The University of Southampton

HIST2069 Knights and Chivalry

Module Overview

Today, chivalry is commonly associated with gallantry; men holding doors open for women, for example. These good manners, however, have little to do with the medieval roots of chivalry. This module looks at chivalry during the highpoint of its cultural significance in the medieval period, with an emphasis on its latter part (13th to 15th centuries). During that time, knights and their martial ethos merged with the aristocracy and its value system, placing honour at the centre of western European cultures. How did the chivalric ideals relate with the reality of the knightly world? To what extent did the relentless pursuit of honour generate unleashed violence? What was the role of women in chivalry? Indisputably, chivalry was impacted by wide-ranging social, military, political and economic changes in our period, but is it accurate to speak of the decline of chivalry in this period at that time? What is the role of chivalry in the professionalization of the armies?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Investigate the Medieval World (c. 1000 – c. 1500) through the lenses of one of its pillar institution: chivalry • Investigate key themes and issues relating to knights, chivalry and the aristocratic culture: war, court, ‘courtly love’, tourneys, pageants, Arthurian romances, crusading ideals • Familiarise students with a large variety of (translated) primary sources.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The multiple facets of chivalry, as an order of knights, an ethos, a status and a concept
  • Medieval legacy to western societies: A system of values based on honour
  • The aristocratic culture in the late Middle Ages
  • Order and Hierarchy in Medieval Society
  • The social, political, technologic and economic changes in the late Middle Ages
  • Key primary sources for the study of the chivalry
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse critically these primary sources: extract relevant information from them and comment upon this information perceptively (using secondary sources)
  • Engage with historical debates.
  • Structure your ideas and research findings into well-ordered oral (participation in seminars) and written assignments (essays and commentaries)
  • Identify nature, aims and composition of contemporary sources both textual and iconographic
  • Use technical vocabulary relating to chivalry: chivalry, vassal, lord, nobility, feudalism, tournaments, jousts, indentures, brotherhood-in-arms, round tables, Arthurian romances, orders of chivalry, etc.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse a (historical) concept in all its complexity
  • Select relevant information and provide a critical analysis of it
  • Develop orally and in writing sound and well supported arguments
  • Select and analyse critically relevant information for the study of a particular topic


Topics may include, but are not limited to: • The origins of knighthood • The perfect knight or the ideals of Knighthood • Tourneys: Tournaments, Jousts and Pas d’Armes • Chivalry, mercy and ransoms • The changing face of war in the late middle ages • Chivalric discipline to military discipline • Brotherhood-in-arms and chivalric orders • Vows, crusades and crusading Ideals • Heralds and heraldry • Chivalric kings and national chivalry

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• Weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar • An additional session on Essay Writing • Field trip to Winchester • Individual tutorials (preparation for essay and feedback) This module aims at giving you an in-depth knowledge and understanding of chivalry and the chivalric culture in the Late Middle Ages. The approach is thematic. Each week a new theme will be examined. A lecture will set the framework (question, sources, state of current knowledge) while the appending seminar will be focused on one or two primary sources linked with the weekly theme. It is therefore essential that you attend both lectures and seminars. The trip to Winchester may include a visit to the cathedral, the Westgate, Sally Port and the Great Hall to see the round table. Visits to these buildings will help you think about the spaces and places associated with knights, chivalry and the aristocratic culture. Participation on this trip is not a formal requirement of the module, although you are strongly encouraged to do so. This module, like all of the 15 credit History modules offered to second year students, will be research led and it will focus heavily on primary sources. You will study an individual source in depth each week. As such, this module will provide you with a sound preparation for the source- based work undertaken in year 3 during the Special Subject and the dissertation.

External visits4
Preparation for scheduled sessions45
Completion of assessment task16
Follow-up work45
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Keen, M (1984). Chivalry. 

Guard, T (2013). Chivalry, Kingship and Crusade: The English Experience in the fourteenth Century. 

Loomis, R.S., ed (1959). Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages. 

Trim, D.J.B., ed (2003). The Chivalric Ethos and the Development of Military Professionalism. 

Vale, M.G.A (1981). War and chivalry: warfare and aristocratic culture in England, France and Burgundy at the end of the Middle Ages. 

Saul, N. (2011). For Honour and Fame. Chivalry in England, 106-1500. 

Barber, R. and Barker, J.R.V (1989). Tournaments, jousts, chivalry and pageants in the Middle Ages. 

Kaeuper, R. W (1999). Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe. 

Keen, M (1996). Nobles, knights, and men-at-arms in the Middle Ages. 

Keen, M., (2002). Origins of the English gentleman: heraldry, chivalry and gentility in medieval England , c.1300-c.1500. 

Stevenson, K (2006). Chivalry and knighthood in Scotland, 1424-1513. 

Coss, P (1998). The Lady in Medieval England, 1000-1500. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary  (1500 words) 50%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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