Accessibility statement

The Invisible City


This module will focus on the peoples, things, places and experiences that constituted the medieval city. Our chronological range will be long (c. 900-1500) and our geographical range will be wide and comparative.

There will be a focus on using the rich primary sources of the medieval city of York as a core case study running through the module, but in conversation with approaches, sources and experiences from other urban networks across northern medieval Europe. This wide-ranging chronological and geographical approach will be anchored through a particular focus on networks. Networks allow us to understand and visualise the relationships between people, places, things and ideas in new and revealing ways that go beyond and often unsettle traditional categories of analysis. Networks tend to focus on movement and relationships within multiple nodes of interaction rather than predetermined structures or singular sites of power. They often focus on innovation and change and the unstructured ways in which relationships are formed and ideas or memories of places developed. In this way they often focus on making visible the less visible and less recorded interactions out of which places and societies are built and through which objects, skills and ideas are realised. Drawing both on the application of modern network theory and reconsidering its roots in medieval thought and practice this module will explore new ways of thinking about medieval cities as sites of interaction.

Learning outcomes

 Knowledge and Understanding of:

  1. Methodologies of the disciplines of Archaeology, Art History, Literature and History.
  2. Interdisciplinarity as a way of understanding the past.
  3. Aspects of the development of medieval cities in the North Sea World over the period c.900-1500.

Module Structure

The module is team-taught, and students will have one 2-hour seminar a week. 


Assessment for this module will be by a final essay of 3500-4000 words. Students can chose their topics and their disciplinary focus for this coursework, and will have the opportunity to submit a draft piece of work for discussion with their tutors. 

The final essay will be due in Week 1 of the following term. 

Preliminary Reading

  • Bartholomew Anglicus, De proprietatibus rerum, Book 15 De regionibus et provinciis [On regions and places]
  • Giles of Rome, The Governance of Kings and Princes: John Trevisa’s Middle English Translation of the De VikingRegimine Principium of Aegidius Romanus, ed David C. Fowler, Charles F. Briggs and Paul G. Remley (New York, 1997), 164-168.
  • Ignacio Farias, ‘Decentring the object of urban studies’, Urban Assemblages: How Actor Network Theory Changes Urban Studies (Routledge, 2010), pp. 1-24 (esp. pp. 1-16)
  • Bruno Latour, Paris: Invisible City (2006) - section 1
  • Alber-Laszlo Barabasi, Linked: The New Science of Networks (2003)  Chapter 5
  • David Wallace, ‘Chaucer and the Absent City’ Chaucerian Polity
  • Sarah Rees Jones, ‘City and Country, Wealth and Labour’ in Peter Brown (ed.), A Companion to Medieval English Literature and Culture c. 1350-1500 (2007), pp. 56-73
  • Sarah Rees Jones, York, The Making of a City, c. 1068-1350 (Oxford, 2013), Chapter 7, ‘Town, Country, Trade, Fairs, Markets and Festivals’, pp. 235-269
  • Sindbaek, S.M. 2007. Networks and nodal points: the emergence of towns in early Viking Age Scandinavia Antiquity 81: 119–32.
  • Sindbæk, S. 2012. Viking Disruptions or Growing Integration? Contextualising Communication Networks in the 10th century North Sea, in S. Kleingärtner & G. Zeilinger (ed.) Raumbildung durch netzwerke ? der Ostseeraum zwischen wikingepzeitund spätmittelalter aus archäologischerund geschichtswissenschaftlicher perspektiveBonn: dr. Rudolf Habelt gmbh, pp.19-38.
  • Croix, S. 2014. Permanency in Early Medieval Emporia: Reassessing Ribe European Journal of Archaeology
  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
  • Domesday Book
  • Fenwick (ed.) The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381
  • England’s Immigrants Database online




Module: MST00066M 

Convenor: Prof. Sarah Rees Jones 

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