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Courses

CMRC6014 Medieval Political Thought

Module Overview

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries political thought was mainly preoccupied with the relationship between the Church and the emerging nation-states of Western Europe. This period witnessed an outpouring of treatises and other writings concerned with this issue. This literature appeared partly in response to political crises that arose. The papacy at the head of the Church made universal claims to authority which secular rulers increasingly challenged at this time, notably in the major clashes between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France during 1296-8 and 1301-3. This module will examine these various crises and the ideological debates and texts that arose from them. The key political thinkers of the period included clergy and laymen, theologians and jurists (experts in Roman and canon law). Their writings have provoked a variety of competing interpretations among historians, and the course will also introduce you to these historiographical debates.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• familiarise you with the main texts and ideas in the political thought of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Western Europe. • introduce you to the different interpretations of these texts and ideas in the modern historiography on the subject. • compare and contrast the views of medieval political thinkers on specific issues, notably the relationship between ‘Church’ and ‘State’.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The main texts and ideas in the political thought of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Western Europe.
  • The different ways in which historians have interpreted these texts and ideas.
  • The differing views of medieval political thinkers on specific issues, notably on the relationship between ‘Church’ and ‘State’.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate originality and confidence in the scholarly application of knowledge, and the ability to advance that knowledge through research informed by the work of others
  • Work independently and effectively, using library and internet resources
  • Contribute to original and intellectually challenging discussion in a group environment
  • Give effective oral presentations and respond to the views of others
  • Demonstrate effective time management.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Carry out independent research based on primary and secondary sources
  • Contextualise the key primary sources both in their broader historical and historiographical setting
  • Use these sources in historical argument and explain their significance.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Make well-supported judgments about the value of different historical interpretations in the field
  • Engage critically with important key texts
  • Demonstrate confidence and independence of thought
  • Formulate your own responses to complex material and communicate them effectively in informal discussion and formal written work

Syllabus

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries political thought was mainly preoccupied with the relationship between the Church and the emerging nation-states of Western Europe. This period witnessed an outpouring of treatises and other writings concerned with this issue. This literature appeared partly in response to political crises that arose. The papacy at the head of the Church made universal claims to authority which secular rulers increasingly challenged at this time, notably in the major clashes between Pope Boniface VIII and King Philip IV of France during 1296-8 and 1301-3. This module will examine these various crises and the ideological debates and texts that arose from them. The key political thinkers of the period included clergy and laymen, theologians and jurists (experts in Roman and canon law). Their writings have provoked a variety of competing interpretations among historians, and the course will also introduce you to these historiographical debates.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Student-led seminars • Individual tutorials with the unit convenor Learning activities include • Independent study and research • Oral presentations • Active participation in seminars

TypeHours
Independent Study126
Teaching24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

R. W. and A. J. Carlyle (1903-36). A History of Medieval Political Theory in the West, 6 vols.. 

B. Tierney (1972). Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350: A Study of the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages. 

O. von Gierke (1990). Political Theories of the Middle Ages. 

E. H. Kantorowicz (1957). The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. 

B. Tierney (1955). Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: the Contribution of the Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism. 

A. Black (1992). Political Thought in Europe, 1250-1450. 

Q. Skinner (1978). Foundations of Modern Political Thought, I: The Renaissance. 

C. J. Nederman and K. L. Forhan (1993). Medieval Political Theory: A Reader. The Quest for the Body Politic, 1100- 1400. 

K. Pennington (1993). The Prince and the Law, 1200-1600. Sovereignty and Rights in the Western Legal Tradition. 

J. Coleman (2000). A History of Political Thought from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. 

ed. J. H. Burns (1988). The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought. 

J. P. Canning (2005). A History of Medieval Political Thought 300-1450. 

J. P. Canning (2011). Ideas of Power in the Late Middle Ages. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback ? You will be required to give one or more class presentations and have them informally assessed by the tutor ? You will receive advice on planning oral presentations, as well as on preparing and writing your assessed essay • The module handbook provides a detailed outline of the module structure and guidance on seminar reading • Seminars will focus on particular political crises and the main ideological and polemical texts that arose from them, encouraging you to develop your skills in analysing complex primary sources and different historiographical perspectives on the key events and evidence; presentations and class discussion in seminars will help you develop key skills and knowledge for writing the assessed essay. • Presentations will also enable you to develop your oral communication skills, both as presenters and respondents, and to learn from other students • The assessed essay is intended to help you develop your skills in the formal presentation of critical arguments and analysis of different kinds of evidence • The teaching, learning and assessment methods for this module are designed to promote student-led initiative and independence of thought from the outset

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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