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Study information

Death to the Traitors: Rebellion and Resisting Tyranny in the Middle Ages: Sources

Module titleDeath to the Traitors: Rebellion and Resisting Tyranny in the Middle Ages: Sources
Module codeHIH3053
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Stuart Pracy (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Clashing with French authorities in the fourteenth century, rebels in Languedoc cried: Moyran los traitors, or “Death to the traitors”. Their rights eroded and burdened by systemic exploitation, blood and violence remained their only recourse. Rebellions were rife across the fourteenth century, and the nobility faced challenges like never before. Such violence was, however, far from a new phenomenon in medieval Europe. Focusing upon momentous events which turned society upon its head—such as the Norman Conquest, the Hundred Years War, and the Black Death—this module will allow you to examine the spectrum of resistance, from protest to outright rebellion, throughout the Middle Ages in England and France.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will focus on the sources available for studying rebels and their communities in medieval western European history. It will use a range of sources, including, but not limited to, chronicles, romantic and dramatic texts, court records, charters, law-codes, poetry, and theological texts. You will be expected to evaluate the impact of these sources for the study of history, as well as to explain their significance within the wider context of the subject. In this way, you will: (1) be introduced to the forms that social resistance took in the Middle Ages, (2) develop an awareness of the events and social pressures that drove rebels, and (3) understand the academic debates surrounding medieval rebellions and how such events have since been politicised.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Identify the different sources available for the study of rebels and their communities in the Middle Ages.
  • 2. Understand and explain the key social, cultural, and economic developments of medieval western Europe.
  • 3. Critically evaluate a diverse and complex range of sources relating to medieval rebellion.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible and sophisticated manner
  • 6. Comprehend complex historical texts.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Select, organise and analyse material for written work and/or oral presentations of different prescribed lengths and formats.
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally.
  • 9. Present an argument in a written form in a clear and organised manner, with appropriate use of correct English.
  • 10. Reflect critically on your own work, respond constructively to feedback, and implement suggestions and improve work on this basis.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all the following topics, specifically as they relate to experiences and narratives of medieval rebellion:

  • Norman Peasants’ Revolt, the Peasants’ Revolt, the Jacquerie, and the Tuchin Revolt;
  • Class warfare;
  • Different forms of resistance, including peaceful protest, arson, and violence;
  • Social mobility;
  • Conflict, coexistence, and tolerance amongst inter-class groups;
  • Responses and resistance to persecution and exploitation, including the remembering of collective trauma and violence;
  • Diversity of experience amid rebellions, including gender, race, rank etc;
  • Intersection of rebellion with momentous events, such as the Norman Conquest, the Hundred Years War, and the Black Death.

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 Teaching Activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparing for seminars, coursework, and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method

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
Portfolio 702 assignments totalling 4,000 words1-7, 9-10Oral and written feedback
Individual presentation3025 minutes1-8Oral 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
PortfolioPortfolio1-7, 9-10Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 25 minute presentation (2,500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 25 minutes of speech (2,500 words)

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

  • Shane Bobrycki, “The Flailing Women of Dijon: Crowds in Ninth-Century Europe”, Past & Present, 240 (2018):  3–46.
  • V. Challet, “Peasants’ Revolts Memories: Damnatio Memoriae Or Hidden Memories?” In The Making of Memory in the Middle Ages, ed. by L. Doležalová (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010).
  • J. Chick, “Leaders and Rebels: John Wrawe’s Role in the Suffolk Rising of 1381”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, 44 (2018): 214-234.
  • S. K. Cohn, Jr., Lust for Liberty: The Politics of Social Revolt in Medieval Europe, 1200–1400: Italy, France, and Flanders (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).
  • R. Faith, “The “Great Rumour” of 1377 and peasant ideology”. In The English Rising of 1381, ed. by R. H. Hilton and T. H. Aston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
  • R. Hilton, Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381, rev. ed. (London: Routledge, 2003 [1973]).
  • J. Firnhaber-Baker, The Jacquerie of 1358: a French peasants' revolt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).
  • J. Firnhaber-Baker with D. Schoenaers, ed., The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt (London: Routledge, 2017).
  • B. Gowers, “996 and all that: the Norman peasants' revolt reconsidered”, Early Medieval Europe, 21 (2013): 71-98.
  • M. Müller, “Arson, Communities, and Social Conflict in Later Medieval England”, Viator, 43 (2012): 193-208.
  • C. Wickham, “Space and society in early medieval peasant conflicts”, Settimane di Studio, 50 (2003): 551-587.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • The Cathedral of Exeter Archive

Key words search

Rebels, Rebellion, Revolt, Protest, Medieval, Middle Ages, Europe, Peasants, Lords, Violence, Liberty, Freedom, Oppression, Tyranny, Black Death, Conquest, Serfs

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

At least 90 credits of History at Stage 1 (NQF Level Four) and/or Stage 2 (NQF Level Five).

Module co-requisites

HIH3054: Death to the Traitors: Rebellion and Resisting Tyranny in the Middle Ages: (Context)

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date