Section 001: TF 8:30-9:45           Keating 219

Section 002: TF 11:30-12:45       Keating 218


Instructor: Tomas Zahora

Office: Dealy 647                                 

Office Hours:    Tuesday, 9:50-11:20 a.m.

Friday, 7:30-8:20 a.m.

and by appointment

E-mail: tzahora@highstream.com

Web Page: http://www.tomaszahora.org — syllabus, handouts, lecture outlines, and helpful links will be updated throughout semester


Required texts:

Brian Tierney and Sidney Painter, Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 6th ed.

Paul Halsall et al., Internet Medieval Sourcebook www.fordham.edu/halsall (links to specific texts are provided below)

[Caveat regarding the sourcebook: The IMS is an amazing resource that makes conveniently available a vast amount of texts, and it is quite proper for you to begin searching for essay topics by browsing through its links. Be aware, though, that for the sake of avoiding copyright royalties, the database often uses dated translations, which can make reading a complicated text quite a challenge. Moreover, small textual errors are not infrequent, so use common sense when analyzing texts in detail. For your essays, use printed editions.]


Course objectives:

The primary goal of the course is to introduce the students to the historical and historiographic vocabulary of the period extending roughly from 5th to early 14th century of the Common Era.

Whether known as the “Dark Ages,” “The Age of Faith,” “The Middle Age,” or “The Age of Christianity,” the era we conventionally know as the Middle Ages witnessed the laying of the foundations of modern Western world. A closer acquaintance with medieval lives, beliefs, social movements, and events provides one with a cognitive alphabet whose letters still determine to a large extent our perception of the world we inhabit. The second goal of the course is to introduce the students to select primary sources and to provide them with basic skills of approaching them. Finally, students will be encouraged to seek continuities, discontinuities, and impact upon subsequent periods among the issues, forces, and ideas presented in class.


Course requirements and evaluation:

Class attendance                                                           5 %

Blackboard participation                                                10 %

Essay project                                                                35 %

Exam 1                                                                                     25 %

Exam 2                                                                                     25 %

Optional Final Exam (comprehensive)                             (replaces lowest exam grade)


Total                                                                                        100%


If you miss one of the two exams, you will have to take the comprehensive final exam to make up for the absence. You do not need to take the final exam if you are satisfied with your grade and have not missed one of the previous exams. Should you nevertheless decide to take the final exam, the lowest of your previous exam scores will be dropped. Final exam grade will be kept, regardless of results. No incompletes will be given in the course.


Attendance policy:

You do not need to bring documentation to excuse your absence. Likewise, you do not need to ask me for permission to miss class. Class attendance constitutes five percent of your total course grade—you do the math. The same goes for Blackboard participation. In other words, a few missed classes will not automatically shift you down on the grade scale—but absences do add up, and missed lectures will hurt at exam time. Should you happen to miss an exam, you will have to take the final.



Blackboard will serve as the main discussion forum for the primary sources (links are provided in class schedule below). Students will be divided into three groups: A, B, and C. Each group will take turns contributing analytical comments about the readings, responding to their colleagues’ comments, and taking a break, in weekly intervals.

How will this be done?

First, have a look at the “Class Schedule” part of the syllabus. Beginning with Week 2, you will see a bracketed section following the weekly caption, for instance: Week 2: Christianity in the Late Roman Empire; The Fathers of the Church; Monasticism (Chapter 3) [Comments: A; Responses: B]. This means that during the second week, group A will be responsible for commenting on primary sources, and group B for replying to group A’s comments.


COMMENTS: The assigned group will distribute that week’s primary readings among its members, one text per student (on average, two students will comment on one source). Every one of that group’s students will prepare a brief commentary (two paragraphs or more), which will place the passage in its proper historical context and underline its peculiarities or simply comment on what the reader finds interesting. Remember to contextualize your readings: writing “I just love this passage” will not do.


RESPONSES: Each member of the assigned group will respond to at least two comments. Feel free to respond to more than two comments, or continue a line of responses. Try to distribute your responses so that every comment receives at least one reply. Each response should be at least one paragraph (4-8 lines) in length, and should reflect an understanding of historical context. Again, writing “I really feel like John is completely wrong when he says he just loves this passage” will not do. Explain WHY John is wrong, or WHY he is right, or WHY the question is more complicated than John suggested, or WHAT IT IS you think is much more important than what John proposed, etc.


Grading the Blackboard: I will read Blackboard contributions on Mondays after 8:00 a.m., address problems, questions, and complex issues as they arise, and occasionally add my own comments. Blackboard participation constitutes 10% of your total course grade. Each comment can earn up to 6 points.

            Excellent, well thought-out comment or response: 6 points

            Good, average comment or response: 5 points

            Last-minute two-liner: 4 points

            Missed contribution: 0 points


Deadlines: Comments are due by midnight of Thursday of each week. Responses are due by 8:00 a.m. of the Monday immediately following. Late contributions will be penalized by two value-points (for instance, a late comment or response otherwise worth 6 points will be worth 4 points if posted at 12:01 on Friday morning [8:01 Monday morning] or later).


Essay Project (handouts with more specific information will be provided):

Essays are due as noted in class schedule below. Late assignments will incur 5% penalty for each day they are late, beginning at 4:01 p.m. of the due day.



1. TWO SIX-PAGE ESSAYS. Write two 2000-word (about six pages, double-spaced, 1’’ margins) essays. Each essay, worth 17.5% of your total course grade, must be based on at least one primary source. Choose a text that interests you—excerpts or full texts in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook are a good start—read the whole work (let me know if the books turn out to be too long or too complex), and write an essay in which you analyze themes you consider interesting or especially relevant. Use at least four secondary sources (books, scholarly articles) to complement your analysis, prepare an annotated bibliography of secondary sources, and attach it at the end of your essay.

For example, if you are interested in Chivalry, you can read one of Chrιtien de Troyes’ romances, and compare his treatment of knighthood with modern scholarly analyses; or if you like Charlemagne, an essay based on Einhard’s or Notker’s biographies is always a challenging and rewarding effort. Any primary text or a combination of texts or documents (let us say, of at least 50 printed pages in combined length) can be used as a basis for your essay.

[NOTE: If you, like myself, enjoy procrastinating, I recommend this option. Deadlines for the longer essay do come later in the semester, but so does a slew of other exams, essays, and responsibilities.]


2. ONE TWELVE-PAGE ESSAY. Write a 4000-word (about twelve pages, double-spaced, 1’’ margins) essay that will trace the development, within the period of time under discussion, of a broader political, social, or intellectual problem or question that you find intriguing or particularly relevant. Begin by selecting appropriate primary sources (at least two sources). Read the entire texts (again, consult me if the texts are too long or complex), research the treatment of your thesis by contemporaneous writers or modern historians, and build up a brief annotated bibliography consisting of at least eight secondary sources (books, scholarly articles).

This essay project allows you to broaden the scope of your research. For example, if you are interested in economics, you can study or compare different Hanse charters and privileges, the ups and downs of medieval fairs, or scholastic analyses of economical activities; if ecclesiastical history is your thing, a comparison of a saint’s biography from earlier period (say, 8-9th century) with a work from the 11th-12th century could address issues like the changing ideal of a Christian life, or position of women in medieval society. As in the shorter essay project, there is no limit as far as topics are concerned: follow your interests. Together, the primary sources should be at least 100 pages in length.


Course Schedule

► NOTE: readings marked with a star symbol («) will be considered as passages for identification on exams. You should make a special mental note of these writings’ authors, historical context, and theses when preparing for exams.


Week 1: Introduction; Why “Middle” Ages?

            Friday 3 September


Suggested Reading: Why Study History Through Primary Sources http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/robinson-sources.html


Week 2: Christianity in the Late Roman Empire; The Fathers of the Church; Monasticism (Chapter 3) [Comments: A; Responses: B]

Tuesday 7 September

Friday 10 September



Ammianus Marcellinus: The Luxury of the Rich in Rome http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/ammianus-history14.html

Eusebius: excerpt from Ecclesiastical history on conversion of Constantine http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/conv-const.html

« Theodosian Code on Religion http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/codex-theod1.html

« St. Augustine: excerpt from The City of God. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/aug-city2.html

Tertullian: On Pagan Learning. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/200Tertullian-pagan.html

« St Benedict of Nursia: excerpts from The Rule http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/rul-benedict-excerp.html


Week 3: Fusions: Peoples, Structures, Traditions (Chapters 4-5) [Comments: C; Responses: A]

Tuesday 14 September

Friday 17 September


« Tacitus: excerpts from Germania http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tacitus-germania-excerp.html

Sidonius Apollinaris: A Civilized Barbarian and a Barbarous Roman http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/sidonius2.html

« Gregory of Tours: History of the Franks, conversion of Clovis http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gregory-clovisconv.html

Ordeal texts: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/ordeals1.html


« Procopius on Justinian: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/procop-anec1.html


Week 4: Irish and Anglo-Saxon Christianity; Islam (Chapter 6) [Comments: B; Responses: C]

Tuesday 21 September

Friday 24 September ► Essay topics due (1/2-1 page outline of your proposed essay topic)


St. Columba’s Rule http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columba-rule.html

« Bede: Conversion of England: The Ecclesiastical History http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/bede1.html

« The Qu’ran: Surahs 1, 47 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/koran-sel.html

Yakut: Baghdad under Abbasids http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1000baghdad.html

The Thousand and One Nights: Lady and her suitors http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/1001.html


Week 5: Muhammad, Charlemagne, and the Dark Ages (Chapter 7) [Comments: B; Responses: A]

Tuesday 28 September



Letter of Gregory II to Charles Martel http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g2-martellet.html

« The Donation of Constantine http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/donatconst.html

« Einhard: Selections from Life of Charlemagne http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/einhard1.html

Letter of summons to fight for Charlemagne http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/carol-sum1.html

Chronicles describe the ravages of the Northmen http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/843bertin.html


Week 6: Ruling the Unruly: Medieval Institutions (Chapters 8-9) [No Blackboard obligation]

Tuesday 5 October

Friday 8 October ► Draft of essay one is due by 4:00 p.m., if you decided to do two separate essays. If you chose to work on the large project, see schedule for week 8.


Fulbert of Chartres: on mutual obligations http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/fulbert1.html

« 12th century fief ceremonies http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/feud-fief1.html

Population estimates http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/pop-in-eur.html


Week 7: Dawn of a New Age (Chapter 10) [Comments: A; Responses: C]

Tuesday 12 October ► MIDTERM EXAM

Friday 15 October


William of Malmesbury: on the conquest of England http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1066malmesbury.html

Laws of William the Conqueror http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/will1-lawsb.html

« The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Domesday book  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1186ASChron-Domesday.html

Extracts from Domesday Book http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/domesday1.html


Week 8: Monks, Bishops, Emperors, and Popes (Chapters 10-11) [Comments: C; Responses: B]

Tuesday 19 October

Friday 22 October ► Essay 1 (if you are writing two separate essays) or Draft of the long essay is due by 4:00 p.m.


« Gregory VII, Dictatus papae http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-dictpap.html

Henry IV deposes Gregory VII http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/henry4-to-g7a.html

Gregory VII deposes Henry IV http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-ban1.html

Gregory VII deposes Henry IV again http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-ban2.html

« Concordat of Worms, 1122 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/worms1.html


Week 9: Outer Reaches of the World (Chapters 12, 13) [Comments: A; Responses: B]

Tuesday 26 October

Friday 29 October


Russian Primary Chronicle: Conversion of Rus’ http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/christin.html

Raoul Glaber: On the Millennium http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/glaber-1000.html

« Versions of Urban II’s Clermont Address: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html

Capture of Jerusalem http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cde-jlem.html

The Fourth Crusade http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/4cde.html

King Richard Captures a Caravan http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1192caravan.html


Week 10: Building a Christian World (Chapter 14) [Comments: C; Responses: A]

Tuesday 2 November: ELECTION DAY: NO CLASS

Friday 5 November


On kinds of laborers http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1000workers.html

Cluny: property regulations http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1150Clunyprop.html

English kings grant trading rights to Cologne http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1194hanse-koln-london.html

« Guibert of Nogent: communal uprising in Laon http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/guibert-laon.html

Adalbert of Worms: fishermen’s guild http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1105fishermangild.html


Week 11: Dwarfs on the Shoulders of Giants (Chapter 15) [Comments: B; Responses: C]

Tuesday 9 November

Friday 12 November


« St. Anselm of Canterbury: Proslogion extracts http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/anselm.html

Adelard of Bath: preface to Difficult Questions http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/adelardbath1.html

Abelard: prologue to Sic et non http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Abelard-SicetNon-Prologue.html

« Abelard: extracts from Historia calamitarum http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/abelard-sel.html

Heloise (?): letter to Abelard http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/heloise1.html

« St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Apology http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/bernard1.html





Week 12: Chivalric Society (Chapters 15-16)  [Comments: B; Responses: A]

Tuesday 16 November

Friday 19 November ► Draft of essay two is due by 4:00 p.m., if you decided to do two separate essays. If you chose to work on the large project, you will have turned in your draft by now, and all that remains is finishing your essay and turning it in by 4:00 p.m., Friday, 3 December (See schedule for week 14).


Gratian on marriage http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gratian1.html

« John of Salisbury: Policraticus on princes and tyrants http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html

« Chrιtien de Troyes: Lancelot http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1170chretien-lancelot.html

Capellanus: The Art of Courtly Love http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/capellanus.html

Riot at Chartres in 1210 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1210chartres.html


Week 13: The One and Only Catholic Church (Chapter 17) [No Blackboard obligation]

Tuesday 23 November



Week 14: Stupor Mundi and Other, More Mundane Aspects of Medieval Government (Chapter 18) [Comments: A; Responses: C]

Tuesday 30 November

Friday 3 December ► Essay 2 or Large Essay Project Due by 4:00 p.m.


Caesarius of Heisterbach on heretics http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/caesarius-heresies.html

« Innocent III’s policies http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/innIII-policies.html

Select canons of the Fourth Lateran Council http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/lat4-select.html

Frederick II’s conflict with the Church http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1245FrederickII.html

St. Louis sends advice to his son http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/stlouis1.html


Week 15: A New Breed of Giants (Chapter 19) [Comments: C; Responses: B]

Tuesday 7 December

Friday 10 December ► SECOND EXAM


Robert de Courηon: Statutes of the University of Paris http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/courcon1.html

« St. Thomas Aquinas: the truth of reason is not contrary to the truth of faith http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/gc1_7.htm

Boniface VIII: Clericis laicos http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/b8-clericos.html

Marsilius of Padua: Defensor Pacis conclusion http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/marsiglio1.html

Raimon de Cornet: corruption in Avignon http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/14Ccornet.html


Week 16

SECTION 002 ONLY: Friday 17 December, 9:30 a.m.FINAL EXAM



Week 17

SECTION 001 ONLY: Monday 20 December, 9:30 a.m.FINAL EXAM