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The Mediterranean - HIS00075H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Guy Halsall
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the practice of comparative history;
  • To enable students to acquire skills and understanding of that practice by studying a particular topic or theme; and
  • To enable students to reflect on the possibilities and difficulties involved in comparative history.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp the key approaches and challenges involved in comparative history;
  • Understand a range of aspects of the topic or theme which they have studies;
  • Be able to use and evaluate comparative approaches to that topic or theme; and
  • Have learned to discuss and write about comparative history.

Module content

The ‘Middle Sea’ occupies a particular place in historiography, associated as it is with the annaliste masterpiece that is Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Several historians have tried to emulate Braudel, whether exploring other seas or by looking at the Mediterranean itself but in different periods, such as antiquity or even prehistory. The Mediterranean also played a major role in the famous ‘Pirenne Thesis’ about the end of antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages, and in other grand narratives too.

This comparative will look at a range of issues to explore the Mediterranean and the lands that border it, from the creation of states in the Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean through to the present day. We will, in particular, contrast narratives that see the sea as a unifying force, connecting different regions in a ‘Mediterranean culture’ against those that prefer to look at confrontations between East and West or North and South. We will look inevitably at issues of economics and ecology – the essential grounding of Braudel’s thesis – and explore whether there is such a thing as ‘Mediterranean society’. We will also compare the ecological determinism and the longue durée (‘deep history’, in its most recent reincarnation) against more contingent, short-term visions of historical change.

Teaching programme:
The module will be taught in weeks 2-10 of the spring term. Students prepare for and participate in nine weekly three-hour seminars.

Seminar topics are likely to include the following:

  1. Fernand Braudel and the Mediterranean
  2. Economy and Ecology
  3. Towns and Trade
  4. Travel and Tourism from Pilgrimage to Manumission
  5. Interlude: Writing Comparative History
  6. Empires of the Middle Sea
  7. Peasant Societies
  8. Feuding Societies?
  9. East versus West? From the Siege of Troy to the ‘New Barbarians’

Indicative assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Open Exam (1 day)
The Mediterranean
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will write a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment using a comparative approach due in either week 5 or week 7 of the spring term.

For summative assessment students take a 24-hour open exam, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. The exam takes place in the assessment period of the summer term, and requires students to answer one question.

Indicative reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Open Exam (1 day)
The Mediterranean
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural 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. 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:

Abulafia, David. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Translated by Siân. Reynolds. 2 vols. Glasgow: William Collins, 1972-3).

Broodbank, Cyprian. The Making of the Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean from the Beginning to the Emergence of the Classical World. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University constantly explores 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. In some instances it may be appropriate for the University to notify and consult with affected students about module changes in accordance with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.