Who are we? Where do we come from? For which reasons and by which means do we define our common identity? And who are they and where do they come from? Ar we better than them? Have we got an original character that demonstrates we are better? Can we evoke the past in order to certify the present? These questions are at the same time so old and so dramatically up to date. The course will draw on various types of written sources (narratives, charters, poetry, epigraphy) and material evidence (coins, monuments, luxury objects) in order to explain how the shaping of an ethnic identity contributed to the constrruction of political, social and economic entities in medieval Europe.
The main issues explored during the course are: how the different barbarian peoples were considered and described by Roman writers; how the various barbarian elites recounted their peoples' origins, the myths they used and how much they owed to those Roman narratives; what ethnic identity had to do with the relationship between rulers and population; how it contributed to the construction of political bodies; if religion was ever used as a tool to claim ethnic identity or to express political opposition; the extent to which we are able to understand the relationship between ethnic identity, kingship, court historiography and progress of territorial power in medieval Europe; how we can use this evidence to see how European societies changed the further they went from Roman times.
During the course students will be introduced to a series of important and still highly-debates historical issues, and will learn how to use various sources each in their own context of production and circulation. We will also address topics that are relevant for the historiographic debate on all periods, and will examine a wide range of sources and of intellectual and methodological tools that history students have to learn to master in order to research.
Some knowledge of Latin (which may be gained through courses offered as part of the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies) would help. A knowledge of at least one of the following modern European languages (Italian, French, Spanish or German) would help students to broaden the range of available reading material.
This module is taught at UCL.
Dr Antonio Sennis (UCL)
Module assessment - more information
Assessment: 2 essays totalling 8,000 words