MA Medieval & Renaissance Studies

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The Medieval Papacy


Credits: 15

Module Tutor: Professor David d'Avray

As the Victorian Protestant historian Macaulay wrote in his purple prose, 'That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains.' It is true that only the papacy, among medieval governments, had a continuous history throughout the whole period, affected every part of Europe, and remains a major factor in world history. This module aims to uncover some of the long-term structures that developed in late antiquity, acquired enormous strength in the central medieval period, underwent tremendous strain in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, and survived to play a global role. The methodology combines longue durée analysis in the Annales tradition with frameworks of interpretation borrowed from Social Anthropology. Students without Latin are admitted to the course on the understanding that they are taking intensive Beginners Latin and will be capable of working with texts in the original by the end of the second term. Students taking 'Manuscripts and Documents' will be encouraged to do their coursework essay on manuscript sources. The module aims to provide a sense of the medieval period as a whole, especially in its religious aspects, while engaging with primary sources. It is a good preparation for future university teachers of medieval history who have hitherto studied only a section of the period and who would otherwise find themselves out of their depth in some of the centuries they will have to teach.

Assessment for MDVLGH10A: 1 X 3,000 word essay

Preparatory reading: Students might like to prepare for the module before the beginning of the academic year by reading one or more of the following: G. Barraclough, The Medieval Papacy (1968), J. Lynch, The Medieval Church: a brief History (1992), and R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (1990).

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