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Study information

The Medieval Reformation: Sources

Module titleThe Medieval Reformation: Sources
Module codeHIH3277
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Sarah Hamilton (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The profound political, religious, social and economic changes Western Society and the Church underwent in the years between 900 and 1215 are described as the ‘Medieval Reformation’; the lives of the clergy and of ordinary lay people were transformed as the Church became a separate entity. Using sources in translation this module investigates a range of original materials to explore these changes including church law, saints’ lives, chronicles, charters, and letters as well as architectural and artistic evidence.

No prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will focus on the sources available for studying the changes which occurred in how Christianity was delivered to, and practiced by the laity, and the role which the laity played as active agents in promoting such changes, in the European Latin West in the period c.900-c.1215. It will use a range of medieval sources in translation, including church law and other prescriptive texts, saints’ lives, chronicles, charters, and letters.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Evaluate the different and complex types of sources available for the study of the medieval reformation
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 5. Employ critical understanding and evaluate the often complex reasoning of contemporary discourses

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Conduct independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

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:

  • Parish church and local community (policing the local community; foundation of local churches)
  • Reform of the pastoral clergy (distinguishing the clergy from the laity: clerical celibacy and other expectations of clerical behaviour; clerical roles in secular life)
  • Reform of the regular clergy (monastic and canonical reform; new orders; hermits; nuns)
  • Lay piety (public rites; private prayers; confraternities)
  • Lay enthusiasm (cult of saints; pilgrimage; crusade)
  • Discipline and belief (heretical beliefs; penance and excommunication)
  • Lateran IV

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 teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-6, 8Oral feedback from tutor and fellow students

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
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-7Oral 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
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
Individual presentationWritten transcript of 25 minute presentation1-8Referral/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 20 minutes of speech.

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

  • M. C. Miller (ed.), Power and the Holy in the Age of the Investiture Conflict: a Brief History With Documents (Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martins, 2005).
  • R. I. Moore (ed.), The Birth of Popular Heresy (London, Edward Arnold, 1975; repr. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).
  • J. R. Shinners, (ed.), Medieval Popular Religion, 1000-1500: a Reader (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 1997).
  • W.L. Wakefield and A. P. Evans (eds), Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York: Columbia UP, 1969).
  • P. Sheingorn, trans, The Book of Sainte Foy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

At least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2

Module co-requisites

HIH3278 The Medieval Reformation (Context)

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date