11379 - Medieval History

Course Unit Page


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

Gender equality Decent work and economic growth Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The discipline aims to educate students to know and comprehend the political, institutional, social, and cultural phenomena, which led to the construction of the special identity of Medieval Europe and of its documental and monumental patrimony.

Students will learn to understand the principal political-institutional and socio-cultural processes of the Medieval Age (in their essential lines); to critically analyse the impact on European civilization of these processes, in the long period; to apply these elements to the analysis of written sources and to the problems of the preservation and valorisation of the material patrimony, both documental and monumental) patrimony; to synthesize the methodological contents of a scientific historical paper, and to present the results of a research; to approach the study of new topics on the basis of the knowledge acquired during the course.

Course contents

A) 1st Learning module (6 credits), taught by Professor R. Savigni:

1) (2 h.) Introduction, The idea of Middle Ages and the issue of periodization. What's a source, and main typologies of sources. Collection of sources and specific websites.  

2) (18 h.) High Middle Ages. Migrations of nomadic populations, Roman-Germanic Kingdoms.

Lombards and Franks: society, institutions, mentality.

Arabs and Islam in the Mediterranean Sea.Byzantium and iconoclasm.

The role of the Church and of monasticism in the formation of medieval civilization.Cyril and Methodius and the Christianization of the Slavs.

The Carolingian and Ottonian Empire.

Feudality, Lordship and "incastellamento".

Papacy and Empire. The ecclesiastical reform of the 11th century.

Environment, climate and history. Climate change in the Middle Ages.

3) Case Study (5 h.) : the construction of ethnic and cultural identities in the Middle Ages. Religious conversion and acculturation. The myths of the origins of nations and cities. Otherness and minorities in the Middle Ages. Islam, Jews and heretics. "Racism" and "colonialism" in the Middle Ages?.

4)    Second case Study (5 h): Our relationship with the past. Historical memory and cultural heritage. Medievalism. The reuse of buildings. Images and statues between religion and politics.

Laerning Module B

The second learning module focuses on the analysis of some fundamental themes of the late medieval civilization (18 h)

  • The Normans
  • Civitas and Municipality
  • The Signoria
  • The New Orders; Heresies, Inquisition and witchcraft
  • The 14th century; the Avignon papacy; the Hundred Years War
  • 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.

A specific part of the lecture investigates two themes:

  • The first focus on some female figures: Dhuoda, Matilde of Canossa, Catherin of Siena, Christine de Pizan, Margherita Datini, Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi (6 h):
  • The second focus on the siege techniques (6 h)



A) 1st Learning module:

1)Textbook: A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, new edition, 2021, or in special cases (foreign students) another manual agreed with the teacher.

2) Sources analyzed during the lessons by the teacher and apublished on Virtuale;

3) a reading chosen from the following:

Statue. Rituali, scienza e magia dalla Tarda Antichità al Rinascimento, a cura di L. Canetti, Firenze, Sismel-edizioni del Galluzzo 2017 (only the essays of Savigni, Bacci, Vanoli) and R. Savigni, Volto Santo di Sansepolcro e Volto Santo di Lucca: due statue lignee di Cristo ed un falso documento ritenuto autentico. Per un corretto dialogo tra discipline diverse, in Verità e menzogna nel falso.Truth and Lies in Fakes and Forgeries, a cura di G. Garzia, C. Matteucci, M. Vandini, Bologna, Bononia University Press, 2018, pp. 119-141

J. Flori, La guerra santa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2003, pp. 137-281;

A. Vanoli, La reconquista, Bologna, Il Mulino;

M. Montesano, Ai margini del Medioevo. Storia culturale dell’alterità, Roma, Carocci, 2021 (cap. 1-6).

P. Geary, Il mito delle nazioni. Le origini medievali dell'Europa, Roma, Carocci, 2016

If needed, students may do a preliminary basic training the medieval section of a history manual of upper secondary schools (p. e. R. Balzani-A. Chiavistelli-R. Savigni, L'argomentazione storica, La Nuova Italia-Rizzoli education 2018), and may use the discussion forum to ask questions to teachers.

Non-attending students must also bring a book of their choice between:

C.Azzara, Le invasioni barbariche, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2007

A. Barbero, Carlo Magno: un padre dell'Europa, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2002

G. Albertoni, L'elefante di Carlo magno. Il desiderio di un imperatore, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2020

B) 2nd Learning module: 

In addition to the medieval history handbook (A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, 2016) students are required to learn a volume chosen from those listed below:

M.G. Muzzarelli, Madri, madri mancate, quasi madri, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2021

Duccio Balestracci, Stato d’assedio. Assedianti e assediati dal Medioevo all’età moderna, Bologna, il Mulino, 2021 (the part concerning the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period)

Non-attending students must also learn a book of their choice between:

G. Grado Merlo, Frate Francesco, Bologna, il Mulino, 2017

Paolo Grillo, Le guerre del Barbarossa. I comuni contro l’imperatore, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2014

M. Montesano, Ai margini del Medioevo. Storia culturale dell’alterità, Roma, Carocci, 2021

R. Simek, I vichinghi, Bologna, il Mulino, 2020





Teaching methods

Traditional front lesson will be accompanied by the reading and analysis of various sources, provided by the teacher or available on the web (Latin sources are provided with Italian translations), by discussion of the main critical literature , and by constant e-learning communication (website https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23552).

During the course, Visits are planned to the Historical Archives of the city (Municipal and Archbishopric), and to the monuments of the city, with the aim to illustrate the method of investigation and interpretation of historical sources both written and material/iconographic.

Assessment methods

Entrance test: at the beginning of the course, to verify the initial knowledge and skills of the students attending. Mid-course test: after half of course A, to monitor the learning process.

Final test; an oral examination, about both parts. It can also be taken separately with the two professors. The final grade will be the average of the marks obtained in the two parts.
Presence showed by the student during the lessons or during discussion in the forum will be considered for the final mark, as well as partecipation to seminars or conferences and lectures about Middle Ages organized or suggested by the teacher.
In order to pass the exam, the students are requested to:

show understanding of  the principal topics of the course; 

identify the principal social-economical, cultural and istitutional transformations in Middle Ages;

critically read the sources available at the website https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23552 (at least in italian language), as well as the material indicated by the teacher.

In order to obtain a high mark, the student are requested to:

have a good knowledge of the specific vocabulary (Italian and Latin);

easly move through the different topics and sources using the appropriate links;

confront critically the different sources concerning the same topic.

If a student appears not to be able to move through the principal subjects studied and not to be able to order in time and space the most important historical events, he won't be able to succeed in the examination. A (at least) generical knowledge of the principal subjects, even without the use of an appropriate vocabulary, will be sufficient, and the student will pass.

Non-attending students are requested to contact the teacher to define the topics and the integrative readings before the conclusion of the course.

Non-attending students will be able to get a high evalutation only if they will use in a critical way the sources mentioned in the bibliographic material used, as well as they will use the suitable links between different readings and contexts, and answer to the questions with an appropriate vocabulary.

Teaching tools

Frontal lessons, critical reading of sources, and critical web use.

The Professor will use different typologies of sources (all translated during classes) partly available on the net (especially at www.retimedievali.it).
A guided visit to a Library or an Archive will provide a more direct approach to the primary sources.

Lessons will be frontal, with interactive sessions, with use of e-learning material. Students ware also required to partecipate in the interactive teaching by enrolling on the e-learning page of the course: https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23552.

Students will be able to intervene in the forum, which will represent a constant tool for dialogue with the teacher.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Raffaele Savigni

See the website of Elisa Tosi Brandi