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Medieval European Family - HIS00024M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jeremy Goldberg
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module summary

This course provides an introduction to the historical sources, debates and methodologies on the medieval family in the later Middle Ages, with particular attention to English and Tuscan sources. This is a lively research field, but even for the period in question, there has been little attempt by historians to synthesise scholarship, and there are no general studies of the medieval family. Attempts by early modern historians to impose assumptions, such as the absence of a concept of childhood or of romantic love as a factor in the making of marriages, on the period simply do not stand up to scrutiny. What is becoming apparent is the cultural diversity of later medieval Europe and perhaps a growing appreciation of just how much about the basic building blocks of the social fabric are still but indifferently understood.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully should:

  • Have an understanding of the main sources and debates relating to the family in later medieval Europe
  • Have a clearer sense of how different family systems operated
  • Have gained confidence in the use of a range of primary sources
  • Have developed critical skills in relation to secondary writings

Module content

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

Seminars may include:

1.The Medieval Household

2.Infancy and Childhood

3.Adolescence and Servanthood

4.Marriage Patterns

5.Courtship and the Making of Marriage

6.(Heterosexual) Sex and Sexuality

7.Widows, Widowers, and Old Age

8.The Aristocratic Family: An English Case Study


Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 or 7 of the autumn term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.


Task Length % of module mark
4000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. They will also receive verbal feedback at an individual tutorial. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. 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. Supervisors are available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

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:

Fleming, Peter. Family and Household in Medieval England. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1985.

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.