Medieval Lives - HIS00019C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rachel Delman
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module will introduce students to the study of later medieval history through a focus on five individuals and their wider historical context. These include a noblewoman, a heroine, a mystic, and merchant and his wife. Some are famous, others not. Some are very well documented, for others we have only fictionalised accounts of their lives. All were, to some extent, international figures, but primarily their lives give us access to the history of England, France and the Low Countries in the period 1350 - 1550. 

This module will explore major events and themes in the history of north-western Europe, including the Wars of the Roses, the Hundred Years War, devotion and heresy, and life in the late medieval English town. Students will engage with a wide range of primary evidence, from wills, sermons and literary evidence to objects and architecture. As part of this course, we will spend time considering the buildings and museum collections of York, using these to think about the ways in which medieval lives might be accessed and interpreted through both written and material evidence. We will also assess the value of biographical approaches to medieval history, considering how and why historians have written biographies, and whether they still have a place in historical discourse today.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Give an in-depth introduction to selected lives, themes and events in the history of late medieval north-western Europe

  • Offer experience of working with a wide range of primary source material 

  • Develop skills in analysing historiography, specifically biographical approaches, women’s history, and political, social and cultural history  

  •  Develop core skills including critical reading, source analysis, note-taking, essay writing, and presenting

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • A general understanding of selected major events in north-western Europe in the period 1350-1550

  • Greater knowledge and experience of working with a wide array of both textual and non-textual sources

  • Greater confidence in critical reading, note-taking, presenting to groups, and essay writing

Module content

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over eight weeks. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

Week 2: Margaret Beaufort: Tudor Matriarch

Week 3: The Wars of the Roses and the Birth of the Tudor Dynasty

Week 4: Margery Kempe: Can Mothers be Holy? 

Week 5: Margery Kempe’s World

Week 6: Late Medieval York

Week 7: Margaret and Nicholas Blackburn

Week 8: The Hundred Years War (final phases 1415-1453)

Week 9: Joan of Arc: Heroine or Abused Child?


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7. 

Students will ten submit a 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10. 


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading: 

W. C. Hollister and J. M Bennett, Medieval Europe: A Short History (London: McGraw-Hill, 2002)

R. Horrox and W. M. Ormrod (eds), A Social History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.