The Transformation of Europe, c. 870 - 1100 - MEMS8860

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 7 30 (15) Edward Roberts checkmark-circle


In 888, the Carolingian Empire, often viewed as the last of the post-Roman successor states, collapsed. By the beginning of the twelfth century, Western Europe had been completely transformed – politically, socially, economically, culturally. What happened? This module offers an in-depth comparative study of France, Germany, Italy and the Low Countries in the tenth and eleventh centuries in order to address the controversies and challenges presented by a pivotal period of European history. With the onset of the later Middle Ages, historians begin to see a Europe characterised by quintessentially 'medieval' institutions and phenomena such as feudalism, the crusades, scholasticism, heresy, chivalry, public opinion, urbanisation and the supreme power of the papacy. It has been suggested that these transformations constituted a turning point in world history, setting Latin Europe on a path to global domination. Yet there is considerable disagreement over how all this came about. Indeed, some have suggested that little changed on the ground, that scholars have been tricked by the texts and by changes in the style and form of written records. Is it simply a matter of perception, or were there in fact profound political and social changes that amounted to ‘the making of Europe’? What did the Carolingian Empire bequeath the polities that rose in its wake? What was the ‘feudal transformation’, and why has the concept been so controversial? How did the pope come to wield such great power in European politics? To answer these and other questions, students will analyse a wide array of surviving documentation, including charters and administrative records, narrative histories and other literary works, letters, canon (church) law, liturgical and theological texts, and more.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 278
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Historiographical analysis 2,000 words 25%
Essay 4,000 words 75%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment instrument: 100% coursework.

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

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 key political, social, economic and cultural developments that characterise Western European history in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
2 demonstrate a critical awareness of both traditional and current methodological and historiographical approaches to the history of central medieval political and social institutions, as well as an understanding of how these have changed over the last half-century.
3 demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to the study of medieval documents, as well as an appreciation of the limitations and ambiguity of this evidence and issues pertaining to source survival.
4 demonstrate a strong independent ability to identify, locate and interrogate the most appropriate primary and secondary resources for the study of central medieval European history.
5 critically evaluate models of change and continuity between Carolingian and post-Carolingian Europe and describe how these may be combined to form an overall assessment of the period.

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

1 deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly in writing and orally.
2 demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
3 identify a range of solutions involving large quantities of data and abstract concepts in order to make decisions about complex problems in a variety of contexts.
4 take responsibility for an independent research project, including identifying an appropriate question, planning the project with respect to appropriate source materials, and undertaking self-directed 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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