Main SourcebooksAncientMedievalModern

Subsidiary SourcebooksAfricanEast AsianGlobalIndianJewishIslamicLesbian/GayScienceWomen

About IHSP Help Page IHSP Credits

Introduction to Medieval History

Paul Halsall/Fordham University
HSRU1300: Spring 1998
Office: Dealy Hall 647
Office hours: Tue 4-5 pm, Fri 2:30-3:30pm
Office Tel.: (718) 817 3934
Class Location and Hours:
Keating 218, Tue. Fri,  10-11:15am

The Course
This course is an introduction to the history and civilization of Europe and the Mediterranean area in the middle ages. The emphasis is on the dissolution of the classical Greco-Roman world into three kindred civilizations, Byzantium, Islam, and Latin Christendom; the formation of a new civilization in the West; and the beginning of the eventual rise to world predominance of the West.
Reading and Texts
Students are required to do a certain amount of assigned reading outside class. The reading for this course comes in two forms - articles on reserve and documents available on the World Wide Web. By the end of the course students should be able to evaluate for themselves both source material from the past and the varied interpretations given to the to those sources. There is a required textbook, but students' primary responsibility is to read and discuss primary source assignments. The textbook (with a new edition for this semester - do not buy older editions) is - Hollister, C. Warren, Medieval Europe: A Short History, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998) Sources and Other Readings on the World Wide Web
All the source readings for each class are on the World Wide Web. If you are reading the online version of this syllabus all you need do is to select [often by "clicking"] the texts in question, which are listed under each class. You can then read on screen, or print out the document. [For the computer-phobic copies may be made available in the library reserve room.] This option puts you, as Fordham students, on the cutting edge of technology. The Internet is now a valuable research tool for students. Accordingly I shall also make this syllabus, course outline, lecture notes, and other class handouts available on the Web. Under each class there may also be reading material (marked as such), gathered from various WWW Extra sites. This material addresses or expands upon issues overlooked in the assigned readings. You must acquire a Fordham IT account for this semester. To do this go to the VAX terminal room in Dealy and complete the online application procedure. You can pick up your account in the Fordham IT office in Dealy Basement the next day. You can access this account from any VAX terminal at Fordham, from the new net terminals, from terminals in the library, and from home if you have a modem. In Mulcahy Hall, in Walsh Library, and in Dealy Hall there are "graphical terminals" - both Mac, IBM, and VAX Xwindows - which have the impressive Netscape Web browser. To access the class page from Netscape, just type in (at the prompt): /halsall/medieval.html
On the older VAX terminals at Fordham, there is also a non-graphical, but very fast, web browser is called LYNX. To invoke the "pages" for this course simple sign on and type lynx /halsall/medieval.html
Class Requirements
  • Paper - topic due - Feb 6
  • Paper - annotated bibliography due - Feb 20
  • Paper - outline and thesis due - Mar 20
  • Complete paper due - April 3
  • Medieval New York Project - topic due - Feb 6
  • Medieval New York Project - completion due - Mar 10
  • Midterm - Feb 24
  • Final Exam - TBA
Class Policies ATTENDANCE: Six unexcused cuts entail an F grade. Late arrival counts as half a cut. Students are responsible for keeping a record of their own attendance. Absences are excused by: a doctor's note; a note from the Dean; a notice from the Athletic Director presented before the class to be missed. TERM PAPERS: Papers must be handed in on time, unless an extension is given. They must conform to the Stylesheet guidelines handed out separately. EXAMS: Make up exams will only be given for medical reasons. HONOR: Cheating will result in an F for any paper or exam in which it is detected.

Students are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor to discuss papers and/or issues raised in class.

Quick Guide to Course Handouts and Guides
Course Outline The course is based on eight thematic sections of varying length through which we shall analyze the formation of the medieval world. The eight sections are:- In general we shall do one "class" per class meeting. To allow some flexibility, however, I will not assign classes to specific dates. You will know what to read next by where we are in the course.


  • Lecture - Lecture notes for each class are available. These correspond in some way to what happens in class. For review purposes the topics given under each class should be used.
  • Textbook readings in Hollister are to page numbers in Medieval Europe: A Short History, 8th ed.
  • Map links to an online color map related to the lecture..
  • Sources are indicated by title - for instance the Passion of St. Perpetua. You can access the source simply by selecting ["clicking"] on it. All sources for a particular lecture will be available under the title Halsall: Lecture 1 (2, 3, 4, etc) the library reserve room.
  • It would be best for you to read ALL the primary source readings. However, they are marked according to priority:
    YELLOW YELLOW means it might make more sense to read this text after class
    GREEN GREEN means the text is optional.
  • References to WWW Reading refer to reading available via the World Wide Web. I expect you to show awareness of some of these readings during the semester. 
  • References to WWW Extra refer to optional reading available via the World Wide Web
  • References to WWW Link refer to World Wide Web sites related to the class topics. Remember that a much fuller list of Medieval Links on the World Wide Web is also available.

Class 1 Introduction lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Introduction and practicalities, timeline, origins of civilization

Chi-Rho Symbol

A: The End of the Classical World
Class 2 Christianity and the Parting of the Ways: Invasions, Constantinople, Christianity lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Roman World. Literature and art. Politics - civic structure of society, slave economy. Unity of classical world. Christianity - Constantine, Eusebius.. Councils - Nicea I, Chalcedon. Constantinople.

Imperial Eagle

B: Byzantium
Class 3 The Eastern Roman Empire to Heraklios lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Constantinople. Church and Heresy. Justinian. Prokopios. Art and Architecture: Hagia Sophia. Ravenna. Monophysitism. Arab Invasions. Loss of Egypt and Syria. Heraklios - the Basileus.
Class 4 Iconoclasm and the Glory Days of Byzantium lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Theme System. Iconoclasm - John of Damascus. Dark Ages. Slavic Migrations. End of the Cities. Macedonians. Church and society, Mantzikert.


C: Islam
Class 5 Muhammad: Prophet or Statesman? lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Arabs. Central Asia and Trade. Muhammad. Career. The Qu'ran. Islamic beliefs - five pillars, greater and lesser jihad. Women, The calendar. The four early Caliphs. Ali - the Shia.

Dome of the Rock

Class 6 Arab Kingdoms and Islamic Empires: Ummayyads, Abbasids, and Turks
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Ummayyads - Muawiya. Abbasids. Nature of Islamic politics. Kalaam. Sha'ria, Spain - Cordoba. Harun al-Rashid. The Turks. Sultans. The Seljuqs. The Fatamids.


D: Formation of Latin Christendom
Class 7 Formation of the Germanic States lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: European geography. Ethnography, Germans. Ostrogoths and Italy - Theodoric. Visigoths and Spain. Vandals. Franks and Merovingians. Clovis. Anglo-Saxons.
Class 8 The Roman Church and Monasticism lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The papacy - Gelasius, Leo I, Gregory I. Roman Church and Byzantium. Latin Theology. Augustine - Pelagianism. Jerome.  Monasticism. St. Benedict


Class 9 Light in a Dark Age? Bede and Charlemagne
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Franks. Maior Domo. Charles Martel. Charlemagne. The desire for unity. Charlemagne and the Church. Carolingian Culture - Alcuin, Cathedral schools. Ireland - Columba, Aidan. Bede - Northumbria, Lindesfarne
Class 10 The Second Dissolution of the West: Vikings and Feudalism? lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: After Charlemagne - Verdun, Mersen, Lothar. Vikings. Feudalism?. Demography. Early Medieval Economy.

Otto III

E: The Rebirth of Latin Christendom
Class 11 New Political Beginnings and Cluny lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The year 1000. Ottonian Germany, Italy, England, Cluny. Cistercians - St Bernard. Carthusians.
Class 12 The Commercial Revolution lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Agriculture. Commerce. Nature of Medieval Economy - Cloth trade. Growth of Towns. Italy. The Mediterranean and Atlantic. The Baltic - Hanseatic league. Problems with Credit. Contribution of Jews.

Gregory VII

Class 13 Revolution from the Top:Rome and the Gregorian Revolution
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Idea of Reform. Gregorian reform or Gregorian revolution?. Papal government - Gregory VII, Urban II. Canon Law - Gratian. Struggle with Empire. Idea of Christendom.
Class 14 Byzantium and Islam before the Crusades lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Iconoclasm. The Macedonian Renovatio. Conversion of Russia - Kiev. 11th-century Collaps - Psellos. The Komnenoi and the Crusades - Anna Komnena. Abbasid Break up, Iran, Tahirids, Fatamids, Turks, Seljuqs, Collapse in 1092.
Class 15 Crusades and European Expansion lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: European Expansion. Spain - Reconquista. Peace of God. Truce of God. Normans. Fatamids. Byzantium. Jerusalem. First Crusade. Later Crusades- Richard I, Saladin . Anti-Semitism. German Drang nach Osten.

Frederick II

Class 16 The Church and the Empire
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Roman Church. The Holy Roman Empire. Innocent III - Fourth Lateran Council. Frederick I Barbarossa. Frederick II. Boniface VII. 

A Royal Court

Class 17 The Western Monarchies: England France and Spain
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Change in "Feudalism". England - William I, Domesday Book, Henry II, Magna Carta, Parliament. France - Capetians, Louis VII, Philip II Augustus, St. Louis.  Normandy. Notions of Kingship.

Richard I and Philip II

F: Civilization in the High Middle Ages
Class 18 Secular Society: The Aristocratic Culture and Peasant Life lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Aristocracy. Chivalry. Political Power. Literature - Epic, Romance, Lyric . Chaucer. Peasant life. Diet. Mortality. The Manor. Variety of patterns.

The Eucharist

Class 19 The Age of Faith I: Popular Piety and Christian Belief
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Popular Piety. Sacramentalism. Intellectual response. Eucharist. The Host. Confession. Marriage. Indulgences. Mary, Saints.


Class 20 The Age of Faith II: Intellectual Life
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Italy. Cathedral Schools. Universities. Paris. Methods. Universals. Neoplatonism and Faith. Aristotle. Aquinas.

St. Francis

Class 21 Criticism of Society: Jews, Heretics and Friars
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Critical societies. Intellectual and popular heresies. Cathars. Albi. Waldensians. St. Francis. Franciscans. Dominicans. Inquisition and persecution: heretics, Jews.

A Marriage

Class 22 Gendered History Roles of Medieval Women and Men
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Gender in history. Women and work. Women and power. Women and Religion. Women and Children. Varieties of Marriage, homosexuality?
Extra Class: Visit to Cloisters - Medieval Art and Architecture: lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Cloisters. Religious Art. Romanesque - Durham Cathedral. Gothic - St. Denis, Notre Dame. Late Gothic. Humanisation of Christ in Art. Secular Art. Symbolism.

A Solidus

G: Byzantium and Islam Face the West
Class 23 Eastern Christendom after the Crusades lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Comeneni. Russia. The Crusades. 1204. The Paleologoi. Palamism. The Turks. End of Constantinople. Survival of Orthodoxy.

Muslim Armies

Class 24 Islam Resurgent: The Ayyubbids, The Mamelukes and the Ottomans
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Arabs and Turks. Saladin. The Mongols. Sultan Baibers. Ein Jalut. The Mamelukes. Anatolia becomes Turkey. The Ottomans. Closing of the East to Europe.


H: The Later Middles Ages

The Angel of Death

Class 25 Catastrophe? The Black Death and its Results
lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: Late medieval economy, The Black Death, Population effects, economic effects. Popular religion. Indulgences. Elaboration. Images of death. The Hierarchical Church. New heresies.
Class 26 Political and Cultural Developments after the Black Death lecture notes Assigned Reading: Topics: The Empire. France and England. 1453- Fall of Constantinople, 1485- Bosworth Field, 1492- America, The Renaissance. The Reformation. The Treaty of Westphalia 1648?

Class Schedule



Week 1 1/13 First Class 1/16
Week 2 1/19 MLK - No Class 1/23
Week 3 1/26 1/30 Paper and WWW Topic due
Week 4 2/3 2/6
Week 5 2/10 2/13
Week 6 2/17 Monday Schedule - No Class 2/20 Annotated Bibliography due
Week 7 2/24 Midterm Exam 2/27 
Week 8 3/3 3/6
Week 9 3/10 WWW project due 3/13
Week 10 3/17 3/20 Paper Thesis and Outline due
Week 11 3/24 3/27
Week 12 3/31 4/3 Paper Due
Week14 4/7 4/10 Good Friday - No Class
Week 15 4/14 Easter Monday - No Class 4/17
Week 16 4/21  4/24
Week 17 4/28 Last Class 4/29-30 Reading Days
Week 18 May 1-8 Finals Week  

The Web is so vast now that it contains more, and more diverse information, than any single printed source. This availability of information will only increase and is a truly splendid new tool to help in your research. To use the Web efficiently, the various search engines are essential. These now come in two forms: Limited Area Search Engines [LASE] and Wide Area Search Engines [WASE].
In either case it is important to form your query words as clearly as possible. For instance, if you are interested in finding information on a particular musician, do not search for "music", but for a style [eg "jazz" or "gregorian chant"] or even a name ["abba", "charlie parker", "hildegard"].
Limited Area Search Engines
  • The ARGOS Search Engine
    ARGOS is Limited Area Search Engine which only returns information on Ancient, Byzantine and Medieval documents/sites on the Internet. The search area is determined by a board of associates and is based on some the of the best-maintained links pages on the web. The Medieval/Byzantium links collection associated with this page is one of the associate sites. Input your search words below, and hit ENTER.
ARGOS Limited Area Search of the Ancient World
  • The HIPPIAS Search Engine
    HIPPIAS is Limited Area Search Engine which only returns information on philosophy resources on the net. Input your search words below, and hit ENTER.
HIPPIAS Limited Area Search of Philosophy on the Web
Wide Area Search Engines
Here are links to the best "wide area" search engines on the Web. Yahoo is best, I think, if you are looking for specialized websites. Lycos, Excite, and Hotbot all index many more documents. These engines will always turn up more references, but far more will be dross than with Yahoo. It is useful to start with Yahoo since it has a nice feature - once it tells you everything that it has found, it will automatically plug you in to the other search engines.
As the WWW has grown these wide area engines have become more difficult to use. Searching for "Plato" for instance, will return more "hits" than one could possibly read in a lifetime. For this reason it is best to start searches for Byzantine and Medieval subjects with the "limited area" ARGOS search engine.
The author and maintainer of this site is Paul Halsall [a picture!] . He can be contacted by email at

Please do not hesitate to mail comments or suggestions.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 3 May 2024 [CV]