HST3160/3161: Assembling consent: ritual and making the medieval world

40 credits (semesters 1 and 2)

Module Leader: Dr Danica Summerlin



A pass in at least two history modules at level two.


Module Summary

In 1215, King John sealed Magna Carta, limiting his powers, in front of his barons at Runnymede. It is one example of the assemblies which shaped the medieval world. These meetings presented opportunities for face-to-face discussions and law-making, trials of justice and wit, as well as celebrate, feast, and mourn. This Special Subject investigates the purposes and events of these assemblies in the Central Middle Ages. Historians insist on separating 'Church' and 'State' in the Middle Ages, but this module looks at both to understand how medieval European government functioned, and how rulers employed the theatre of ritual and the growth of bureaucracy and law to influence their subjects and increase their power. 


This module aims to introduce you to the diversity of political and social gatherings in the central Middle Ages and their purposes and justifications, including those attributed to the gatherings by historians since the Counter-Reformation. Alongside analyses of critical terms from medieval political thought, this module will evaluate individual meetings from a variety of perspectives and using a variety of sources, narrative, non-narrative, and visual. At play are key issues of power, authority, and the clash between using visual or ritual elements to establish consensus and an increasing reliance on the written word that appears gradually from 1050. In all of this the separation of assemblies into ecclesiastical – so those concerned with the church – and secular - those concerned with the government of pretty much everything else – is a scholarly commonplace that you will be encouraged to contemplate and challenge. Not only were the players in these dramas often pious Christians, but their roles overlapped: a bishop administered land, while the coronation of a king was full of elements that emphasized his strong connection to God. By using primary sources and recent approaches, this module questions the roles played by meetings and assemblies in medieval society and especially in the formulation of law, in decision-making, and in the creation of ideas about government and self-image in the Middle Ages and later. The module will use source material and historiographical debate to develop your confidence in written work, oral presentation, and critical evaluation and synthesis of primary and secondary texts.

Teaching and Assessment

Weekly seminars will provide students with the opportunity to develop an awareness of the overarching historiographical and narrative framework concerning the role of meetings in medieval politics and society in the central Middle Ages. Through discussion and presentations in the seminars, students will develop their abilities to engage with existing scholarship through reasoned argument, especially through using and understanding the wide range of surviving primary sources for the period in question, which will form an important part of class time. Finally, the seminars will permit students to contemplate and critique each others' perspectives ina constructive manner.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level3


Selected Reading

  • To follow.


Intended Learning Outcomes
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