Skip to main content

Study information

Understanding Medieval and Early Modern History

Module titleUnderstanding Medieval and Early Modern History
Module codeHIH1421
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Stuart Pracy (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is designed to introduce you to histories of the world from antiquity, through the Middle Ages, and into what we traditionally the early modern period. Taking a thematic approach, it seeks to develop your understanding of politics, society, economy, and religion across different regions during 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, Sasanian, 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 four world religions – 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 and understand the main themes in the histories of Africa and Eurasia between c. 500 and c. 1700 CE
  • 2. Analyse and engage critically with key debates in the histories of the medieval and early modern periods

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 critically the views of different historians on a topic
  • 5. Marshal a reasoned 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, and gather, organise, and deploy evidence, data, and information on that topic
  • 8. Produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument and critical analysis, developed through the mode of assessment

Syllabus plan

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


  • States and Taxation
  • Eurasian Experiences
  • European Exceptionalism?
  • Governing States 1500-1700 
  • Religion
  • Society and Culture
  • The Transmission of Knowledge
  • Holy War and Religious Relations
  • Empires
  • Exploration and Expansion
  • The Americas and the Transatlantic Slave Trade 
  • Environment and Economy
  • Trade and Economic Development
  • Towns, Capitalism and Modernisation 
  • Power and Resistance
  • Race, Colonialism and Identity

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 Teaching20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Seminars
Guided Independent Study260Reading and preparation for seminars and assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflection and feed-forward exercise1000 words or equivalent1-8Oral 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
Essay402000 words1-8Written
Individual assignment552500 words or equivalent1-8Written
Seminar attendance5Attendance at all seminars6, 7n/a

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period
Individual assignment (2500 words or equivalent)Individual assignment (2500 words or equivalent)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%.


Attendance at seminars will not be reassessed. You will not be penalised for non-attendance if you have a legitimate reason for absence and provide appropriate documentation.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

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

Key words search

Medieval, early modern, history, decolonising

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date