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Level 5

5AAH3016 Religion and Society in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Credit value: 30
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Peter Heather
Teaching pattern: 20 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%), 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each) & 1 x oral presentation (10%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Reassessment (2018/19 onwards subject to approval)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment by the following methods: 1 x 3 hour examination (60%); 2 x 2,000 word essays (15% each); 1 x 1500 word essay (10%)

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5AAH1018 and 5AAH2020 Religion and Society in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages due to possible overlap of content.


The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

This module is designed to introduce students to nature, transformation, and spread of Christianity as it evolved from a small sect for True Believers to dominant religious form of the European landmass.  It will explore the role of Christianity in European societies from the conversion of Constantine and the end of persecution down to the 13th-century Papal Reform movement. The course will consider the uses of religion in a wide social, cultural and political context, and examine its varied impact: whether bolstering authority or subverting it; fostering certainty or doubt, solidarity or exclusion; and constructing a sense of both community and hierarchy. Themes will include holy men and magic; the uses of relics and miracle-working; conversion of kings and the wider population; the importance of religion to the construction of both kingship and law; heresies and persecution of ‘outsider’ groups; the restructuring of patterns of religious authority in Latin Christendom around the Papacy; lay piety; and the role of Christianity in conquest and colonisation from Eastern Europe to the crusades.

Provisional teaching plan

Semester 1

1. The Conversion of Constantine
2. Augustine and the Christianity of Empire
3. Holy Men and Monnks to c.750
4. The Challenge of Arianism
5. Conversion and Christianization in the Early Medieval West
6. The Cult of Saints
7. Islam and the Transformation of Christendom
8. Bishops, Councils and the Law
9. Warrior Christianity
10. The Carolingian Project

Semester 2

11. Sex, Marriage and Gender
12. New Monasticism
13. Piety and Wealth
14. Emperors and Popes
15. Crusades
16. Law, Learning, and Papal Monarchy
17. Papal Reform
18. Friars and Inquisition
19. The Creation of Western Christendom
20. Exam Revision and Overview

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

R. Brooke, The Coming of the Friars, (1975)

P. Brown, The Cult of Saints: Its Rise and Function in Late Antiquity, (1981)

P. Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, revised edition 2013

J.A. Brundage, Law, Sex and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, (1987)

R. Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe

J. Herrin, The Formation of Christendom

C.H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, third edition 92001)

L.K. Little, Religious Powerty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe, (1987)

R. McKitterick, The Frankish Church and the Carolingian Reforms, 789-895

R. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity, pp. 45-83

R.I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society, second edition, (2007)

C. Morris, The papal Monarchy: The Western CHurch from 1050 to 1250, (1989)

T.F.X. Noble, The Republic of St. Peter

R.W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe

The Cambridge History of Christianity

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