MEDIEVAL STUDIES 310B: Topics in Medieval Studies:
The Medieval Town (3 credits)
Term 2: TTh 2:00 – 3:30pm
Prof. Arlene Sindelar, Department of History
Office: (604) 822-5162
Just as cities are magnets for the restless, ambitious, and marginalized today, so were they in the Middle Ages. Our general notions about this European period has been shaped more by myth, movies, and romances than by historical sources. Popular descriptions of medieval society have tended to focus more on kings and lords, duels and damsels, rather than on business owners, entrepreneurs, prostitutes, journeymen, beggars, and urban aldermen. But this interdisciplinary course examines the problems and prosperity of cities and the people who lived there from the tenth century through the challenges of war, plague, and politics to the fifteenth. Weekly topics include charters and citizenship, merchants and crafts; governance and revolt; art and architecture; customs and laws, entertainment and festivals, households and housing, foreigners and Jews, urban spaces and boundaries, poverty and plenty, universities and religious institutions, gender and crime, life and death.
Classes consist of lectures interspersed with workshops on the sources and discussions over the readings. Reading assignments include not only secondary scholarship and primary documents, but also digitized manuscripts, illuminations, architecture, and artefacts. Assessment is based on a midterm test, a short document analysis, two brief article reports, and a research project essay and presentation. (This course is required for the Medieval Major and Minor. It also eligible to count as upper-level credit toward the History Major or Minor, and the Law and Society Minor.)
Through the study of available primary and secondary sources of the medieval period, students use appropriate methodologies across the disciplines to explore the history, culture, representation, dynamics, and diversity of the European town from late Antiquity until the Reformation; investigate how the town and its governance changed over time and place; analyse how the town fostered medieval art and literature, law, and economic innovation; explain how the town shaped society; employ an interdisciplinary perspective in researching the medieval town and city; exhibit analytical and writing skills of university scholarship: generating a research topic related to the course, developing a working bibliography of appropriate primary and secondary sources, constructing an argument, and presenting it both in the form of an original written research project or essay and to the class in a presentation.