Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

CMRC6017 From Medieval to Renaissance: Reading the Evidence II

Module Overview

For students on the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, this module forms the second Part of a two-part core module. This module is not available to students on other programmes. The module builds on Part 1’s introduction to methods and sources by training students in the specialised skills needed to read original manuscripts and archival sources from the medieval and early modern periods, including texts in Latin and English. It will be team-taught by various specialists in English and History who will train students to read different kinds of handwriting and a wide variety of original documents and textual artefacts from the period 1100-1700, such as ecclesiastical and English royal records, letters, financial and estate records, scholastic, liturgical and literary manuscripts, and inscriptions. It will also introduce students to approaches to editing these various kinds of texts. The core of Part 2 is the study of Palaeography and Diplomatic but more broadly Part 2 addresses questions of manuscript culture and production, History of the Book, and the collecting and organization of knowledge and records in this period. It will involve several trips to visit local repositories of original manuscript and archival material for hands-on experience and to help identify suitable material for the dissertation, notably Salisbury Cathedral Archives and Library, and a trip abroad of 4-6 days, most likely to Rome, in order to explore its rich medieval and early modern heritage, including the holdings of significant international repositories such as the Vatican Library and Archives. Students unwilling or unable to join this trip will have the opportunity to undertake an agreed project or training placement with a local archive, museum, or heritage site as an alternative. Local trips will also include visits to sites of archaeological and historical interest, e.g. Old Sarum. Learning and teaching on the module are hence designed to deliver valuable specialised and transferable research, writing and presentational skills.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • read, analyse and interpret a wide range of source materials (including texts, sites and artefacts) by asking relevant questions about that material • supply training in transferable and key skills, appropriate to the subject matter and level • Enable you to read and transcribe a range of texts from approximately 1100 A.D. to 1700 A.D., in English and/or Latin • Give you an understanding of a range of the most common forms of documents and texts in English and Latin used in the period 1100-1700 A.D. • provide you with the knowledge and research skills required to make an informed choice about your dissertation topic, and to help you undertake that dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • some important broad categories of written and material evidence of the period
  • a range of the most common forms of medieval and renaissance documents and texts, and the hands used to write them
  • related information about the chronology, preparation, organisation and use of such documents
  • the problems and issues in the modern editing of a variety of written texts and documents
  • problems and issues in the conservation and presentation of physical artefacts; archives, maps, and manuscripts; and early books.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate original documents in their generic and cultural contexts
  • analyse the forms of such documents
  • make appropriate use of primary source evidence in your own research
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • research, locate and evaluate unpublished primary sources
  • manage complex textual challenges in a methodical way
  • come to conclusions about problems in the absence of complete data
  • communicate a topic you have researched, with supporting illustrations, via different media (research report, blog post)
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • create, locate, use and correctly reference images and artefacts to support and illustrate research
  • read and transcribe medieval and early modern documents
  • edit medieval and early modern manuscript material according to recognised scholarly and diplomatic protocols


This module will supply training in specialised skills in reading, transcribing and editing original texts from these periods necessary for primary research, especially preparing the dissertation. It will also provide broader contextual understanding of how these texts were produced and collected, notably the history of the book, enabling students to analyse such evidence more critically. Field-trips to local and foreign repositories and sites will help students further develop such skills and understanding, especially in relation to their own research interests. Several academic staff will contribute to teaching this module. The staff are all specialists in the medieval and/or early modern periods, but are drawn from different disciplines.

Special Features

The module involves a trip abroad of 4-6 days, probably to Rome, in order to explore its rich medieval and early modern heritage, including the holdings of the Vatican Library and Archives. Students who are unwilling or unable to join this trip will have the opportunity to undertake an agreed project or training placement with a local archive, museum, or heritage site as an alternative, which will typically be negotiated and arranged by the University. Students will also be taken on local day-trips to archives, libraries and other repositories, notably at Salisbury Cathedral, and other sites of historical or archaeological interest.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • weekly seminars • individual tutorials, e.g. when preparing assessments and for receiving feedback. • work with palaeographical websites • guided field trips to significant medieval and early modern sites (local and overseas) • hands-on group tuition in local and overseas manuscript and archival repositories Learning activities include • attendance at research seminars (either those run by CMRC or elsewhere) and public lectures • guided independent research and study using primary and secondary sources on set topics • individual reading and group work in preparation for weekly seminars • reading original documents in groups and participating in group seminar discussions • transcribing documents independently • recognising diplomatic and codicological features of manuscript texts • preparing for and participating in field trips to significant medieval and early modern sites and repositories • preparing an edition of a short medieval or early modern text and a blog post and report associated with the trip abroad or a local site visit.

Wider reading or practice60
Completion of assessment task86
External visits44
Follow-up work10
Preparation for scheduled sessions76
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 - 1800 A practical online tutorial.

Derolez, Albert (2003). The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: from the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century. 

Martin, C.T. (1982). The record interpreter (second edition, London: Stevens and Son, 1910). 

Greetham, D. C (1994). Textual Scholarship. Garland Reference Libraries of the Humanities. ,vol. 1417 .

Brown, Michelle P (1993). Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600. 

Hector, L.C. (1958). The handwriting of English documents. 

Cheney, C.R., revised Jones, M (2000). A handbook of dates for students of British history. 

Parkes, M. B (1969). English Cursive Book Hands, 1250-1500. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Individual research report  (3500 words) 60%
Text analysis  (2500 words) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

The module includes field trips to Rome and Salisbury. Travel costs for trips to Salisbury and travel and accommodation costs for the trip to Rome will be paid for by the Faculty for students on the MA in Medieval and Renaissance Culture. The only additional costs associated with these trips would be students' own discretionary expenditure on subsistence, approx £25 per day/£150 for the trip.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Google+ Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.