Nipissing University

HISTORY 2425 -- Medieval England


Instructor: Dr. Steve Muhlberger

Revised Oct. 30, 2000

Correction:   Earlier versions of this outline had an incorrect due date for the first paper.   The correct date is Nov. 6.

Also:   the third journal is due Nov. 29, and the second paper is due Feb. 14.


Who should be interested in this course:

This course is a survey that can be taken by second-, third-, or fourth-year students. Students interested in the Middle Ages or English history or literature will be particularly interested.

Students interested in taking my fourth-year seminar Topics in Medieval History (HIST 4505) next year will find this course very useful.

What this course is about:

In the course we will be looking at all the most interesting developments of the Middle Ages in the context of a single country, England.   We will look at political, social, economic, constitutional and military history, with a particular interest in those factors which have been influential in forming a distinctive English identity.

Just for fun:

Have a look at: Movies to Study Medieval History By.

How to contact the instructor:


Office: P 605

Office Hours:   Monday, 11:30-12:30, Wednesday, 5:30-6:30

Office Phone: 474-3461 ext 4458

Home Phone: 776-1247

Home Page for the Course:  /muhlberger/2425/co242500.htm

Required Books:

 James Campbell, ed., The Anglo-Saxons

 Barbara A. Hanawalt, The Ties That Bound:   Peasant Families in Medieval England

Recommended Writing Manuals:

Diana Hacker, A Canadian Pocket Style Manual

 Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. The answer to the question "What kind of footnotes do you want?" is "Look it up in the Rampolla book."


The course grade will be based on 2 papers, journal writing, a midterm exam, and the final exam.

For each of the  papers (8-10 pages), you will read one of the required books and respond to it. More detailed assignments will be distributed separately.

 In addition, you will be reading excerpts from primary sources (documents written during the Middle Ages) throughout the year. The excerpts will be distributed to you via the Internet, which is by far the most flexible and cheapest way.   All students have Internet access through the university, but if you foresee a problem, please let me know.

Rather than have a "participation" mark, there will be a journal requirement.   You will be expected to write at least a page on the primary sources, on the lectures, or on other relevant material every week.    Sections will be due for grading three times each term.  For more details see the Journal Writing Requirement handout.

 1. First paper (The Anglo-Saxons) -- due Nov. 6 -- 20%

 2. Midterm -- Dec. 8 -- 20%

 3. Second paper (The Ties that Bound) -- due Feb.  14 -- 20%

 4. Journal -- sections due on Oct. 4, Oct. 30, Nov. 29; Jan. 29, Mar. 5, Mar. 28  -- 10%

 5. Final examination -- 30%

Course Outline -- Lectures and Required Readings

For the first half of the first term, most of your required reading will be from Campbell's The Anglo-Saxons.   As the year progresses, you will be asked, in connection with most lectures, to read an excerpt from a primary source.   Passing the midterm and final exams will depend, in part,  on your ability to discuss source excerpts intelligently.  The source excerpts have brief introductions.   I have also provided questions to help you understand what is interesting about them.

Some of the source excerpts are in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook or elsewhere on the web.   For those excerpts, my questions are in the course outline below.
Some of the excerpts are on the Nipissing University web site (marked NU).   Go directly to the document to find my comments and questions.

See the home page for the course for links to lecture notes and outside sites that may be of help.

Sept 11 Introduction to the Course; Introduction to Britain

Sept. 13 The Roman Withdrawal
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 1

Sept. 18 Independent Britain
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 2
           Gildas: from Concerning the Ruin of Britain

Gildas is our only source for the culture and history of the British kingdoms of the 6th century.   What does he show us about that obscure period? The excerpt here is the most detailed account of British resistance to the intial English invasions.    What does this account mean for our ability to talk about the "real Arthur?"
Sept. 20 The Invaders

Sept. 25 Early English Society

Sept. 27 The Conversion of Britain
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 3

Oct. 2 The Age of Bede
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 4

Oct. 4 Eighth-Century Kingdoms
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 5


Oct. 11 The Appearance of the Vikings
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 6

Oct. 16 Alfred

Oct. 18 England After Alfred

Oct. 23 Wessex Conquers England

Oct. 25 King Edgar and Church Reform
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 7
           Anglo-Saxon Charms

What do these charms tell us about religion and learning in pre-Conquest England?  Do these charms make the era seem more Christian or more pagan than you expected?   Why?
Oct. 30  Aethelred The Unready
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 8
Nov. 1 Canute and His Sons

Nov. 6 The Confessor and His Earls
           Anglo-Saxons, ch. 9

            FIRST PAPER DUE

Nov. 8 1066
           Anglo-Saxons, Epilogue
           William of Malmesbury, d. 1143(?), on the Battle of Hastings

What is William's overall evaluation of the effects of the Norman Conquest?   Does his distance from the events affect you view of his credibilty?   How does William's view affect your view?
Nov. 13 Domesday England
           The Domesday Book 1086 - Instructions and Extract
What does Domesday book tell us about the workings of government in the 11th century?  What kind of information are the king and his government interested in, and why?
Nov. 15 The Norman Settlement
           Laws of William the Conqueror
What seem to be the main concerns of William in regard to law enforcement?   Does William look more to you like a conqueror or a conservor of English traditions?
Nov. 20 The Conqueror and His Sons

Nov. 22 The Church under the Normans
          Jocelin of Brakelond: Chronicle of the Abbey of St. Edmund's (1173-1202) (NU)

Nov. 27 Government under Henry I
           Charter of Liberties of Henry I

What circumstances led to Henry granting this charter?  Do you think he did it willingly?  What royal powers or actions  do the recipients of this charter consider abuses?   How do you think the king himself might feel about those powers or actions?   What constitutes good government for the political community of England at this time?   What is the "political community"?
Nov. 29  Stephen and Matilda
Dec. 3 Midterm exam

Jan. 8 Henry, Eleanor and their Empire
           Peter of Blois:   Description of Henry II (NU)
           Peter of Blois:   Letter to Queen Eleanor (NU)

Jan. 10 Law and Administration under Henry II
           Select English Writs (NU)

Jan. 15 Becket and Other Foes
           William of Newburgh:   Henry II and Thomas Becket (NU)

Jan. 17 William the Marshal as an Example of Twelfth-Century Chivalry

Jan. 22 Richard and the Crusade
           The Saladin Tithe, 1188
           The Siege and Capture of Acre, 1191

On the tithe:  What does this enactment tell you about religion in the twelfth century?   About the relationship between the churches and lay authority?  Why might the Saladin tithe provide a tempting precedent for later taxation?  The account of the siege:   What do you learn about the Crusades from this excerpt?   What do you learn about the sources of royal prestige in the 12th century?
Jan. 24 King John and the Fall of Normandy

Jan. 29 Magna Carta
           Magna Carta

What political effect was the issuing of Magna Carta supposed to have?   Who was it supposed to appeal to?  What did they want from the king, especially in regard to justice and taxation?
Jan. 31 Economy and Society up to the 13th Century
           Records of a Manorial Court
A manorial court was the private court of a superior landholder (a lord).   What kind of authority did he have over economic matters?  Over the personal lives of his dependents?
Feb. 5 Robert Grosseteste
           The Rule of the Franciscan Order
The early 13th-century Franciscan movement was an attempt to revitalize Christianity.   For Francis and his followers, what did a true Christian life consist of?   What would you expect the Franciscan attitude to be towards ordinary lay people?  Towards other clergy?
Feb. 7 The Thirteenth Century Civil War
Feb. 12 Edward I: The Early Years
           Three Summonses to the Parliament of 1295
What are the important political groups in England in the eyes of Edward I?   Why are they important?  What justifies or makes necessary calling together such a large group to meet with the king?   What are the advantages or dangers of such a move?
Feb. 14 Edward I: Later Difficulties
           The Declaration of Arbroath (NU)


Feb. 19 & 21  Study Week

Feb. 26 The Deposition of Edward II

Feb. 28 Origins of the 100 Years' War
           Jean Froissart: King Edward III considers war (NU)

Mar. 5 Later Years of Edward III
           Thomas Walsingham:   The Good Parliament (NU)

Mar. 7 Religious Conflict in Fourteenth Century England
           Pope Gregory XI : The Condemnation of Wycliffe 1382 and Wycliffe's Reply, 1384
What did Wycliffe find objectionable about the churches of his time? Why were the ideas put forward by Wycliffe considered dangerous by the pope and other ecclesiastical authorities?   Why did Wycliffe's profession and position make those charges particularly dangerous?
Mar. 12 Economic Change and Social Tension in the Late 14th Century
           Statute of Laborers, 1351
What do you learn about  economic and social relations from this document?
Mar. 14 The Reign of Richard II
           Jean Froissart: The Discontents of the Duke of Gloucester (NU)

Mar. 19 Henry IV

Mar. 21 The End of the French Adventure
           Joan of Arc: Letter to the King of England

React to this document.
Mar. 26 The Beginning of the Wars of the Roses
           Jack Cade: Proclamation of Grievances
Who is being denounced in this document and why?   How do these mid-15th century demands relate to other demands we've seen in earlier eras?
Mar. 28 Economy and Society in the 15th Century
Mar. 30 York and Tudor
           Titulus Regius (NU)

Apr. 1 Religion in the 15th Century

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