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The University of Southampton

HIST1146 Joan of Arc: History behind the Myth

Module Overview

Joan of Arc is probably the most well-known medieval woman. But how can we explain that a 'peasant girl' who was probably still a teenager at the time of her death has had such a great and enduring impact in history? This module looks behind the scenes. It is mainly but not essentially focused on the fifteenth century when she lived her short life (c. 1412-1431), a time of deep trouble and divisions within the kingdom of France. Was she the saviour of the French ‘nation’ in some of the darkest years of its history?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Key social, religious, political and military issues relating to the Middle Ages and more specifically, to late Medieval France and England
  • Historiographical debates around Joan of Arc
  • An eclectic range of primary sources that provide evidence for historians for studying the period
  • The portrayal of Joan of Arc throughout six hundred years
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify different types of primary sources relating to the Middle Ages and handling them accordingly
  • Analyse critically these primary sources: extract relevant information from them and comment upon this information perceptively (using secondary sources)
  • Engage with historical debates; take a well-informed stance in the debate around the role of Joan of Arc in the fate of the French kingdom, for instance
  • Explore processes at work in the creation of a hero
  • Select relevant secondary sources on Joan of Arc to examine a particular aspect of her world and time
  • Use technical terms relating to the life and world of Joan of Arc
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Select relevant information for the study of a particular topic
  • Analyse critically this relevant information
  • Form a well-informed opinion and express it clearly
  • Understand the use of history to political ends
  • Work in group and individually
  • Be punctual, prepared and respectful


This historical investigation takes us into the world of medieval women and their place in society, also into the world of the military which Joan of Arc, transgressing gender barriers, broke into, and finally into the worlds of the politics and the religious which give key elements to the understanding of her rise and brutal end in 1431, burnt at the stake. Her rehabilitation trial in 1456 raises important questions of memory, history and politicisation. The same questions raise again, with a resounding impact, in modern times, when Joan of Arc, canonised in 1920, is used as a political icon to symbolise the (defence of the) French nation. In addition to lectures and seminars providing introductory sessions, essay tutorials and revision classes, topics to be covered may include, but are not limited to: • The early years of Joan of Arc: Civil War in France • The Treaty of Troyes (1420) and the Dual Monarchy • A Medieval Woman’s World: Education, Standing & Occupation • Religion and Devotion • Charles VII, Joan of Arc and the Prophecy • Joan of Arc at War • The Trial of Joan of Arc (1431) • The Rehabilitation of Joan of Arc (1456) • Joan v/s Marianne: Disputed symbol of the French nation (19th/20th c.) • Joan of Arc, Nationhood and Nationalism

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar • An additional session on Essay Writing • Individual tutorials (preparation for essay and feedback) Each week covers a particular thematic. Lectures introduce you to key themes as well as historiographical debates and questions. It is important that you read indicated chapters and/or articles in preparation for these lectures. Preparation for seminars is essential. Most of the material to read and analyse in preparation for the seminars will be digitised. Various learning methods are implemented in seminars: group discussions (pairs or small groups), individual assignments, debates, and the re-enactment of the trial of Joan of Arc (or, alternatively, a role- playing exercise).

Preparation for scheduled sessions45
Follow-up work45
Completion of assessment task16
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Freeman, J (2008). Joan of Arc: soldier, saint, symbol – of what?. The Journal of Popular Culture. ,41 .

Taylor, C (2006). Joan of Arc: La Pucelle. 

Taylor, L.J (2009). The virgin warrior: the life and death of Joan of Arc. 

Fraoli, D (2000). Joan of Arc. The early debate. 

Hobbins, D (2005). The Trial of Joan of Arc. 

Wheeler, B., ed (1996). Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc. 

Warner, M (1981). Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism. 

Vale, M.G.A (1974). Charles VII. 

Devries, K (1999). Joan of Arc. A military leader. 

Pernoud, R and Clin, V (1999). Joan of Arc. 



Commentary exercise


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (2000 words) 50%
Examination  (1 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise 50%
Examination 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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