Course Outline and Schedule
The course is designed for those who have completed degrees in which History is the main or at least a substantial component and who want to consolidate their knowledge of medieval history. It is particularly appropriate for those who may wish to continue on to a PhD, at Cambridge or elsewhere. It is also well-suited to those who seek simply to explore medieval history at a deeper level, building independent research skills.
Students will be provided with an in-depth study of some of the key areas of research in medieval history as well as the historiographical knowledge and the analytical and technical skills to support work in their chosen field. All students will have a supervisor who will guide them through the requirements of the course and, most crucially, the dissertation.
In this manner, all students are provided with the historiographical knowledge and analytical skills necessary to understand and evaluate both medieval sources and existing research and to pursue research in their own fields of intellectual interest. Through individual supervisions and classes, students are introduced to the more specialised and intensive nature of research required at a postgraduate level.
The MPhil involves 3 assessed components:
- two core courses (16 x 2 hour classes each option, 4 hours per week) each course worth 10% of the overall mark;
- one option course chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (8 x 2 hour classes) worth 10% of the overall mark;
- a dissertation (15,000 – 20,000 words) worth 70% of the overall mark.
In addition to the above, students will attend the weekly Medieval History research seminars and workshops.
Students may also take optional skills modules in Greek or Latin and may choose to audit additional option courses. These are not assessed elements of the MPhil but will help students develop the skills needed for the MPhil in Medieval History.
Note on Start Dates
Whilst the course will officially start in October, all students will be required to attend an intensive Latin course before the MPhil commences. This will begin usually in the third week of September.
Core Course: Latin & Palaeography
'Pre-Sessional' Intensive Latin
All candidates for the Cambridge MPhil in Medieval History are expected to have a “basic understanding of Latin grammar and the ability to translate straightforward Latin texts” by the start of the course in October. All candidates who have no Latin, or Latin that does not reach this standard, are required to attend the preliminary intensive three week course in Latin immediately before the beginning of the academic year.
Many Cambridge Colleges are able to provide accommodation for students for the duration of this course.
At the end of the three-week course all students will sit an examination to test their Latin skills. Students who have not taken the pre-sessional course for any reason will also be required to sit this test.
Following on from the pre-sessional Latin course in September, Dr Jacob Currie teaches three Latin reading classes during term. Each takes place once per week for 20 weeks (Michaelmas, Lent and the first half of Easter Term).
- Late-antique and early-medieval Latin
- High-medieval Latin
- Late-medieval and renaissance Latin
Each class will read Latin texts in digitised manuscript form. Students may choose the class (or classes) whose chronological range best matches their interests.
There is no formal assessment for the Latin component of the course.
For palaeography, students take one of the following: Palaeography I (covering the period c. 500-1150 AD) or Palaeography II (covering the period c. 1000-1500 AD). Each is taught by a weekly one-hour lecture followed by a one-hour transcription class. Students attend the strand (I or II) that best fits the chronological focus of their dissertation topic.
The lectures will provide students with a historically contextualised survey of script and scribal conventions in western European books and documents of the earlier and later middle ages, respectively, and an introduction to the methodological issues involved in analysing handwriting and dating and localising written artefacts on the basis of their script.
The classes focus upon the practical skills of transcription: identifying the letter-forms and scribal conventions of punctuation and abbreviation in books and documents, and transcribing according to modern scholarly conventions. Additional practice in transcription will be provided each week as homework.
Core Course: Concepts and Methods
This course involves discussion and analysis of different approaches, sources, debates and ideas in the study of Medieval History. The course aims to provide all students with key higher-level skills, and to prompt the exploration of a wider historiographical area pertaining to a student’s chosen dissertation topic.
Seminar topics for 2023-24:
- Introduction: Sources and the Challenges of Medieval History
- Critical editions and textual criticism
- Social structures
- State and Nation in the Middle Ages
- Ritual and symbolic communication
- Economic systems
- Saints, Scepticism and Belief
- Writing Medieval History