HIST302: Medieval Europe

Course Syllabus for "HIST302: Medieval Europe"

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This course will introduce you to the history of the European Middle Ages and Renaissance.  You will learn about the major political, economic, and social changes that took place between the fourth century and 1500.  The course is structured chronologically.  Each unit includes representative primary-source documents that illustrate important overarching political, economic, and social themes, such as the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of the Christian Church, the emergence of the feudal system, the advent of the Renaissance in Italy and northern Europe, and the significance of the European Age of Exploration.  By the end of the course, you will understand how Europe transformed from a collection of barbarian kingdoms into a continent with a sophisticated cultural and economic life that would later come to dominate the globe.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify major events and milestones in the political, social, and cultural history of Europe from the fourth century to approximately 1500 C.E.
  • Identify, articulate, and assess the main arguments used by historians to explain the decline and fall of Roman power in the west.
  • Describe the origins of the Byzantine Empire, compare and contrast its political and cultural features with those of the Roman Empire in the west, and identify some of the factors used by historians to explain its longevity.
  • Identify and describe some major milestones in the development of Christian doctrine over the course of later Roman history, the manner in which this faith spread into surrounding lands, and the schism that led to the creation of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
  • Identify and distinguish the major Germanic kingdoms that occupied the lands formerly ruled by the Western Roman Empire and their political and social customs. 
  • Explain how the collapse of Roman power affected the Christian Church in the west and describe the actions taken by ecclesiastical leaders to gain converts among the pagan groups that settled throughout the area.
  • Describe some of the meanings associated by scholars with the term “Middle Ages,” as well as the manner in which these views have evolved over time.
  • Identify and describe some of the factors used by historians to explain how Frankish kings such as Pepin and Charlemagne consolidated their power and created what became known as the Carolingian Empire.
  • List and describe some of the major developments in culture and thought scholars have associated with the rise of the Carolingian Empire and specifically, the steps taken by Charlemagne to encourage progress in these areas.
  • Identify and describe the role of the Christian Church in medieval social, cultural, and political affairs.
  • Describe the diverse interactions among Christians, Jews, and Muslims over the course of the medieval era, as well as the events that historians count as particularly influential in shaping the relationships between followers of these faiths.
  • Describe how historians have assessed the causes and outcomes of the Crusades.
  • Identify and describe the general meanings historians have associated with the terms “feudalism” and “manorialism,” their distinguishing features, and some of the factors used to explain how the social and political customs connected with these systems gained precedence in Europe.
  • Compare and contrast the types of political relationships between kings, nobilities, and local authorities across Europe during the High Middle Ages.
  • Identify and describe major developments in the history of the medieval economy, including the rise of urban centers and new patterns of internal and external European trade.
  • Identify the major cultural, scientific, and economic achievements of medieval civilization.
  • Identify and describe some of the major doctrinal developments and reforms that took place within the medieval Catholic Church as well as the causes of the serious conflicts that broke out between the papacy and secular rulers over the later middle ages. 
  • Describe the origins of key concepts and medieval institutions, such as the Holy Roman Empire, Magna Carta, and Parliament, that influenced the political history and culture of Europe into the modern era. 
  • Identify and describe key events in the formation of European kingdoms such as France, England, Portugal, and Spain that would dominate political affairs on the continent and larger world in subsequent centuries.
  • Describe the various meanings historians have associated with the term “Renaissance”; identify and articulate the intellectual and artistic values that are often held to distinguish Renaissance culture from medieval. 
  • Identify some key Renaissance artists, thinkers, and scientists and their contributions; compare and contrast variations in Renaissance art, literature, and culture across northern and southern Europe. 
  • Describe the economic and social changes in Europe that coincided with the rise of Renaissance culture and identify some of the ways in which historians have attempted to connect developments in these two realms of human life and experience. 
  • Analyze and interpret primary source documents from the fourth century to 1500, and demonstrate an understanding of the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed HIST101 or HIST102 and HIST104.

Course Information

Welcome to HIST302.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: John Radzilowski, PhD and Dr. Warren Dym

Primary Resources: The web resources available for medieval history are increasingly rich and varied.  The course draws from a wide range of sources, but relies heavily on the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Pay special attention to Unit 1, as this unit lays the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the latter units.  You will be assessed on what you have learned in this course with a multiple choice Final Exam.  Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. 

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Requirements: This course should take about 133 hours to complete, not counting the Final Exam.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 10 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday and Tuesday nights; subunit 1.2 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Wednesday and Thursday nights; etc.

Tips/Suggestions: The syllabus is organized by units with relevant material under each subsection.  It is recommended but not required to complete the units in the order they are presented.  It is recommended that you take detailed notes as you work through the materials in each unit.  You may also choose to write down the answers to any study questions in the instructions section for each resource.  Having these answers and your notes readily available will serve as a good reference to study from as you prepare to take the Final Exam.  

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.