Schotter Graphical OutputHST697: Order and Disorder around the year 1000

15 credits (Semester 2016-17: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr Charles West

'Our understanding of medieval Europe around the year 1000 has been really transformed in past decades as historians have re-assessed some of their most basic assumptions about how medieval society actually worked. This module goes to the heart of the matter, making use of a wide range of remarkable sources to access a lively arena of historical debate.' Dr Charles West


Module Summary

Medieval European society used to be considered lawless and violent, and at no time more so than around the year 1000, in the wake of the collapse of Carolingian order. However, many historians have turned away from working out what fragmented society in this period towards investigating what bound it together. This module examines five 'axes of order', social forces that have been understood to have structured – in very different ways – medieval European society c.950-c.1050: namely the state, the Church, feud and kinship, gender, and the gift. With these themes in mind, this module will evaluate how far this really was a 'disordered' society, and how (or whether) anthropology can help the historian with these issues. Following the weight of the historiography, the course concentrates on Francia, but it will be possible to broaden the investigation to contemporary Anglo-Saxon England and Byzantium too, to elicit contrasts and similarities.

Module aims

This is a diverse field of study, with implications for a wide range of historical issues, and also a hotly contested one, with a great deal of recent research. The module will thus introduce you both to historiographical issues and to questions of documentation and interpretation. You will develop an understanding of how historians' interpretations of Europe around the year 1000 have changed and of the material and textual sources that are available to them. You will also develop a wider understanding of medieval history and of the singularity of the early medieval period.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. The ability to evaluate and analyse sources for the study of European society around the year 1000;
  2. An understanding of the benefits and risks associated with interdisciplinarity;
  3. The ability to assess the effect and working of the social forces which integrated medieval European society around the year 1000;
  4. A capacity for informed and critical historical analysis;
  5. An ability to elaborate and defend an intellectual position and to present scholarly arguments and historiographical debates both orally and in writing.


Learning hours
Seminars Tutorials Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each class will focus on one of the 'axes of order', discussing recent historiographical contributions as well as examining selected, and varied, sources. The classes will provide a structured environment for you to debate the topics raised and to share knowledge and perspectives. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will complete one or more exercises (totalling a maximum of 3,000 words) which explore one of the key themes raised by an in-depth study of this topic. You will be expected to demonstrate an ability to handle bibliographical resources, a critical understanding of different methodological approaches and available primary sources, and an independent engagement with current historiographical debate.


Selected reading

  • D. Barthelemy, The Serf, the Knight and the Historian (Ithaca, 2009)
  • H. Fichtenau, Living in the Tenth Century (London, 1991)
  • T. Head and R. Landes, The Peace of God (London, 1992)
  • R.I. Moore, The First European Revolution (Oxford, 2000)
  • S. White, Feuding and Peace-Making in eleventh-century France (Aldershot, 2005)




*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is current and relevant. Individual modules may be updated or withdrawn in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, curriculum review, staff availability, and variations in student numbers. In the event of a material change the University will inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.