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GAP3001 - Medieval Settlement

Module content

This is an experimental course. It is not a course in which the lecturer teaches the students, because the answers in this course are not known at the outset. It is a study in which all participants in the module – students and lecturer – are seeking to work their way to an interpretation which provides a new understanding. There are no textbooks and we are having to work our way to the answer.

The research question which this module examines is why Scotland and northern England were so different in so many ways from southern England in the late Middle Ages (1000-1500). The hypothesis to be investigated is that the late medieval agriculture regime of southern England, based primarily on arable agriculture, led to greater surplus product, greater wealth and a particular type of social and economic system. We will see whether this hypothesis is supported by the evidence.

After an introduction, the course comprises entirely student-led presentation and discussions on a series of topics. The first seminars deal with the fundamental basis of the economy – agriculture and pastorialism, and the environment. We then examine peasant housing, parks and forests, and the houses of the elite in castles and moats. The third strand considers the world of belief – churches, monasteries and superstition. The next theme is commerce, examining towns, trade within Britain and abroad, and the use of coinage and its alternatives. Finally, we consider objects and their production through industry.

Students will be divided into groups, but each individual is separately assessed. Each student will give three short presentations, one which does not contribute to the final mark, and two which do. These are peer-assessed. They will also write two papers on aspects of late medieval archaeology, comparing England and Scotland. The method of assessment reflects the spirit of this module. There can be no exam, because there is no established and agreed conclusions about this subject.

The course is research-based and all students read the set texts identified by their peers and are expected contribute to the discussions. The module provides experience in making presentations, working with groups and undertaking research.


Dr Mark Gardiner (Module Coordinator)


 Two Assessed Presentations
 Two Written Papers