Teaching and Learning Programme


This course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and personal reading. The lectures - supported by PowerPoint presentations and the occasional videos - will provide an overview of the key moments and events in the history of western Europe, c.450-1025 with particular reference to the theme of change and continuity. At each lecture you will receive a handout with a brief synopsis of the lecture, some illustrative material, and directions for further reading. The course is divided into six basic units:

  • A. Political and Social Foundations, c.450-600
  • B. Religious Foundations, c.450-600
  • C. From the Merovingians to the Carolingians, c.600-800
  • D. The Decline and Fall of the Carolingian Empire, c.800-900
  • E. The Kingdom of the Eastern Franks, c.828-1025
  • F. The Feudal Revolution in Western Frankia, c.840-1025

The course has been designed so that there will be two teaching sessions each week, comprising both lectures and seminars. There will be some twenty-eight content lectures. Now in order to ensure that the maximum use is made of the seminars and to allow space for the completion of the essays these have been irregularly spaced. Due warning will be given in the lectures, but it will be helpful to consult the shedule of dates below. The lectures take place on Thursdays at 11.00am (Fylde D33) and on Fridays at 2.00pm (North Spine Seminar Room 2). Regular attendance is strongly advised. For further information please consult the full lecture schedule.


The seminars will take place in Furness B.6. You will be informed as the group in which you have been enrolled at the start of Michaelmas Term. Attendance at seminars is compulsory. As is stated in the Student Handbook, if you are obliged by illness or some other compelling cause to miss a seminar, you must send an explanation in writing or email to the tutor concerned, beforehand if at all possible but certainly no later than three days after the seminar.

Clearly, the success of seminars depends on student participation. Seminars are a collective endeavour and everyone will make greater progress, not least in attaining good marks for your essay and exam work, if you come to each class prepared to make a contribution. That means doing sufficient preparatory reading. You will that after the description of each there is a brief list of Strongly Recommended items to be read: in order to ensure that as many students as possible will have read these texts they will usually be items that are available via the internet or via the electronic databases to which the university subscribes. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to make texts available in this way. Other Reading items are also listed, since it will be helpful to have pursued topics further using the materials available in the library, so as to be able to make a different contribution to the discussion from that of the other students.

Participation also means thinking about the questions for discussion before each class. It means speaking up when the opportunity arises to do so, and listening to what others have to say and being prepared to learn from their insights and ideas. Remember that the development of oral skills is central to what the course is intended to achieve and that your performance in seminars will affect the final mark you receive for the course (see below).

Writing Essays

Writing essays is a key part of the learning process in history: it is through the exercise of having to research a topic, to devise an original answer to a question, and of having re-organise your material to support that answer that one comes to a deeper grasp of the issues it raises. Essay-writing has long been the method of choice for assessment in history, the reason being that no other method provides as effective a means of testing a student's comprehension of a topic. We want you to show us that not only have you acquired a knowledge of the topic but also that you understand the topic and the issues raised by it. Essays test understanding by asking you to select and re-organise relevant material in order to produce your own answer to the set question. You should treat the two essays you will be asked to write for this course as precious learning opportunities not to be squandered. Note also that the present website has a page offering advice about How to Write Good History Essays.


At undergraduate level an essay need not be innovative in its approach and insights, but it must be the product of a student's own dialogue with the subject. Essays which do not answer the question can only be regarded as demonstrating some knowledge of the topic, they cannot be said to show understanding of the topic. Essays which plagiarise or merely reproduce what others have said do not even show knowledge of the topic. Plagiarism is thus not merely a matter of theft, it involves an unacceptable subversion of the entire teaching process - they fail on all counts.

In October 2003 the University introduced a new code with severe penalties for plagiarism which the department is obliged to enforce: this means that students who reproduce work which is not their own - whether taken from an electronic text, from a book or a journal article - risk exclusion from the University. The University now requires, furthermore, that students sign a form declaring that the course work they are submitting is their own work. These forms can be obtained from the plastic container on the wall by the essay box next to Room B52 Furness. Students who remain unclear what plagiarism and how to avoid it are advised to attend one of the department's essay-writing workshops.

Using the Library / Online Databases

The lectures are largely the product of my own reading and reflection: they are not to be seen as providing a definitive account of what happened and why. Like all exercises in history they are necessarily works in progress (there is, alas, always more that one needs to know!), and, in any case, the main aim is to get you thinking about the issues. You are encouraged, therefore, to do your own reading, to make your own forays into the dense jungle of material that the early Middle Ages have inspired. To assist you, three forms of guidance are offered: a list of core reading below; a fuller bibliography on the course web-site, and the lecture handouts, which will also contain more precise direction with regard to particular topics. Another useful starting point comprises the bibliographies that accompany essays on particular topics in The Cambridge Ancient History, vols. 13 and 14, and The New Cambridge Medieval History, vols. 1-3. Most of the books you will need are to be found in the History collection (on the first floor, in the purple zone) or in the Religion section (on the second floor, in the yellow zone).

Note also that the contents of many major journals can now be consulted online via various electronic databases to which the library subscribes. These databases, which allow many students to read the same article at the same time, can be accessed from terminals across the campus. Start by visiting http://libweb.lancs.ac.uk/online.htm. Click on the name of the database (e.g. 'JSTOR'), then select browse, and scroll down the list of journals to find the relevant title and issue. Various databases - such as 'Zetoc' and the 'Royal Historical Society Bibliography' - also provide indices to the contents of journals. One potential confusion with this evolving technology is that of figuring out which journals are on which databases. To help you there is another database, 'Ebsco A-Z' - an alphabetical list of the electronic journals on the databases to which the library subscribes. It does not, alas, provide a complete index. More usefully, there is also a guide to 'E-Journals relevant to Medieval History' on the Medieval History Online page of the Departmental Website. This page lists links to websites useful to students of medieval history. It includes links to sites in languages other than English as it is also intended for the use of MA and PhD students, but you find much useful material among the links listed there.

Remember that the resources of the library are there for the whole university community to use, now and in the future. Be considerate: replace books in their right place on the shelves; return them to the library as soon as you have finished with them; and on no account deface library books by writing on them or in any other way.

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