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Level 4

4AAT1341 Introduction to Early and Medieval Christianity and Culture


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

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Professor Markus Vinzent
 Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%) and one two-hour examination (60%)

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

Teaching pattern: one two-hour weekly lecture over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none

The module is an introduction to the History of Christianity from the beginnings of Christianity in the Roman Empire through to the late medieval period. It seeks to lay a foundation for the later study of the History of Christianity (particularly in the West) by providing basic information about core cultural, institutional and theological ideas and how they relate to ecclesiastical structures, practices and personnel, while also informing students about methods of historical analysis and standards of argumentation. Whenever possible, the current state of research will be given and the lecturer's own research added to this.

Sample topics

  • Introduction: The Jewish roots
  • Jerusalem, Antioch (and Syria), Rome: centres of Early Christian origins (2st-3rd century); Paul, Hermas, Clement, Ignatius, Justin and Irenaeus
  • The development of Christian School and Prophecies, Marcion, Valentinus, the Montanists (2nd century)
  • Alexandria, Africa and Asia Minor: different presentations of Christianity by insiders and outsiders, in Apocalypses, Novels, Clement of Alexandria and Origen (2nd - 4th century).
  • Christianity and politics: Constantine, Eusebius and Arianism (4th century)
  • From Nicaea to Chalcedon (4-5th Century)
  • Towards the City of God (5th-13th century): Augustine. Gelasius and the two realms. Charlemagne and sacerdotium and imperium; The Investiture Controversy
  • The crucades and their aftermatch - the beginning of re-entangled history (11th-13th century)
  • The re-discovery of Aristotle and the intellectual challenges (13th-15th century).

Preliminary/ suggested reading

  • Brent, A., A Political History of Early Christianity (London and New York: T. & T. Clarke 2009) (BR166 BRE)*
  • Canning, J., A History of Medieval Political Thought, 300-1500 (London:  Routledge 1996) (JC111 CAN)*
  • Harvey, S.A., and D.G. Hunter (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (Oxford: OUP 2008) (BR121.3 OXF)
  • Markschies, Christoph, Between Two Worlds: Structures of Early Christianity (London: SCM 1999) (BR195.C5 MAR)*
  • Mitchell, M.M. (et al.), The Cambridge History of Christianity, vols. 1; 2; 3 (Early Medieval Christianities); 4 (Christianity in Western Europe) (Cambridge: CUP 2007-9) (online or: BR200 CAM; BR252 EAR; BR252 CHR)
  • Skinner, Q., The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 2 vols. (Cambridge: U.P. 1978) (JA83 Sk34-36; JA83 SKI)
  • Vinzent, M., Christ’s Resurrection in Early Christianity and the Making of the New Testament (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011) (BT482 VIN)*

*Required undergraduate reading, introductory.

 Further information

Module aims

The module introduces students to a number of key events, processes and themes in the religious history of the period, such as the development of Christian identity, synodal and hierarchical structures, transformation of Christianity within the late antique Roman Empire and beyond; subsequent developments in Western Christianity through the early and late medieval period; the religious origins and consequences of the Crusades; the re-discovery of Aristotle with the intellectual challenges of the 13th and 14th centuries; the beginnings of humanism and the forerunners of the Reformation.

Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • engage critically with primary and secondary sources
  • present ideas coherently and argumentatively in written and oral form

Module specific skills

  • identify and explain the significance of the main underlying theological ideas and the main features of the structures and practices of the Church in the late antique and medieval periods
  • identify and explain the significance of key events, processes and themes in the History of Christianity in late antiquity and the medieval periods
  • discuss some of the issues involved in dealing with primary and secondary sources
  • demonstrate an understanding of how to produce and present a basic historical analysis according to the conventions of historical scholarship 
Past syllabi

Past syllabus document is not available as this is a new module. Please contact the module tutor for further information.

An extended teaching plan document is available here.

MOdule availability
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