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Study information

Lords to Lepers: Medieval Social Worlds

Module titleLords to Lepers: Medieval Social Worlds
Module codeARC3118
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Oliver Creighton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

You will explore archaeologies of everyday life – and death – in medieval Britain between c. AD 1050 and 1550, looking at material culture across the entire social spectrum, from kings and lords, through to peasants in the medieval countryside and traders and merchants in the towns, down to the level of the dispossessed and/or marginalised such as criminals, lepers and Jews. One focus will be on the buildings that were central to domestic life, but the module will draw on a diverse range of evidence, including portable artefacts, burials, landscapes and environmental material to explore standards of living and modes of social display and consider how these changed through time and varied between areas.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to develop an appreciation of standards of living and ways of dying in Britain between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries and to deepen understanding of the principles and methodologies involved in recovering, analysing and theorising related information. It aims to develop a critically aware understanding of commonalities and contrasts in medieval life and lifestyle between different social classes and in different environments and regions.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand the full range of techniques and data sources available to study medieval life and lifestyle during this period
  • 2. Know the full variety of medieval building types and their chronological developments and regional variations
  • 3. Develop a sophisticated understanding of how and why these developments and variations came about
  • 4. Demonstrate critical understanding of the theoretical challenges and issues involved in understanding and reconstructing medieval lifestyle

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of, and critical reflection on, contrasting archaeological perspectives
  • 6. Synthesise and evaluate a wide range of relevant archaeological and historical terms, concepts and examples
  • 7. Demonstrate comprehension and detailed knowledge of complex issues through essay-based coursework and the end of module exam

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Demonstrate techniques of locating, organising and digesting complex material to produce, to a deadline, a piece of coherent analysis
  • 9. Respond to complex arguments in discussion and ask pertinent questions during the two scheduled workshops

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Medieval social worlds: sources and perspectives
  • Timeline of medieval Britain
  • Houses and households; the open hall
  • Diet and dress
  • Elite residences as social arenas: palaces, mansions and manors
  • Town life: merchants, traders and guilds
  • Lives on the fringes: hospitals; lepers; the urban poor; Jews
  • The peasantry: houses and hovels; archaeologies of resistance?
  • The face of battle: conflict and conflict archaeology
  • The medieval way of death: burial, cemeteries and commemoration
  • Workshop 1: interrogating medieval buildings: survey, recording and analysis
  • Workshop 2: coming to grips with medieval portable artefacts – personal adornments, weapons, coins, etc.
  • Overview: contrasts and commonalities in life and lifestyle

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching147 x 2 hour lectures. OR an equivalent portfolio of online sessions, including lectures and presentations, both live and recorded, and online group activities.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22 x workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial
Guided Independent Study133Week by week reading of books and articles; guided preparation for workshops; individual preparation for essays

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop participation x 21 hour9Oral feedback from module convenor and peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written assignment (site report)401500 words1-8Written feedback
Examination601.5 hours1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignment Essay (1500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Gerrard, C. and Gutiérrez, A. (eds.) 2018: The Oxford Handbook of Later Medieval Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Available online via library catalogue link to Oxford Handbooks Online]
  • Gilchrist, R. 2012: Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course. Woodbridge: Boydell. [Available as an e-book through the Exeter Library Catalogue]
  • Christie, N.J. and Stamper, P. 2011: Medieval Rural Settlement: Britain and Ireland, AD 800–1600. Bollington: Windgather. [Available as an e-book through the Exeter Library Catalogue]
  • Dyer, C.2002: Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520. Yale University Press. [Available as an e-book through the Exeter Library Catalogue]

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • The city of Exeter and its medieval buildings

Key words search

Archaeology, medieval, Middle Ages

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2012

Last revision date