香港中文大學 歴史系 歴史系

HIST4304JM Topic Studies in Pre-Modern World History
West and the World II: The Middle Ages

2021-2022年度 第一學期

時間星期三 下午2時30分 至 下午4時15分

地點潤昌堂 (LHC) 106


課程講師 James MORTON (

助教 CHEUNG Ka Lok Alex (


‘Medieval’. In English, this word often conjures up negative images: violence, disease, superstition, ignorance, the ‘Dark Ages’ of European history. Coming after the glories of the ancient Roman Empire but before the advances of the modern world, people often assume that the Western Middle Ages (c. 500–1500) were a period of decline and isolation. But is this really true? This course will provide a broad survey of medieval Western history and challenge these negative stereotypes. You will learn how medieval Europe inherited and built on the achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans, becoming part of a wide, cosmopolitan world with well-established connections to Africa and Asia.

Each week, we will explore a particular period and theme through a lecture and class discussion. You will then have the chance to read academic literature by experts on each topic and explore related issues in conversation with other students in tutorial sessions. We will cover a wide range of topics from religion and culture to politics and economics. By the end of the course, you will have a firm understanding of the basics of the Western Middle Ages and understand how it fits into the broader history of medieval Eurasia.


Learning Goals

This course has three main goals:

  1. To teach you with the fundamentals of medieval Western history: key dates, events, places, states, beliefs, innovations, etc.
  2. To familiarise you with the most important debates and methodological approaches in the history of the medieval West and its relationship with the rest of the world.
  3. To help you develop the fundamental skillset and sensibility of a historian: how to understand primary sources, how to think critically about historical narratives, and how to effectively communicate your analysis to others.



8 Sep

1. Introduction: The Western Middle Ages

K. Patrick Fazioli, The Mirror of the Medieval: An Anthropology of the Western Historical Imagination (New York, 2017), ch. 2: ‘Mirror of the Medieval’.

15 Sep

2. Romans and Barbarians

Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman History 31.11–16:*.html.

Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, 395-700 AD (New York, 2001), ch. 2: ‘The Empire, the Barbarians, and the Late Roman Army.’

Ian Wood, The Transformation of the Roman West (Leeds, 2018), ch. 2: ‘Barbarism: The Invasion and Settlements of the Barbarians of Germany and Scythia.’

22 Sep

Public Holiday – No Lecture!

29 Sep

3. From Rome to Byzantium

Procopius, Buildings 1.1:*.html.

Michael Maas, ‘Roman Questions, Byzantine Answers’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian (Cambridge, 2005), 3–27.

James Crow, ‘Constantinople in the Long Sixth Century’, in Asia Minor in the Long Sixth Century: Current Research and Future Directions (Oxford, 2019), 167–180.

Tutorial 1 (Discussion of Fazioli, ‘Mirror of the Medieval’)

6 Oct

4. Muhammad and the Rise of Islam

Theophanes Confessor, Chronicle 464–497.

Fred M. Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Cambridge, MA, 2010), ch. 5: ‘The Emergence of Islam’.

13 Oct

5. The Carolingian Renaissance

Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne:

Herbert Schutz, The Carolingians in Central Europe: Their History, Arts, and Architecture (Leiden, 2004), 135–171.

20 Oct

6. The Viking Age

Arthur M. Reeves (trans.), ‘The Saga of Eric the Red’, in The Finding of Wineland the Good (London, 1890), 28–52.

Anders Winroth, The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe (New Haven, 2012), chs. 2–4.

Tutorial 2 (Academic writing workshop)

 27 Oct

7. Feudalism

Chronicle of the Counts of Anjou (c. 1100):

Richard Abels, ‘The Historiography of a Construct: Feudalism and the Medieval Historian’, History Compass 7.3 (2009): 1008–1031.

3 Nov

8. Church and State in the Investiture Contest

Maureen C. Miller, Power and the Holy in the Investiture Conflict: A Brief History with Documents (Boston, 2005), nos. 19–21, 30, 34, 40–43.

Frank Furedi, Authority: A Sociological History (Cambridge, 2013), ch. 5: ‘Medieval Authority and the Investiture Contest’.

Primary Source Analysis Due

10 Nov

9. The Crusades

Fulcher of Chartres, Chronicle 1.1–6, 27–32.

Jonathan Phillips, The Crusades, 1095–1204 (London, 2014), ‘Introduction’.

Andrew A. Latham, ‘Theorizing the Crusades: Identity, Institutions, and Religious War in Medieval Christendom’, International Studies Quarterly 55.1 (2011): 223–243.

Tutorial 3 (Visit to medieval material culture collection)

17 Nov

10. Trade and Exploration

Francesco Pegolotti, The Practice of Commerce.

Robert S. Lopez, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950–1350 (Cambridge, 1976), ch. 4: ‘The Uneven Diffusion of Commercialization’.

24 Nov

11. Medieval Education and Intellectual Culture

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 1.79:

Alan B. Cobban, ‘Medieval Student Power’, Past & Present 53 (1971): 28–66.

1 Dec

12. The Late Middle Ages

Jean Froissart, Chronicle 2.73–78.

Donald Sullivan, ‘The End of the Middle Ages: Decline, Crisis, or Transformation?’, The History Teacher 14.4 (1981): 551–565.

Christopher Dyer, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850–1520 (New Haven, 2002), ch. 8: ‘The Black Death and its Aftermath, c.1348–c.1520’.

Tutorial 4 (Debating the Middle Ages)

17 Dec

Final Essay Due




Your performance in the course will be assessed on the cumulative basis of different types of assignment (described in more detail below) and your attendance. There will not be an exam or quiz component. The weighting of the different factors is as follows:

Final Essay 


Midterm Essay     


Reading Summaries






Your final letter grade will be determined by your overall course percentage. You will not be graded on a curve. Grades will be assigned according to the following set thresholds:

A         90% 

C+       65%

A-        85%

C         60%   

B+       80% 

C-        55%

B         75%  

D         50%

B-        70% 

F          <50%

Grade Descriptions


Exceptional: Exceeds expectations. Demonstrates impressive knowledge, clarity, analytical ability, and a firm grasp of course material.


Strong: Has most of the qualities of A-grade work but has some minor areas for improvement.


Good: Shows a solid understanding of course material. Has some flaws in writing or argumentation and may contain minor errors or misunderstandings.


Satisfactory: Demonstrates an acceptable level of knowledge but suffers from lack of clarity, misunderstandings, historical errors, or weak argumentation.


Unsatisfactory: Achieves the minimum passing grade but fails to meet most expectations of knowledge and argumentation.


Fail: Does not meet basic expectations of knowledge, understanding, and/or timeliness in submission.

Course Readings

Each week you will be assigned approximately 50 pages of reading. This will consist of a combination of primary source texts and short pieces of academic literature – mainly journal articles and book chapters – that explore important aspects of the week’s theme. All required course readings will be posted on the Blackboard course website at the beginning of the semester. You will not need to purchase or acquire any course materials yourself.

For a general introduction to the subject, I can recommend the following (non-compulsory) books, all of which are available in the CUHK library system or online:

Abulafia, David. et al., edd. The New Cambridge Medieval History, 8 vols. Cambridge, 1995–2005.

Crone, Patricia. Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World. London, 2015.

Fried, Johannes. The Middle Ages. Cambridge, MA, 2015.

Madigan, Kevin. Medieval Christianity: A New History. New Haven, 2015.

Wickham, Chris. Medieval Europe. New Haven, 2016.

Winks, Robin W. and Teofilo F. Ruiz. Medieval Europe and the World: From Late Antiquity to Modernity, 400–1500. Oxford, 2005.

Reading Summaries

After each lecture, you will complete the assigned readings and then write a short summary (max. 500 words) describing the content of all the texts for that week (you can find them on the course Blackboard site under ‘Weekly Readings’). This is a reading comprehension exercise that will help to develop your skills in analysing and explaining texts in a short space. You should submit your reading summary to me in hard copy during the next week’s lecture.

For primary sources, you should focus on briefly describing who the author was and the most important content of their writing. For secondary literature, you should describe both the content of the reading and the author’s central argument(s). Sample reading summaries will be available on the course Blackboard site to give you a clear idea of what to aim for.

You will only need to write reading summaries for ten out of the twelve weeks. This means that you get to skip two reading summaries; you can choose which ones.

Primary Source Analysis

In addition to the assigned weekly readings, we will also spend part of each lecture reading a short primary source text together and discussing it in class. Each of these primary source texts is posted on the Blackboard course site under ‘Primary Source Texts’. Your first major piece of written work in the course will be to choose one of the assigned primary sources from Blackboard and write a critical analysis of 500–1,000 words, due in Week 8 (3rd November).

Your primary source analysis will be a mini-essay that explains what the text is, who wrote it, when it was written and what the context was, and why you think it was produced. I would then like you to explain how you think it sheds light on relevant themes and topics covered in the course. You will have to do some research of your own to help you write the source analysis, though it does not have to be a fully-fledged research paper. You will be able to find everything you need to research the primary sources either online or in the CUHK library system.


Final Essay

I will ask you to write a final essay (1,500–2,000 words) at the end of the course, due on 17th December. I will provide you with a selection of five topics at the end of the lecture in Week 10 (17th November). You will choose one of the five topics to write about. This essay will require you to reflect on the major themes of the course and to use historical examples to make an argument that relates to a significant topic within historical scholarship on medieval Western history.

The essay should be written to academic standards with a central thesis, reference to primary sources and secondary literature, and appropriate citations in footnotes. You are free to follow any accepted academic citation style such as Chicago, Harvard, or MLA. If you are not sure about how to write citations, I recommend looking at the Chicago Manual of Style quick citation guide:

If you have any questions about the final essay, let me know and I will be happy to answer.

Assignment Submission, Extensions, and Lateness Penalties

You will be expected to submit your primary source analysis and final essay by 11:59 pm on the date specified in the course schedule below by uploading them to the relevant section of the Blackboard course website along with a signed declaration of academic honesty from VeriGuide.

Scheduling conflicts and unforeseen circumstances can sometimes make it difficult to meet deadlines. If you are unable to submit your work on time, please contact me as soon as possible and I will be happy to grant you an extension if you have a legitimate reason to require one.

If you fail to submit work on time and I have not granted you an extension, you will incur a daily lateness penalty of 1 percentage point. For example, if you submit your midterm essay (worth 20%) 3 days after the deadline, you will lose 3 of the 20% available; if you submit it 5 days late, you will lose 5 of the 20%, etc. I will not accept any further submissions after 7 days have passed unless I have granted special permission.

Attendance and Absences

You are expected to attend all lectures and tutorials. This will comprise 10% of your overall course grade. If you have a valid reason for being absent from a lecture or tutorial (such as a doctor’s appointment, a family emergency, or similar), please contact me as soon as possible to ask for permission.

Plagiarism and Academic Ethics

Studying at the university level requires a high standard of professionalism and honesty in your academic work and personal conduct. This falls under the broad category of academic ethics, a matter that the History Department at CUHK takes very seriously. I expect you all to behave in an honest and respectful manner in class and in your assignments. Unethical behaviour, including plagiarism, will not be tolerated. You can find more information on university policy at

If you are unsure about the definition of plagiarism or academic ethics, feel free to ask me and I will be happy to discuss it with you in more detail.


In addition to regular lectures, there will be a total of four tutorial sessions during the semester that will give you an opportunity to explore the subject matter of the course in a more interactive setting. Each tutorial will focus on a different activity that will help to improve your understanding of the Middle Ages and hone your academic skills. These include class discussion, an academic writing workshop, a visit to our new medieval material culture collection, and a class debate at the end of the term.

Remember that active participation in classes and tutorials is expected and will be 20% of your overall course grade. While tutorials make up the bulk of your participation grade, there will also be a discussion element in each week’s lecture. Your participation in lecture discussions will also count towards your overall participation score – so don’t be shy!


Need Help?

It’s ok to ask for it! I understand that you may not have studied this subject before. If you have any difficulties with the readings, assignments, lectures, or any other aspects of the course, let me know and I will be happy to help you – that is what I am here for. You should feel free to talk to me in person or email me and I will answer any questions that you have. Also, if you have a question during a lecture or tutorial, go ahead and ask me there and then; other students in the class may have the same question and you might be helping them too!

Open-Door Hours

I open my office door every week from 2 to 5pm on Friday so that anyone can come in and speak to me about anything they want. If you would like to chat with me about any aspect of the course, your university studies, career development, favourite historical books and movies, or anything else, feel free to drop in. If meeting in-person becomes impossible for any reason then I will hold open-door hours by Zoom instead.

If you would like to talk to me but can’t make it to my open-door hours, just send me an email and we can set up an appointment at a more convenient time.




  • 如屬小組習作,則所有組員均須簽署聲明;所有組員(不論有否簽署聲明及不論有否直接或間接撰寫有問題的內容)均須負上集體責任及受到懲處。
  • 如作業以電腦製作、內容以文字為主,並經由大學「維誠」系統 (VeriGuide) 提交者,學生將作業的電子檔案上載到系統後,便會獲得收據,收據上已列明有關聲明。