieval Roman/Byzantine past in the context of appropriate historiography.
4. have applied fundamental standards and practices of historical study for research, discussion, and assessed work.


Indicative topics may include:
Creating imperial space; Justinian’s Mediterranean; the rise of Islam; the Battle of Manzikert (1071); tax, coinage and law; the triumph of orthodoxy; the Macedonian Renaissance; Palestina and the post-colonial past; India from the Roman/Byzantine viewpoint

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Researching, preparing and writing assessments (75 hours); undertaking set reading for seminars (55 hours); self-directed reading around the topic (20 hours), reviewing and consolidating notes (22 hours); reflecting on feedback (8 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive feedback on their presentation and report. Students are encouraged to reflect on the presentation feedback in their report.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words due on Monday of Exam Week 260.00
Presentation15-minute individual podcast (due in Week 8) and 500-word reflective report (due in Week 10)40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The presentation can be resat via a 2000-word essay on a topic set by the tutor

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 09/10/2023


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