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The Making of Maritime England, 1200-1500 Maritime Society in the North Sea World, c1300-1500 - HIS00095I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tom Johnson
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

The sea played a vital role in the economy, culture and politics of medieval England. As a defensive barrier, a source of livelihoods, and a means of economic and cultural connectivity, it was an integral part of everyday life in this period. Students who take this interdisciplinary course will explore all aspects of maritime society in medieval England, from the day-to-day rhythms of fishing and trade, to the exploits of pirates and the politics of shipwreck. We will engage both with documentary sources created for government and taxation, as well as archaeological, literary, and visual evidence that can help us to understand the importance of the sea for individual and collective identity. Overall, this survey course will not only introduce students to a new and exciting area of research in medieval studies, it will help them to understand the long-term processes by which England became a maritime culture over the course of the Middle Ages.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20 to Summer Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth;

  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material; and

  • To combine seminar preparation and discussion of the topic being studied with extended independent work on a project devised by the student.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module a student will:

  • Have a deeper knowledge of English society, politics, and culture in the Middle Ages
  • Understand both the long-term continuities and key transformations in maritime communities and culture
  • Be acquainted with the central themes of maritime historiography
  • Have experience of working with a variety of medieval primary sources (text, image, objects)

Module content

This 30-credit module is taught through a weekly two-hour seminar run from weeks 2-10 in the
spring term and a four week period of project work undertaken in weeks 1-4 of the summer term.
Students will complete their group project work within that period and tutors should arrange to be available for consultation with students twice during that time. There will be no formal seminar
teaching during this period. 

Seminars will cover the following areas:
1. Gender and Life-cycle in the Maritime Household
2. Peasants or Sailors? Fishing Villages
3. Above Board: Shipmasters, Crews, and Local Governance
4. Port Towns and the Mercantile Economy
5. Ruling the Waves I: The Growth of the Navy
6. Ruling the Waves II: Politicizing the Sea at Home and Abroad
7. Imagining the Sea in Word and Image
8. Transformations: The Development of a Maritime Culture?
Individual project work will consist of a short piece of written work, analysing a primary source (or
group of related sources) chosen in consultation with the tutor.


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination (1 day)
Maritime Society in the North Sea World, c1300-1500
N/A 67
University - project
Group Project 3,000 words
N/A 33

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative assessment will be a group presentation between weeks 5 and 7 of the spring term.

For summative assessment students take a 24-hour open exam in the summer term assessment period, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. For those taking two Explorations modules the 24-hour open exams are held on consecutive days, with both papers released at 11:00 on day 1 and both due for submission on 11:00 of day 3.

Students also submit a piece of written work for their group project of no more than 3,000 words in week 5 of the summer term.

The exam carries 67% of assessment and the project element 33% for this module.

Students who need to be reassessed in the project component of this module (for example due to Exceptional Circumstance) will be required to submit in the summer reassessment period a shorter individual project (2,000 words) which should include a short reflection (500 words max) on group work, considering how this project could be expanded if a team of three to four people were working on it. Students should consider how they would divide up the research tasks, and reflect briefly on problems which might arise and how they would manage them. Module tutors will advise on the content and design of this project. 


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination (1 day)
Maritime Society in the North Sea World, c1300-1500
N/A 67
University - project
Group Project 3,000 words
N/A 33

Module feedback

Formative assessments

  • Within two working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

Summative assessments

  • Within six working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

Preliminary reading:

Fox, Harold. The Evolution of the Fishing Village: Landscape and Society along the South Devon Coast, 1086-1550. Oxford: Leopard’s Head, 2004.

Rose, Susan. The Medieval Sea. New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007.

Ward, Robin. The World of the Medieval Shipmaster: Law, Business and the Sea, c.1350-c.1450. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2009.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students