Accessibility statement

Medieval Settlement and Communities


Module leader: Aleksandra McClain


This course seeks to develop an understanding of the inhabitation of medieval England; the places and spaces in which medieval communities lived, worked, played and worshipped. We will be interested not only in the creation, development, and occasional desertion of settlements, but also in the relationships between people and their environment. How did particular landscapes influence the forms of settlements, such as farmsteads, villages and towns? What impact did they have on the ways in which people could earn their living? What kinds of communities resulted? What was the role of religion and belief, at both an institutional and personal level? How can archaeologists study these subjects, using historical sources, survey and excavation, spatial analysis, and the study of buildings, artefacts, and environmental data?


  • To develop an understanding of the wide range of settlements, landscapes, social structures, and environments apparent in the archaeological data of the later medieval period.
  • To tackle some of the main interpretative debates within the subject area, which encompass a diversity of theoretical perspectives.
  • To highlight the relationship between subsurface archaeology, landscape, and the built environment.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should:

  • have assessed the usefulness of a variety of archaeological, documentary, and cartographic sources for understanding medieval settlement and communities
  • have studied a broad range of issues that relate to the study and interpretation of a variety of medieval social environments
  • have examined how far particular types of buildings, artefacts, settlements, and economy related to landscape type, agrarian regimes, and social structures
  • have considered the importance of spatial organisation within buildings, settlements, and fields, and examined wider patterns of local, regional, and national distribution
  • have addressed questions about concepts of feudalism and medieval social structure, and their relationship to material culture, the built environment, and settlement

Wharram Percy church in its valley