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The course introduces students to the people, society, politics, and culture of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.

Focusing primarily on Italy, but branching into most areas of Western Europe, it will explore some of the socio-political

structures, mentalities, and events that contribute to our understanding of the medieval period.

At the end of the course the student will know:

• the basic heuristic and hermeneutic techniques necessary to analyze the medieval period;

• the conceptual tools and the most recent methodological perspectives on historical research.

Knowledge and understanding

The course aims to enhance participants’ knowledge and understanding of a period central to European history, and to

challenge preconceptions about medieval life with fresh perspectives on the people and culture of Western Europe in the

Middle Ages.

Applying knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course, students will have developed the capacity to:

  1. critically discuss major social, political, economic, and cultural structures, and events shaping the Middle Ages;

  2. evaluate and analyse different medieval sources and modern historiography.

Further expected learning outcomes:

  • Making judgements: The provided knowledges and techniques will allow students to identify and assess evidence of social change and continuity throughout the medieval period.

  • Communication skills: The student is stimulated to formulate logical arguments substantiated with historical evidence and to express ideas clearly in both written and oral modes of communication.

  • Learning skills: The direct interaction between teacher and student as well as the activities within working-groups stimulate and favor the learning abilities related to the tools and the contents of the discipline.


The module is divided into 8 lessons of three hours each. It is a reading-intensive course.

More precisely, the course will consider the theme of Medieval Europe and the Myth of Nations.

“Europa” was a medieval political concept only to a very marginal degree. It was much more a geographical term. But since “Europe” is an important political entity for us today we want it to have distant – medieval, even antique – roots. So we are constructing medieval Europe as we have been constructing the medieval nations.

The lecture will explore the problematic notions of “medieval Europe” between medieval evidence and modern questions, and it will suggest possible constructive ways to describe modern Europe with regard to its medieval roots.


Recommended textbooks:

P. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton U.P., 2002.

Further teaching material will be made available by the teacher.


Learning results to be verified:

An oral exam, with a vote expressed in 30ths, ascertains the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired by the students. The student has during the exam to answer three questions: the first is related to the major social, political, economic, and cultural structures, and events shaping the Middle Ages, the second to the basic 

heuristic and hermeneutic techniques, and the third to modern historiography on Middles Ages. To pass the exam, student must demonstrate to have acquired at least sufficient knowledge of the methodological sources and tools for analyzing medieval history, application skills, language properties and adequate understanding of a period central to European history. Students, that attend the teaching lessons, can participate in a working-group about specific historical phenomena. The positive outcome of the final oral presentation and of the short report exonerates the student from the second and third question of the exam. In this case, the outcome of the exoneration will also contribute to the final vote in 30ths.

Assessment method:

Written and oral examination

Open questions

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