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Study information

Understanding the Medieval and Early-Modern World

Module titleUnderstanding the Medieval and Early-Modern World
Module codeHIH1410
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Levi Roach (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is designed to introduce you to the history of the world from antiquity through to the increasingly globalised social and political order we associate with modernity. Taking a thematic approach, it seeks to develop your understanding of politics, society, economy and religion across different regions these years. Key themes include rulership and government, power and resistance, religion, cultures of knowledge, trade and the environment and encountering the other. This is an introductory module and no prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Between the eclipse of the Roman, Sassanian and Jin empires of antiquity and the modern globalised political and economic order, the world saw a number of fundamental transformations. Focusing on the experiences of North Africa and Eurasia, this module traces how new social, political and economic constellations emerged in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, China and South Asia. It examines how the four great world religious – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism – spread, achieving a pre-eminence that endures to the present day. It reveals how new trading networks developed along the Silk Road and in the Indian Ocean. It considers how old political orders were maintained and transformed, with an eye to the impact of the Fall of Rome, the rise of the Islamic caliphate and the formation of the Mongol Empire. And it examines how ethnic and religious groups came into contact with one another, resulting in conflict, co-operation and (at times) colonisation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Identify the main themes in the history of Africa and Eurasia between c. 500 and c. 1700 CE
  • 2. Interpret the specific themes studied in seminar and coursework within the overall framework of developments in medieval and early modern world

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Explain large themes over a relatively long span of history
  • 4. Evaluate the views of different historians on a topic
  • 5. Formulate a historical argument, based on professional standards of evidence use

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in seminar discussions
  • 7. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with some guidance from the tutor
  • 8. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument

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: 

  • Structures of Power (1)States and Taxation: Eurasian Experiences; European Exceptionalism?; Divergences and Convergences: Governing States 1500-1700 

  • Religion: Converting the World? Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism; Islam Divided: Sunni and Shi'a; Christianity Divided: Schisms and Reformations 

  • Society and Culture: The Transmission of Knowledge: Islamic Science to Renaissance; Maps, Travel and Exploration 

  • Structures of Power (2): Crusade and Jihad: Holy War and Religious Relations in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; Mongols between Europe and Asia; Islamic Empires; Exploration and Expansion: New Worlds; The Americas and the Transatlantic Slave Trade 

  • Environment and Economy: Trade and Economic Development: Silk Roads and Beyond; The Black Deaths; Towns, Capitalism and Modernisation 

  • Power and Resistance: Rebellion and Dissent: Diverging and Converging Experiences; Race, Colonialism and Identity: Early Experiences in Europe and Asia  

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 teaching44Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching24Seminars
Independent study232Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 essay plans 500 words each 1-8Oral and written feedback

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
Essay (term 1)352000 words1-8Oral and written feedback
Essay (term 2)352000 words1-8Oral and written feedback
Assignment301500 words1-8Oral and written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essays (2000 words each)Two essays (2000 words each)1-8Referral/Deferral period
Assignment (1500 words)Assignment (1500 words)1-8Referral/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

Introductory Reading:

  • V. Hansen, The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World – and Globalization Began (London, 2020)
  • J. Belich et al., ed., The Prospect of Global History (Oxford, 2016)
  • S.Subrahmanyam, Empires between Islam and Christianity, 1500-1800 (New York, 2019)
  • M.Favereau,The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World (Cambridge, MA, 2021)
  • F.-X. Fauvelle, The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ, 2018)
  • F.W. Mote, Imperial China 900-1800 (Cambridge, MA, 1999)
  • T. Green, A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (London, 2019)

Key words search

Medieval history, early-modern history

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date