The Transformation of Europe, c. 870 - 1100 - MT886

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
7 30 (15)







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.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

22 Contact Hours

Method of assessment

Historiographical analysis 2000 words 25%
Essay 4000 words 75%

Indicative reading

Bartlett, R. (1993). The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950–1350. London: Penguin.
Cushing, K. G. (2005). Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century: Spirituality and Social Change. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Head, T. and Landes, R., eds, (1992). The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Howe, J. (2010). 'Re-Forging the "Age of Iron", Parts 1 and 2. History Compass, 8 (8), pp. 866-87, and 8 (9), pp. 1000-22.
Moore, R. I. (2000). The First European Revolution, c.970–1215. Oxford: Blackwell.
West, C. (2013). Reframing the Feudal Revolution: Political and Social Transformation Between Marne and Moselle, c.800–c.1100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
~ 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.
~ demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
~ 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.
~ 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.

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