Medieval History

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Mediaeval History
First semester
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Learning outcomes of the course unit

Knowledge and understanding:
At the end of the course, the students will know the key facts and figures, as well as the most important political and ecclesiastical institutions, the most significant forms of social, economic and ecclesiastical organization of the medieval period, and to place each element in time and space.
Applying knowledge and understanding:
The students will develop the practice of considering the political, institutional, social and economic relations and the ideologies not as a natural given, but as the result of changes that have taken place in specific contexts
Making judgments:
The students will improve their ability to make autonomous judgments through the analysis of complex phenomena, which involve multiple sets of causes.
Communication skills:
The students will be able to report and discuss the notions learned during the classes and from the texts, with particular attention to the accurate use of language, concepts and categories, and will be able to make an appropriate use of the specific vocabulary of the historical disciplines, with particular reference to the terminology which defines the fundamental concepts of Medieval history (fief, vassal, territory, jurisdiction, heresy, knighthood, ecclesiastical benefice, etc).
Learning skills:
The students will improve their autonomous learning ability getting used to place in a hierarchy the information gathered during the classes and studying the texts in the syllabus.


Basic notions of Italian and European Geography learned at secondary school

Course contents summary

An Introduction to Medieval History

The course aims to provide the students with the information and the basic tools for a critical understanding of the economic, social, cultural and religious life between the third and fifteenth centuries. Particular attention will be paid to the political and institutional forms of organization of the human communities which, during the Middle Ages, shaped the specific characteristics of the European area.
The course is structured according to the thematic pattern well established in the discipline, and roughly follows a chronological order. The main topics examined will be: the late Roman Empire and its sunset; the barbarian migrations and kingdoms; the Byzantine and Islamic Mediterranean; Carolingian Europe; post-Carolingian Europe and the rise of the local powers; the diffusion of Christianity; the reform of the Church and the Papal monarchy; European demographic and economic growth; the diffusion of feudal bonds and European expansion; Papacy, Empire and kingdoms; the cities and the communes; the crisis of the later Middle Ages; the decline of the “universal powers”; the European states; the Italian states.

Recommended readings

The students are required to study carefully the reference book:

C. Azzara, Le civiltà del Medioevo, Il Mulino, Bologna 2013

As a further reading, the students will choose and study two of the following chapters of the volume:

La Storia, I grandi problemi dal Medioevo all'Età Contemporanea, a cura di N. Tranfaglia e L. Firpo, vol. II, Il Medioevo, 2, Popoli e strutture Politiche, UTET, Torino 1986:

VII. R. Mantran, L’espansione araba e il mondo musulmano, pp. 197-230
IX. A.A. Settia, L’espansione normanna, pp. 263-285
X. A.A. Settia, Le incursioni saracene e ungare, pp. 287-306
XI. G. Tabacco, L’impero romano-germanico e la sua crisi (secoli X-XIV), pp. 307-338
XII. C. Carozzi, Le monarchie feudali: Francia e Inghilterra, pp. 339-367
XIX. G.G. Merlo, I mongoli da Gengis Khan a Tamerlano, pp. 553-574
XX. A. Gallotta, Gli ottomani, pp. 575-595
XXI. J. Macek, Il mondo slavo, pp. 597-621
XXII. N. Coulet, Francia e Inghilterra nella guerra dei Cent’anni, pp. 623-650
XXIII. J. Gautier Dalché, La “Reconquista” in Spagna, pp. 651-671

Teaching methods


During the classes the teacher will introduce - roughly in chronological order - the main issues and themes of medieval history, using the reference bibliography and (if necessary) other texts for the study of particular aspects. Historical maps will also be shown and discussed, to help students to frame the events in space.

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination in Italian.
The examination will start with a simple test to assess the student’s ability to put people and events in the correct space (also using blank maps) and chronological order. The examination aims to assess, in particular:
a) The student’s ability to place key events, characters and the social and cultural development in correct chronological order.
b) The lexical precision in describing specific phenomena of the Middle Ages and, more generally, the use of the specific language of the historical disciplines.
c) The adequate ability to study independently and critically revise the contents learned during the course and through the study of the texts, as well as the aptitude to link structures and dynamics, and to identify causal relationships.
d) The ability to establish connections between events and phenomena typical of the medieval period and the contemporary world.

In order to verify the learning level achieved by the students, the questions are designed to assess their ability to elaborate on the learned notions in original and independent ways, their lexical precision, and their ability to deal with complex issues by building complex arguments.

Failure is determined by the inability to understand the basic elements of the course, particularly with regard to the placement of events and characters in the correct temporal and spatial context; by the inability to express himself/herself in correct Italian; by the inability to explain specific concepts and phenomena related to the Middle Ages with adequate lexical precision; by the lack of preparation and knowledge of the texts in the syllabus.
Sufficient performance (18 to 23/30) is determined by the student’s ability to place events and characters in the correct spatial and temporal context; by the ability to explain the concepts and phenomena typical of the Middle Ages with adequate lexical precision; by the ability to reprocess the information by making independent judgments.
Medium marks (24 to 27/30) are given to the student who shows a level more than sufficient (24 to 25/30) or good (26 to 27/30) according to the indicators listed above.
Higher scores (28 to 30/30 or 30/30 cum laude) are awarded to students who demonstrate a very good or outstanding level according to the indicators listed above; as well as the ability to articulate complex discourses; the ability to formulate personal and original judgments; the ability to identify and explain cause-effect relationships; the ability to identify links between spatial and temporal contexts (and also political, social, economic and cultural phenomena) distant in time and space