Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2019/2020

Learning outcomes

Aim of this discipline is to bring students to the knowledge and comprehension of those political, institutional, social, and cultural phenomena which led to the construction of the special identity of Medieval Europe and of its cultural heritage.

Students will learn to understand the principal political-institutional and socio-cultural processes of the Medieval Age; to critically analyze their impact on European civilization in the long period; to apply these elements to the analysis of written sources and to the problems of the preservation and valorization of the material (documental, iconographic and monumental) patrimony. 

Course contents

1) (4 h.) Methodology of historical research. The concepts of source and document. Schools of historiography. The problem of periodization. The main collections of sources.The new History.

2) (12 h.) General introduction to the history of the Middle Ages: institutions, society, culture. The end of the ancient world. Christianization of the Empire and Migrations of nomadic populations: acculturation processes and beginning of the roman-Germanic kingdoms. The Early and High Middle Ages.

Lombards and Franks: society, institutions, mentality. Western Europe, Byzantium and Islam.The forming of ethnic and cultural identities in the Middle Ages. Ancient Heritage, Christianization, Germanic culture.

The Carolingian and Ottonian Empire.Feudality and Signoria. Cavalry. Rural society from High to Lower Middle Age. 

3) (14 h.) The Low Middle Ages. The demographic and economic rebirth of the eleventh century. Universality and particularism in the Medieval society. .Man and community. Clan, family structures, classes, guilds. Social terminology. The discovery of the individual.

Papacy and Empire.Ecclesiastical institutions and Church reform.

Urban society: social-economical and political-institutional dynamics. Strangers, habitatores and cives. Comune and Signoria.

 Christendom and Islam. Pilgrimages, Missions, holy War and Crusades.

The 14th century crisis: demographical, economical, social, and cultural aspects.

Western European kingdoms and the formation of the Modern state. Regional states in Italy.

The new horizons: geographical discoveries and commercial routes.Humanism and Renaissance.

4) (10 h.) Climate and history. Climate change in the Middle Ages

Work and technique in the Middle Ages.

Some in-depth analysis on themes of social and cultural history: the artisan-artist in the Middle Ages; the infamous painting; the dance of Death in the iconography. 

The color in the Middle Ages: techniques and symbolism.

The transmission of knowledge. Lapidaries and bestiaries in the Middle Ages.Structuring the historical memory and the culturale heritage: archives, libraries, museums.

 Case studies: 1) (8 h.) Art and society. European cathedrals. Artistic commissions; political iconography and religious mentality; 2) (8 h.) Materials and construction techniques in the Middle Ages.  Re-interpretation and re-use of the antiquity in the Middle Ages, in the nineteenth century and in the contemporary age.Medievalism and the invention of the Middle Ages.



Students must study :

1) Medieval history handbook of A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, 2016.

2) one of the following books:

a) M. Bacci, Lo spazio dell'anima: vita di una chiesa medievale , Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2005

b) M. Pastoureau, Medioevo simbolico, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2007;

c) J. Baschet, L'iconographie médiévale, Paris, Gallimard, 2008; Italian translation, L'iconografia medievale, Milano, Jaca Book, 2014;

d) C. Tosco, Il castello, la casa, la chiesa: architettura e società nel Medioevo, Torino, Einaudi, 2003;

e) P. Grillo, Nascita di una cattedrale. 1386-1418: la fondazione del Duomo di Milano, Mondadori, 2017

f) R. Bordone, Lo specchio di Shalott: l'invenzione del Medioevo nella cultura dell'Ottocento, Napoli, Liguori, 1993;

g) essays selected with the teacher from: Arti e storia nel Medioevo, a cura di E. Castelnuovo e G. Sergi, vol. I-IV, Torino, Einaudi, 2002-2004;

or a different book chosen with the teacher.

or another reading agreed with the teacher in connection with the topic chosen for the paper.


Teaching methods

Frontal lessons during which various historical sources will be presented and discussed (sources will be made available in Italian translation, by the teacher or on the web), together with the related literature.

Assessment methods

At the beginning of the course there will be an entrance test to verify the initial knowledge and skills of the students attending. An intermediate test, given after half of course, will allow the learning process to be monitored.

The final exam will take place after the end of the lessons. It will be oral, and made of three principal questions.The students will present, before the exam, a paper (approximately ten pages) on a topic agreed with the professor. The paper must be submitted before the exam, and should contain a list of the principal sources and bibliography used. The paper discussion will be considered as one of the three questions of the final test. Instructions on writing the essay are posted on the teacher's website (https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/raffaele.savigni/contenuti-utili).

The final evaluation will be determined also by class participation, i.e. by interventions and questions of the student during the lessons, as well as attendance to seminars, conferences, and lectures about Middle Ages organized or suggested by the teacher.

The student, to pass the examination, must prove his knowledge of the principal topics of the course, his ability to identify the principal socio-economic, cultural and institutional processes of the Middle Ages, and his awareness of the characteristics of a number of medieval sources, that he has to use and discuss critically (at least in their Italian translation). The list of sources, provided in class by the teacher, is available at https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23553 .

To obtain high marks, students should demonstrate good knowledge of specific vocabulary (in Latin too, if necessary); ability to easily move through different topics and sources, and to connect them logically; ability to critically compare different sources on the same topic.

Students unable to describe the principal topics, or to correctly place in space and time major historical events, will not pass the examination.

Minimum requirement to pass the exam is the generic knowledge of principal topics (even without use of appropriate vocabulary).



Teaching tools

During frontal lessons, students will be guided by the teacher through the reading and discussion of written sources, and towards a selective use of the web for scientific purposes.

The teacher will use different sources from different typologies (all of them will be translated during classes), part of which are available on the net (especially at https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23553 ). A guided visit to a library, or an archive, will be planned to provide a more direct approach to primary sources and to he problems of their conservation.


Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Raffaele Savigni