Pre-modern Paris - MEMS8840

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Spring Term 7 30 (15) checkmark-circle


This module is designed to introduce students to the range of evidence and approaches to that evidence available to investigate the pre-modern past. This objective will be achieved in the context of providing them with the opportunity to undertake in-depth investigation of the city in which they are studying: Paris. Paris was one of the great cities of the pre-modern world and long before the French Revolution, Paris was a crucible of cultural change throughout the Medieval and Early Modern period. Here, surrounding the banks of the Seine, the city witnessed the rise of the University, the creation of Parliament, the invention of Gothic art and architecture, and the formation of the Huguenots, leading to the spread of scholasticism, democracy, artistic development, and religious reformation across Europe and beyond.
A study of its history offers unparalleled opportunities for students to examine themes of European relevance, such as the beginning of urbanisation, the growth of Universities, or the outbreak of religious violence during the Protestant reformation, grounded in a particular historical, literary or artistic context. Likewise, the study of Paris in Paris will allow staff delivering the module to introduce students to a range of types of evidence and of scholarly approaches to that evidence, thus giving them the skills they need to proceed to the MA dissertation. This aspect of the course will include appropriate field trips, locations might include the royal palaces of Sainte-Chapelle and Versailles, leading museums such as the Musée national du Moyen Âge, or to world-class libraries, such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The opportunity to study the history of Paris in situ using real artefacts will present a uniquely stimulating opportunity for students to develop their understanding of the period and of the use of evidence in research.
By providing research-driven teaching, access to source material through site-specific analysis, and facilitating pedagogical encounters with the history of the city in which they are studying, this core module presents an exceptional pathway for MEMS graduates. The curriculum design will enable MEMS students to enhance their historical, literary and artistic knowledge, cultivate their interdisciplinary skills, and acquire the necessary methodological tools to prepare for their dissertation. Above all, the study of pre-modern Paris in modern-day Paris will present MEMS students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the past in a dynamic learning environment.


Contact hours

Contact hours: 20
Private Study hours: 280
Total hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Essay, 1,500 words (30%)
Essay, 3,500 words (70%)

Re-assessment methods
100% Coursework: students will resubmit one item of coursework in question. This is standard practice on all modules in this MA.

Indicative reading

1. Baldwin, J., Paris 1200 (2000)
2. Diefendorf, B., Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth Century Paris (1991)
3. Geremek, B., The Margins of Society in Late Medieval Paris (1987)
4. Mullally, E., ed. and trans., Description de la ville de Paris, 1434 (2015)
5. Roux, S., Paris in the Middle Ages (2009)
6. Wei, I., Intellectual Culture in Medieval Paris: Theologians and the University, c.1100–1330 (2012)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 – Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the development of Paris as a capital city.
2 – Show a sophisticated critical awareness of the need to employ a wide range of source materials when approaching the pre-modern world. in order to critically assess primary source materials
3 – Critically evaluate the existing scholarly literature on these subjects across disciplines with reference to the interrogation of primary sources to suggest original approaches to historical or literary problems.
4 – Have a sophisticated understanding of the issues of urban development and its congruence or conflict with royal authority, and critically evaluate how this affected the use of various media and source survival.
5 - Have a comprehensive understanding of the international nature of pre-modern Paris and its status as a locus where networks of exchange could intersect and overlap.
6 - Demonstrate a sophisticated critical awareness of the problems surrounding our study of pre-modern Paris, and critically interrogate implications which different methods of investigation have for the research conclusions reached.

The intended generic learning outcomes
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 - Demonstrate sound critical judgement in their assessment of complex and conflicting sources of information.
2 - Make judicious use of incomplete source material, and show originality with extant sources to overcome or mitigate archival gaps.
3 - Show autonomy and self-direction in developing original approaches to research problems.
4 - Communicate the results of their research clearly and in an appropriate manner for the context and audience.
5 - Take responsibility for planning a research project, including identifying an appropriate question, planning the project to take account for appropriate source materials, and undertaking independent research and learning to bring the project to completion.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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