crc  .  syllabi collection  .  alumni syllabi  .  history  .

   Course Title    History of Western Society during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times
Lecturer    Tatyana Volkova
Institution    North-Kazakhstan University
Country    Kazakhstan

This course will examine those changes that happened in Western society from the IV. to XVI. centuries. This time framework includes two historical periods that are known as Middle Ages and Early Modern times.

Middle Ages were called dark ages between two ages of cultural growth that is the Roman world in the II. and I. centuries and the age of Renaissance that restored the spirit of classic antiquity. The goal of this course is to show that during the period of IV-XIV. centuries Europe experienced development in all spheres: social, economic, political, intellectual and religious. People of the middle Ages created their own cultural heritage of Greek-Roman past and developed in their own way.

The Early Modern period is dated between the XIV-XVI. centuries. On the one hand, in its class structure, economic life, technology and methods of communications, the Europe of the XV-XVI. centuries remained more close to the imperial Rome than to modern Europe. On the other hand, great changes happened in European society in comparison with the Middle Ages. Such events as Renaissance, Reformation and European expansion greatly changed European attitudes, values and way of life.

Students will be exposed to the vision of these events from the point of view of social history. Within this methodological perspective scholars demonstrated by scholars about the ways in which people have lived deserve as much attention as the reigns of monarchs, careers of great political figures and outcomes of big battles. This will give new life to traditional approaches based on studies of political/diplomatic and religious developments. Within this a course balanced approach will be demonstrated, when the way of life of different social groups within society will be presented along side, and in connection with the main political, economical, cultural and intellectual changes.

This course is designed for second year students, who were already exposed to the origins of Western society during courses on Greek and Roman history. This course is a continuation of studies about the history of Western society during the Middle Ages and Early Modern times.

The course consists of lectures and discussions during seminars. Lectures have a traditional design. In the beginning of each lecture students are encouraged to give a review and a summary of the previous lecture.

During class discussions attention will be paid to the work with primary sources. These studies are supposed to widen and enlight those periods which were represented during the course. The work with primary sources should develop the active participation of students in the studies and their ability of critical interpretation. Examination of different points of view on the particular issue within historiography debates will be used to develop critical thinking.

Studies of individuals in society, men or women, or groups of people, on the basis of fragments from literature would be integrated within the studies of the particular theme. This gives an opportunity to approach the understanding of peopleís way of life, variants of historical experience and give an opportunity for the modern people to penetrate into the past and relate themselves to the people from the past.

Course content, which is presented here, contains themes to be taught during fall semester.


I part. Theoretical introduction.

1 week. Studies of History of Western Civilization from a Social History Perspective.

What is history, what is the purpose of studying history? What is civilization, culture and mentality? These questions received new meaning in connection with social history. Social history, which is in the core of this course, is an example of how historians reinterpret the meaning of the past.

2 week. Christian Sources of Western Mentality.

Examine how modern western mentality was formed by Christian values.


*Gurevich A. "Evropeiskoe srednevekoviei sovremennost," in Evropeiskiy almanah. Istoria, tradicia, cultura (Moskva: Nayka, 1991) 134-148.

*Semennikova A, "Kategoria civilizacii, "in Rossia v mirovom soobchestve civilizaciy (Moskva: Nayka, 1995) 5-35.

Journal articles:

*Gurevich A. "Socialnaia istoria i istoricheskaia nayka," Voprosi philosophii, 4 (1990).

Iskanderov A. "Isoricheskaia nayka na poroge 21 veka," Voprosi Isotrii 4 (19960).

Kantor r. "Teoreticheskie iziskania zapadnih istorikov," Voprosi istorii , 8 (1996).

Retman K. "Novaia socialnaia istoria v USA," Novia i Noveishaia istoria , 2 (1990).

Grabski S. "F. Brodel," Novia i Noveishaia isotria, 5 (1990).

Dybovickiy N. "Novia socialnia istoria v USA," Voprosi istorii, 2 (1989).

Cheretina A. "Spori vokrug Annalov," Voprosi isotrii, 6 (1994).

Kovalchenko I. "Nekotorie voprosi metodologii isotrii," Novia i niveishaia istoria, 5 (1991).

Gurevich A. "O krizise sovremenoy istoricheskoy nayki," 2-3 (1991).2-3.

Hvostova S. "Istoria: problemy poznania," Voprosi Philosohii, 4 (1997).

Topolskyi E. metodologia istorii i isotricheskyi materialism, Voprosi istorii, 1990, 5.


II part. The Making of Europe.

The centuries between 400 and 900 present a paradox. On the one hand, they witnessed the disintegration of the Western Roman Empire, which had been one of humanityís great political and cultural achievements. On the other hand, these five centuries were a creative and seminal period, during which Europeans laid the foundations for medieval and modern Europe.

In this part of the course the sources that created European civilization, the cultural heritage of Greeks and Romans, German peoples, Christian believes, will be examined. Special attention will be put on the study of the issue of how peopleís understanding of themselves shifted from a social or political (Germanic or Celtic tribal, Roman citizen) to a religious one.

3 week. Growth and Development of Christian Church.

Christianity is the most important ingredient that led to the making of Europe, because it absorbed and assimilated the other two that are the legacy of Greeks and Romans and traditions of Germanic peoples. In the framework of this theme the following questions will be examined: syncretic character of Christian belief. What was the church in the Middle ages? Church and Roman imperators. Missioner activity. Assimilation and the conversion of barbarians.

4 week. Christian Attitudes to Classic Culture.

The attitude to Greek-Roman heritage was a dilemma for the Christian church. The roman empire disintegrated as a social and political force but its culture remained. Christian culture spread within context of this cultural heritage. Question of how Christians came in touch with Greek-Roman heritage by means of compromise and synthesis will be examined.

5 week. Germanic Society.

Germanic society appeared in the Iron Age 800-500 BC in the north part of central Europe and Scandinavia. After the Germans replaced the Romans, foundations of the European society were laid. During the lecture and discussions devoted to this theme the distinctive features of Germanic social, political and economic life will be studied.

6 week. The Byzantine East (ca 400-788).

Constantine had tried to maintain the unity of the Roman Empire, but during the V. and VI. centuries the western and eastern parts drifted apart. During this period the Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople, served as a protective buffer between Europe and peoples in the east. The Byzantian Greeks preserved the philosophical and scientific texts of the ancient world, which later formed the basis for study in science and medicine and produced a great synthesis of Roman law, Justinian Code


*"Drevnie germancy, " in Practicum po itorii srednih vekov, ed. by M Abramson, (Moskva: Prosvegenie, 1987) 6-33.

*Valovaia T."Konstanstin krestitel Evropy,"in Iskyshenie evropy. Istoricheskie profili (Moskva: Garoarika, 1999) 39-61.

*"Salicheskaia pravda," in Practicum poistorii srednih vekov, ed. by M. Abramson (Moskva: Prosvechenie, 1987) 33-60.

*Gurevich A. "Obychiy i ritual po varvarskim pravdam," in Problemy genezisa feudalisma v Zapadnoyi Evrope (Moskva: Vishaia Shkola, 1970) 83-116.

*Gurevich A. "Agrarnyi Stroy varvarov," in Istoria Krestianstva v Evrope, ed. by Ydalcova Z, Bessmertniy U. 1 vol. (Moskva: Nayka, 1985) 90-137.

Shtaerman S "Ypadok Rimskoy Imperii," in Istoria Evropy, vol. 1 (Moskva: Nayka, 1988) 630-654.

Ykolova V. Antichnoe nasledie i cultura rannego srednevekovia (Moskva: Nayka, 1989).

Averincev S. "Sydby Evropeiskoy tradicii v epohy perehoda ot antichnosty k srednevekoviy, " in Is istorii cultury srednih vekov i Vozrogdenia (Moskva: Nayka, 1976) 17-65.

Medvedev I "Nekotorie pravovie aspekty Vizantiyskoy gosydarstvennosti," in Polit structyri epohi feudalisma v Zapadnoy Evrope VI-XVIII vekov, ed. Rutenberg V .(Leningrad: Nayka, 1990) 7-46.

Fadeeva L, "Evropeiskaia idea : pyt k integracii," Voprosi filosohii, 5 (1996).

"Evropa v contexte srednevekovoy kultury," in Ocherki po istorii mirovoy kultyri, ed. V. Bahmin, Berger I (Moskva: Ia zyky russkoy cultyri, 1997) 141-176.


? part. Europe during the Early Middle Ages. Carolingian World.

For the first time after the disintegration of the Roman Empire the largest part of Western Europe was united under one government. Pick of this rule happened under Charlemagne. Charlemagne was a grandson of Frankish chieftain Charles Martel, who defeated Muslim invaders in 732. at the battle of Poitiers in central France. A century after in the victory of 843 Charles Martelís three great-great-grandsons concluded the Treaty of Verdun, which divided the European continent among themselves. Between 732 and 843 European society distinctively emerged. A new kind of social and economic organization called "feudalismí appeared.

7 week. Frankish Kingdom and Appearance of Carolingians.

This lecture will examine how Merovingian and Carolingian rulers governed their kingdoms and empire. The topic of debates about the significance of the imperial coronation of Charlemagne will be raised.

8week. The Empire of Charlemagne.

Charles the Great, known as Charlemagne, built his empire on the base of achievements of his ancestors and administrative machine of Merovingian. Charles continued the expansionist policy of his ancestors and became the greatest warrior of the early Middle Ages. This lecture will examine how the government of the Carolingian empire functioned.

9 week. Carolingian Renaissance.

Under the rule of Charlemagne the turn to the rebirth of studies and knowledge appeared. This received the title "Carolingian Renaissance". The culture of impair of Charles the Great was identified as the "first European civilization". What does this mean?

10 week. Feudalism and Historians.

The lectures and discussions on this topic will examine the following issues: problems of the term "feudalism" in historiography, origins of the terms feud, vassal. Interpretations of feudalism by different historians, debates on the origins of feudalism.


*Gurevich A. "Introduction. Feudalim "model" i istoricheskaia realnost," in Problemy genezisa feudalisma v Zapadnoiy Evrope (Moskva: Vishaia Shkola, 1970) 3-26.

*"Rannee Srednevekovie," in Ychebnik, Istoria Srednih vekov, ed by Skazkin S, ( Moskva: Vysshaia shkola, 1977) 53-170.

*Valovaia T. "Karl Velikyi: Evropeiskayi Idea," in Iskyshenie Evropy. istoricheskie profifli (Moskva: Garoarika, 1998) 61-89.

Brodel F. "Ot Galii nezavisimoy k Galii Karolingskoy, "in Chto takoe Francia? (Moskva: Izdatelstvo imeni Sabashnikova, 1995) 9-116.

Magyt V. "Korolevskaia vlast i cerkov vo Frankskom gosydarstve," in Politicheskie structury epohi feodalizma v Zapadnoy Evrope, ed, by Rytenberg 46-71.


IV part. European Society in the High Middle Ages.

From the second half of 10th century Europe witnessed a Spring from the middle of XI. century till the end of XIII. century. This are the dates of the High middle Ages or Central Middle Ages. It was a time of cultural, political and economic achievements between two ages of crisis in all spheres. These centuries also witnessed the expansion of Latin Christian culture. One of the central questions to be discussed within this part of the course concern the components of political recovery, how it happened. The other question is how political rebirth influenced changes in the church and how reforms of the church influenced secular developments?

11 week. Political Revival.

The eleventh century witnessed the beginnings of a new political stability. Rulers in France, England and Germany worked to reduce private warfare and civil anarchy. Political order and stability provided the foundations for economic recovery and contributed to a slaw increase in population.

12 week. Revival and Reforms in the Christian Church.

The XI. century was the age of the beginning of a remarkable religious revival. Monasteries, that always were the leaders in ecclesiastical reforms remolded themselves under the leadership of the Burgundian abbey of Cluny. A new religious order, of the Cistercians, was founded.

The recovery of monasteries, the reform of the Papacy, the Gregorian revolution will be the topics for study within this theme.

13 week. The Crusades.

The Crusaders of the XI. and XII. centuries were the most obvious manifestation of the papal claim to the leadership of Christian society. The enormous popular response to papal calls for crusading reveals the influence of the reformed papacy. The Crusades also reflect the Churchís new understanding of the noble warrior class.

14-15 weeks Life in Christian Europe in the High Middle Ages.

In one of the writings of the end of the IX. century we find a description of society as consisting of those who pray (monks), those who fight (nobles) and those who work (peasants).

That is a social stratification corresponding to functions, but the picture is more complex because social mobility existed in this society. Attention will be paid on the role of the new class commercial but not typical for Middle Ages. The preoccupations and lifestyle of these stratas will be discussed during several lectures and seminars.

16-18 weeks. The Creativity and Vitality of the High Middle Ages.

During High Middle Ages the most significant changes happened in European society. Political leaders established new legal and financial institutions and slowely consolidated power in the hands of monarchs. The kings of France and England succeeded in laying the foundations of modern national states. The European economy underwent a remarkable recovery as evidenced by the growth and development of towns and long-distance trade. Universities, a uniquely western contribution to civilization, came into being at the same time.

This theme will be divided into a series of lectures and seminars:

  1. Medieval origins of the Modern state. How did medieval rulers in England, France and Germany worked to solve the problems of government and thereby laying the foundations of the modern state?
  2. Towns and economic revival. How did medieval towns originate, how did they reveal the beginnings of radical change in medieval society? Why did towns became the centers of religious heresy, and what was the churchís response?
  3. Medieval universities. How did universities evolve, and what needs of medieval society did they serve?


*Le Goff G. "Prostranstvennie i vremennie structury (X-XIII c.)," in Civilizacia srednevekovogo Zapada (Moskva: Progress- Academia, 1992) 124-184.

*Le Goff G. Mentalnost, mir emociy i formy povedenia X-XIII. tam ge.302-352.

*Le Goff G. Christianskoe obchestvo. tam ge 239-302.

*Dubi G. Evropa v Srednie veka, (Smolensk: Poligramma, 1994).

*Kardini l, Istoki Srednevekovogo rycarstva (Moskva: Progress, 1997).

*Brodel F. "Naselennie pynkti: derevni, gorodki, goroda," in Cto takoe Francia?2 vols. (Moskva: Izdatelstvo imeni Sabashnikova, 1995).102-230.

Stoklickaia -Tereshkovich Osnovnie problemy istorii srednevekovogo goroda (Moskva: Nayka, 1987).


V part. Europe in the Later Middle Ages.

Between 1300 and 1450 Europeans experienced a series of shocks: economic, dislocation, plague, war, social upheaval, and increased crime and violence. In spite crises and pessimism important institutions and ideas such as representatives assemblies and national literatures emerged.

19 week. Prelude to Disaster and Black Death.

In this theme such questions will be examined: What economic difficulties did Europe experience? What were the social and psychological effects of repeated attacks of plague and disease?

20 week. Hundred Years War 1337-1453.

Examination of how this war appeared to be a catalyst for the political, economic and social changes in European society.

21 week. Life of People in the Late Middle Ages.

We will examine how political and economic hardships, diseases, wars influenced the life of people. All these hardships led to the decline of working power especially in France, and Law countries. In England taxes were raised and as reactions revolts followed. But it is interesting to review marriage, life in parish, peasantís revolts, race and ethnicity.


*Gurevich A "Popularnoe bogoslovie i narodnia relogioznost srednih vekov,"in Iz istorii Srednih vekov i Vozrogdenia (Moskva: Nayka, 1976) 65-92.

*Bessmertniy M.Gizn i Smert v Srednie veka (Moskva: Nayka, 1990).

*Darkevich S. Narodnia cultura srednevekovia (Moskva: Nayka, 1992).

Bahtin M. Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable i narodnia cultura srednevekovia (Moskva: Hydigestvennaia literatura, 1990).

Veis German Istoria Civilizacii. Arhetictura, voorygenie, ytvar, odegda. 2 vols. of Srednie veka IV-XIV, (Moskva: Eksimo-Press, 1998).

Lozinskyi S. Istoria papstva (Moskva: Nayka, 1986).

   crc  .  syllabi collection  .  alumni syllabi  .  history  .