The medieval world between 1000 and 1300 was characterised by immense dynamism in the economy, urban development, political organisation, gender relations, and martial culture. This course enables you to examine these sorts of changes in two distinct ways.
One approach involves focusing primarily on developments within western and central Europe (Latin Christendom) and on encounters between Europeans and representatives of other political, devotional and cultural traditions at the frontiers of Christendom. Viewed in this light, in 1000 Latin Europe can be typified (perhaps) as a largely agrarian society, with extended kin-groups, substantial political fragmentation, largely unregulated violence, and highly localised religious practices. It was neighboured to the south and south-east by the territorially more powerful and culturally sophisticated Islamic and Byzantine worlds, and to the north and east by pagans or recently-converted Christians. Over the next three centuries we may argue that there was substantial strengthening and homogenising of society and culture in Latin Christendom itself, and that this was accompanied by external expansion. Such changes can be charted through phenomena as diverse as monarchy, papacy, gender relations, knighthood, monasticism, universities, chivalry, pilgrimage, crusade, lay piety, intellectual culture and vernacular literatures, as well as interactions in frontier regions, including with Muslims in Iberia, Sicily and the Middle East, and with Orthodox Christians in Byzantium. Of course increasingly virulent attacks on heretics, the (perceived) enemy within, may question just how unified medieval Christendom really was in these centuries.
A different approach is to consider medieval Christendom as only one society among many others in Eurasia and Africa. You may study some aspects of Latin Christendom, but you will focus on other parts of Eurasia and Africa, examining them in their own terms rather than in relation to Europe. Thus, you may explore urban-based empires in medieval west Africa, or the Muslim polities which took shape in the Islamic world following the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate, including the Egyptian-Syrian domains of Saladin. You may look further east to examine the emergence of the Song empire in China, or at the fortunes of a longstanding Eurasian empire: Byzantium. On a pan-Eurasian scale, this paper offers you to the opportunity to study the Mongols and the complex mixture of conquest and assimilation which characterised their expansion within the Islamic world, Central Asia, China, and eastern Europe, as well as other ‘systems’ that linked different medieval regions, including networks of Jewish merchants and Islamic scholar-administrators.