Nipissing University
History 4505  Topics in Medieval History
War, Politics and Society in Fourteenth-Century England
Last updated January 31, 2002
The Fourteenth-Century Page

Goals of the Course:

The fourteenth century was a turbulent period for English society.    It was characterized by the Hundred Years War (actually more than a century long), the Black Death (which may have killed a third of the population), the great revolt of 1381, the deposition and murder of two kings and plenty of other violent and destructive episodes.    At the same time it was a period of artistic accomplishment and some remarkable constructive developments, especially the growth of Parliament.  Finally, it was a period when lay people -- people who had not been educated entirely by the church -- found  literary voices.    Although it was 600 years in the past, we can know a great deal about the people who lived in the time of Edward III and Richard II.

Politics and war are a major focus of the course.   In the second term, we will follow political developments, shaped as they always were by the ups and downs of the conflict in France, from the accession of Edward III in 1337 to the deposition of Richard II in 1399.

But before we embark on this ambitious project, we will spend the first term looking at some of the individuals who lived in the fourteenth century -- their ideas, their home lives, their eating habits, their ways of making a living.    It's my hope that by the time we get to the second term we'll already have a sense of 14th-century English people as human beings -- interesting, varied, infuriating.

The overall goal of the course will be to get a rounded picture of a late medieval society.


Steve Muhlberger
Office:  P605 (portable outside A 129)
Office Hour:
Office Phone: 474-3461 ext. 4458
Home Phone: 776-1247 (not after 9 p.m.)
Personal Home Page:  /muhlberger//muhlberg.htm
Course Home Page: /muhlberger/4505/14thc/index.htm

Required Books:

Scott Waugh, England in the Reign of Edward III
Steven Muhlberger, ed.  War, Politics and Society in Fourteenth-Century England

Grading scheme:

1.  Class participation, first term (15%)
2.  Class participation, second term (15%)

Active participation, going beyond simple attendance and answering direct questions, is required of all students.    Everyone will be required both to make formal presentations and take part in informal discussion.   You will not be able to get a good participation mark unless you come to class having read source material in the course reader and any appropriate sections in Waugh’s book.

Because  participation is so important to your course grade, I have decided to grade you separately, with comments, in each term.    This should allow for improvement in the second term.

Also, if you miss more than two class meetings unexcused in a term, you will get a 0 for class participation in that term.

3.  First term paper  -- 20%
4.  Second term paper -- due Apr. 3 -- 30%
5.  Exam (first term) -- scheduled for Dec. 5  (20%)

Outline of Topics

First Term

Sept. 12     Introduction to the Course
Sept. 19     Material Conditions of Life
Sept. 26     The Noble Life at Home
Oct. 3        Clerical Life and Attitudes
Oct. 10      Peasants
Oct. 17      Fighting Men
Oct. 24      Tactics and Strategy
Oct. 31      Profit and Loss in War
Nov.  7      The Warrior's Self-Image
Nov. 14     Deeds of Arms
Nov. 21     Parliament
Nov. 28     Local Government and Law Enforcement
Dec.  5      Exam

Second Term

Jan. 9         Edward III’s Accession and the Beginning of the War
Jan. 16       The Crisis of 1341
Jan. 23       The Black Death
Jan. 30       The Battle of Poitiers
Feb. 6        Edward the Black Prince in Gascony
Feb. 13      The Good Parliament
Feb. 20      Study Week
Feb. 27      Peasant Revolt I
Mar. 6       Peasant Revolt II
Mar. 13     Lollardy
Mar. 20     The Rise and Fall of the Duke of Gloucester
Mar. 27     Deposition of Richard II
Apr. 3       Second Term Papers Due -- Discussion of Papers