Exploring Historical Parallels: Learning from Medieval History
Full course description
The Middle Ages (500-1500) are often seen as a grim period in European history, riddled with famine, disease, warfare and intellectual stagnation. From the ‘Dark Ages’ of the Early Middle Ages to the calamitous 14th century -when the Great Famine, the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death consecutively wreaked havoc on Europe- the Medieval period seems like an alien, hazardous world that is of little relevance for contemporary issues. Yet the Middle Ages also gave us some of the most impressive feats of human engineering as well as timeless works of art and literature. More importantly, the Medieval period heralded in momentous societal changes that have shaped our current society.
In late 2019 Chris Jones, Conor Kostick and Klaus Oschema published an edited volume titled ‘Making the Medieval relevant’ in which they stated that the Medieval past informs the present in a myriad of ways. This course aims to do exactly that, make the Middle Ages relevant by drawing parallels between modern day societal, economic and cultural occurrences and the Medieval past. Rather than present a chronological overview of the Middle Ages, the course it set up based on weekly themes. These themes have been selected to reflect contemporary societal issues that lend themselves to a (historical) comparative analytical approach.
The goal is this course is to introduce students to Medieval history and to teach them how to use the Middle Ages as a tool to reflect on societal, cultural and socio-economic events in contemporary society. The course aims to do so by focusing on a number of themes/topics, such as:
- Modern misrepresentation of Medieval culture
- The ‘White’ Middle Ages
- Modern reflections on Medieval pandemics
- Revolts and political order in the Middle Ages
- Minorities and persecution in the Middle Ages.
Any course in history or sociology, including COR1003 Contemporary World History or SSC2065 Theories of Social Order, or substantial high school knowledge in history.
Rubin, M. (2014). The Middle Ages: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford.
Jones, C., Kostick, C., & Oschema, K. (Eds.). (2019). Making the Medieval Relevant: How Medieval Studies Contribute to Improving Our Understanding of the Present (Vol. 6). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.