93590 - History of the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Raffaele Savigni

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-STO/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Ravenna

  • Degree Programme First cycle degree programme (L) in Mediterranean Societies and Cultures: Institutions, Security, Environment (cod. 5696)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


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

Quality education Reduced inequalities Climate Action Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The discipline aims to provide instruments for a better knowledge of political, institutional, economic, social, and cultural phenomena of Medieval Europe, focusing on the Mediterranean countries in their relation with Islamic and Byzantine worlds (before the emergence of the ‘new’ Atlantic space). At the end of the course students will be able (1) to understand the process of formation of the Medieval civilizations and of its monumental and documental heritage; (2) to identify which factors modified the geopolitical role of the Mediterranean countries, and shaped the conservation of their archaeological, artistic and literary/documental heritage; (3) to critically and independently approach the study of new topics, using the instruments of knowledge acquired during the course.

Course contents

Introduction. The idea of Middle Ages, and the issue of periodization. What's a source, main typologies of sources. Collection of sources and dedicated websites.
The crisis of the ancient world.
Migrations of nomadic populations, Roman-Germanic Kingdoms.
Lombards and Franks: society, institutions, mentality.
Byzantines, Arabs and Islam in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Slavs and the Byzantine Commonwealth.
The role of the Church and of monasticism in the formation of medieval civilization.
The Carolingian and Ottonian Empire.Papacy and Empire.
Feudality, Lordship and "incastellamento". Economic renaissance of the 11th century.
Environment, climate and history. Climate change in the Middle Ages.

The ecclesiastical reform of the 11th century. Monks and friars, the New religious Orders.

The Normans. Turks and Mongols. The Crusades.
From the ancient city to the “Comune”: economy, political organization, culture.
Trade and navigation in the Mediterranean. The Maritime Republics.
Merchants and pilgrims.
Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese in the Mediterranean.
Venetian and Genoese expansion in the East.
The kingdoms of France, England and Spain.
The fourteenth century. The black Plague. The Hundred Years War.
The fall of the Byzantine Empire and the birth of the Ottoman Empire.
Humanism and the Renaissance. The arrival of Greek-speaking intellectuals in the West.
Case study: the Adriatic space and the Balkans in the Middle Ages.


1) Textbook: L. Tanzini-F.P. Tocco, Un Medioevo mediterraneo. Mille anni tra Oriente e Occidente, Roma, Carocci, 2020 (except pp. 75-87, 203-206, 351-358).

2) the sources analyzed during the lessons and an reading chosen from the following:

E. Orlando, Le repubbliche marinare, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2021;

A. Musarra, Medioevo marinaro. Prendere il mare nell'Italia medievale, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2021

G. Spallacci, I commerci adriatici e mediterranei di Ancona nel XV secolo, Bologna, Clueb, 2020, pp. 13-238

In addition, non-attending students must bring:

D. Abulafia, Il grande mare, Milano, Mondadori, pp. 222-392 (part II, ch. 10; part III; part IV, ch. I-II); or another text chosen from those indicated above or a different one chosen with the teacher

Teaching methods

Front lessons with reading and analysis of various textual sources (provided by the teacher or available on the web; Latin sources are provided with Italian translations), discussion of critical literature, and constant e-learning communication.

Assessment methods

An entry written and unmarked test will be held at the beginning of the course, to verify initial knowledge and skills of the students.

Participation of students with question or intervention in class or in the forum will be considered for the final mark, as well as attendance to seminars or conferences and lectures about Middle Ages organized or suggested by the teacher.

Final test consists in oral examination. In order to pass the exam, students are requested to:

  • show understanding of the principal topics of the course
  • identify the principal social-economical, cultural and institutional transformations of the 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 high marks, students are requested to:

  • have a good knowledge of the specific vocabulary (Italian and Latin)
  • easily connect different topics and sources using the appropriate knowledge
  • critically confront different sources on the same topic.

If a student appears not to be able to move through the principal topics, 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. An (at least) generical knowledge of the principal topics, 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 end of the course.

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


Teaching tools

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

Professor will refer to and explain sources from different typologies (all analyzed and translated during classes), partly available on the net (especially at www.retimedievali.it).
Lessons will be frontal, with interactive sessions, and with use of e-learning material. Students are also required to participate in interactive teaching by enrolling on the e-learning page of the course.

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

Office hours

See the website of Raffaele Savigni