94410 - History and Culture of European Cities

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Rosa Smurra
  • Credits: 4
  • SSD: M-STO/01
  • Language: English
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Expert in Social and Cultural Education (cod. 5726)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students: - understand the meaning of urban communities through the transformations that have taken place over time; - get a comparative view between Italian and European cities through specific examples; - are able how to make use of satellite images of urban settlements to identify the phases of their development from Ancient times to the present day; - recognise the reasons for the formation of the cultural identity of Europe and the connective tissue of which cities are an important part.

Course contents

B1 level of English is required.

Medieval towns and cities as centres of high learning

The emergence and development of centres of high learning is one of the most important cultural ‘invention’ of the Middle Ages, when traditional places of learning, such as monastic and cathedral schools, where challenged by new educational institutions, i.e. the universities.

The oldest universities (Bologna and Paris) arose in the context of the twelfth -century ‘renaissance’, a period of remarkable cultural, intellectual and institutional achievements, however, in the following centuries, more universities were founded in other towns and cities across Europe, such as Padua, Orlèans, Cambridge, Oxford, Salamanca, Montpellier, Praga, Cracow etc.

These institutions of higher education played a key role both in generating the economic development of medieval Europe and new educational contents. The high demand for textbooks, commentaries and reference works, as an example, had a major impact on the book trade.

The classes, which start in the second semester, focuse on the changes occurred in urban communities in connections with the birth of universities that drew students from a broad geographical territory and employed a plurality of masters.


de Ridder-Symoens, Hilde, ed. A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1, Universities in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003 (chapters 2 and 7)

Smurra, Rosa, Women’s Contribution to Manuscript Textbook Production in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Bologna, in: Women in Print 1 Design and Identities, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2022, pp. 9 - 31

Smurra, Rosa, Women in the medieval university: a reappraisal of the life and myth of Bolognese Novella d’Andrea from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, «KLIO», 2023, 67, pp. 33 - 50

Teaching methods

Teaching is by a combination of class lectures, seminars and visits to historical places of high learning in Bologna and (virtually) elsewhere.

Assessment methods

Final exam will evaluate the student's ability to explain and discuss critically the facts and analytical questions examined during the class lectures and in the bibliography.

Teaching tools

A selection of sources, such as university statutes and narrative accounts, discussed in the class lectures will be available online at https://iol.unibo.it/?lang=en

Office hours

See the website of Rosa Smurra


Quality education Sustainable cities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.