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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: History

HIST42430: Power and Society in the Late Middle Ages

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To gain:
  • (i) an advanced understanding of the central aspects of late medieval political culture through study of the interaction of power and society; and
  • (ii) the capacity to discuss comparatively the character and development of political formations and concepts in different parts of western continental Europe and the British Isles.


  • What were the sources of power in the late middle ages? And how and by whom was power exercised? This module focuses on political power and explores the interaction of power, authority, institutions and structures of rule with ideas, assumptions, and discourses within a range of political and constitutional settings, such as kingdoms, lordships, regions, cities and city-states. One of the principal themes of the module is the way in which power was communicated, legitimised, negotiated, and (and on occasion, violently) contested and challenged. It will examine the interaction between power and society; structures of authority; channels of power; the lineaments of political community and the vocabularies and modes of political discourse. There will also be the opportunity to examine the development and character of various types of ‘political public’ and the role of ‘public opinion’.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of central elements in late medieval political culture
  • A sophisticated grasp of contemporary and on-going debates around the subject of pre-modern European political culture.
Subject-specific Skills:
Key Skills:

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a range of teaching methods.
  • Seminars and Group Discussion require students to reflect on and discuss: their prior knowledge and experience; set reading of secondary and, where appropriate, primary readings; information provided during the session. They provide a forum in which to assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend their conclusions in a reasoned setting, and advance their knowledge and understanding of late medieval political culture.
  • Structured reading requires students to focus on set materials integral to the knowledge and understanding of the module. It specifically enables the acquisition of detailed knowledge and skills which will be discussed in other areas of the teaching and learning experience.
  • Assessment is by means of a 5000 word essay which requires the acquisition and application of advanced knowledge and understanding of aspects of late medieval political culture. Essays require a sustained and coherent argument in defence of a hypothesis, and must be presented in a clearly written and structured form, and with appropriate apparatus.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 weekly 2 hours 16
Discussion Groups 2 two a term 2 hours 4
Preparation and Reading 280
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One or more short assignments delivered orally and discussed in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University