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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”. All candidates who have no Latin, or Latin that does not reach this standard, are expected 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 missed the pre-sessional course for any reason will also be required to sit this test. Where students do not meet the standard of Latin required for the course, the Faculty offer additional Latin courses which run alongside the MPhil programme.

Latin Classes

Following on from the pre-sessional Latin course in September, Latin is taught by Dr Neil Wright as a weekly two-hour class in both Michaelmas and Lent Terms. Students will be assigned to either a beginners’ or intermediate group, on the basis of an initial assessment.


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 are taught by a weekly one-hour lecture followed by a one-hour transcription class. Students attend the strand (I or II) that 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.