The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

HUMA6012 Jerusalem: City and Symbol

Module Overview

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, and its rich, long and varied history has been told and retold in many sources and cultures since the biblical portrayal of its founding under King David. It is of particular significance as a sacred site for the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and has been a location of cultural contact and conflict from antiquity to the present day.

Using a variety of historical case studies, which will vary from year to year, this chronologically broad module will investigate ways of constructing Jerusalem as a symbol and a city, at the centre of cultural, political and religious activity at key moments, over the past three millennia. Through the case studies, we will examine the place of Jerusalem in the cultures of different religious and secular communities. A key feature of the module is that through it you will be acquainted with a range of approaches to cultural history and will work with a wide variety of textual, visual and material source types.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this module are to enable you to: 

  • investigate the role Jerusalem and its surrounding regions have played as a site of cultural contact and conflict in different historical periods
  • understand the significance of Jerusalem for different religious communities in different historical periods
  • investigate the historical and cultural development of an ancient city that has a prominent place in the modern world
  • explore the means (through texts, material culture, cartography, iconography and visual media) by which places gain the religious and cultural significance of symbols

Knowledge and Understanding 

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: 

  • the cultural development of Jerusalem during key historical periods from antiquity through the Middle Ages to the modern period
  • the importance of Jerusalem, and reasons for this, to the communities that have been connected to the city
  • key primary sources that can illuminate Jerusalem's society, culture, and significance in different periods
  • recent developments in research focussed on and relevant to the study of Jerusalem

Cognitive (thinking) skills 

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to: 

  • explain and discuss the factors that impacted on the historical and cultural development of Jerusalem
  • analyse and discuss the significance of Jerusalem to different communities in different periods, including contentious issues, in appropriately sophisticated terms
  • consider and discuss intelligently relationships between ‘places' past and present
  • analyse a variety of source types (e.g. religious documents; literary texts; historical accounts; personal records; paintings; archaeological records and plans; maps; films)
  • evaluate critically the theoretical and methodological approaches used by scholars working on the cultural history of Jerusalem


This module is team-taught by tutors from English, History and Archaeology (subject to availability). Case studies will vary from year to year, but will cover three or four specific periods in the historical and cultural reception of the city. Case studies in any year would include a chronologically broad and diverse selection from the following: 

  • Biblical Jerusalem: From Founding to Fall in 586 BCE
  • Jerusalem and the War against Rome, 66-70 CE
  • Christian Jerusalem: The Holy Sepulchre
  • The Arab Conquest of Jerusalem, 638 CE
  • Early Islamic Jerusalem; the Dome of the Rock and Pilgrimage
  • Mapping a Christian Holy Land physically and metaphorically in late antiquity/the early Middle Ages
  • Conquest, Desire, Imagination, Apocalypse: Jerusalem in later medieval Christian cultural geography
  • Recovering and constructing Jerusalem in nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first-century archaeology
  • Jerusalem and urban histories in the twentieth century
  • Jerusalem in twentieth and twenty-first-century novels, film and/or television

Special Features

You will have access to the unique resources of the Parkes Library.


Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:20
Private study hours:130
Total study time: 150 hours

Teaching and learning methods

The principal teaching method will be one two-hour seminar per week analysing key events, chronology and concepts, including examination and discussion of primary and secondary source material and the key issues of debate they raise. 

Learning activities include: 

  • Preparatory reading before each seminar
  • Participation in group and seminar discussion
  • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works
  • Preparing and delivering presentations in seminars
  • Independent research of additional information and source materials


Seminars will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Resources and reading list

Primary and secondary readings will vary from year to year and a list will be disseminated via Blackboard prior to the start of each module presentation. The following selected books and articles provide a useful indicative guide. 

Abu El Haj, N., Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Arad, P., ‘Pilgrimage, Cartography and Devotion: William Wey's Map of the Holy Land', Viator, 43/1 (2012) 301-22

Avi-Yonah, M., The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1976)

Bale, Anthony, Feeling Persecuted: Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages (London: Reaktion, 2010)

Barton, J. (ed.), The Biblical World (London: Routledge, 2002)

Collins, J.J., A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007)

Connolly, Daniel K., The Maps of Matthew Paris: Medieval Journeys through Space, Time and Liturgy (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2009)

Delano-Smith, Catherine, ‘The Intelligent Pilgrim: Maps and Medieval Pilgrimage to the Holy Land', in Eastward Bound: Travel and Travellers, 1050-1550, ed. by Rosalind Allen (Manchester: MUP, 2004), pp. 107-30

Edson, Evelyn, ‘Reviving the Crusade: Sanudo's Schemes and Vesconte's Maps', in Eastward Bound: Travel and Travellers 1050-1550, ed. by Rosamond Allen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 131-55

Egeria, and J. Wilkinson, Egeria's Travels (London: S.P.C.K., 1971)

Dyas, Dee, Pilgrimage in Medieval English Literature, 700-1500 (Woodbridge: Brewer, 2001) 

Gil, M., A History of Palestine 634-1099 (Cambridge: CUP, 1992)

Higgins, Iain Macleod, ‘Defining the Earth's Center in a Medieval "Multi-Text": Jerusalem in The Book of John Mandeville', in Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages, ed. by Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), pp. 29-53

Jagersma, H., A History of Israel in the Old Testament Period (London: SCM Press, 2002)

Jagersma, H., A History of Israel from Alexander the Great to Bar Kochba (London: SCM Press, 1985)

Morris, Colin, The Sepulchre of Christ and the Medieval West: From the Beginning to 1600 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 

Morris, Colin, ‘Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Late Middle Ages', in Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan, ed. by Colin Morris and Peter Roberts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 141-63

Ousterhout, Robert, ‘"Sweetly Refreshed in Imagination": Remembering Jerusalem in Words and Images', Gesta 48:2 (2009), 153-68

Peters, F. E., Jerusalem (Princeton: Princeton UP: 1985)

Prawer, J. and H. Ben-Shammai (eds), The History of Jerusalem: The Early Muslim Period 638-1099 (Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, 1996)

Prawer, Joshua, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: European Colonialism in the Middle Ages (London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972)

Price, J.T., Jerusalem Under Siege: The Collapse of the Jewish State, 66-70 C.E. (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1992)

Rogerson J.W. and J.M. Lieu (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Rudy, K. M., ‘A Guide to Mental Pilgrimage: Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal ms. 212' Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 63.4 (2000), 494-515

Rudy, K. M., ‘A Pilgrim's Memories of Jerusalem: London, Wallace Collection MS M319', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, (2007), 311-25

Schäfer, P., History of the Jews in Antiquity (Luxembourg: Harwood Academic, 1995)

Shanks, H., ed., Ancient Israel: from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999)

Sivan, H., Palestine in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Smallwood, E.M., The Jews Under Roman Rule (Leiden: Brill, 1981)

Smith, Julie Ann, ‘"My Lord's Native Land": Mapping the Christian Holy Land', Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, 76:1 (2007), 1-31

Soggin, J.A., Introduction to the History of Israel and Judah (London: SCM Press, 1993)

Wilken, R. L., The Land Called Holy: Palestine in Christian History and Thought (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1992)

Yeager, Suzanne M., Jerusalem in Medieval Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Zacher, Christian K., Curiosity and Pilgrimage: The Literature of Discovery in Fourteenth-Century England (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1976)


Assessment methods



Assessment Method


Summative / Formative

% contribution to final mark

Final element of assessment (√)

15-20 minute seminar presentation




4000 word research essay on case study of your choice OR theme cutting across case studies



Re-assessment Method


Summative / Formative

% contribution to final mark

Final element of assessment (√)

4000 word research essay on case study of your choice OR theme cutting across case studies




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