Teaching: Past Courses
HIST 105: Henri Pirenne and the End of Antiquity (section of History Matters)
Professor Bonnie Effros
In this module, our group will engage with Henri Pirenne’s theory (1937) as to how Roman antiquity “fell” and what this meant for the birth of what we call the Middle Ages. We will examine the significance of this distant event for this Belgian historian and former German prisoner of war, and what he felt an understanding of the Roman empire and its successor states meant for the modern history of Europe.
Hist 115: Religion, Politics, and Society, c. 800-c. 1600
Professor Damien Kempf (Module Convenor)
This module covers a period of crucial significance for European history, in which the fundamental contours of western society were drawn. Much of it will be unfamiliar to many of you, but, we hope, will be all the more interesting for that reason. At its broadest, this module covers more than a millennium, from the rise of Christianity to the discovery and settlement of the ‘New World’. We start with the fall of the Roman Empire, moving on to the rise of new kingdoms, the settlements of Vikings, the crusades, the emergence of new forms of belief (some tolerated and others condemned as ‘heresy’), the evolving role of the papacy, the political conflicts between the nascent states, the Reformation and European activities in the New World. Underlying these events are some constant themes, consequent on the great changes in religious belief at the beginning of our period. Thus we will examine how the Christian Church became established, how notions of holiness developed and changed, and how religious belief fundamentally affected methods of education, ideas of difference and deviance, responses to natural disasters, and the practice of, and ideology behind, political activity and war. We will think about other cultural dynamics and, throughout, we will aim to give you an appreciation of world-views and of methods of representation based on the mental horizons possible in the age before modern technology. You will approach these themes and issues through a wide range of primary sources and secondary reading, and will produce written work as well as debating and discussing aspects of the material in detail in seminars.
Hist 368: Conversion in Late Antiuqity
Professor Bonnie Effros
A key way in which the work of historians has changed between the 1960s and the present, influenced in large part by the Annales school, is the shift from focus from the history of elites like kings and emperors to a discussion of broad cultural and religious traditions, which give insight into the personal experience of a broad swath of the medieval population. This development has meant relying upon sources that were once thought to be unreliable because of their religious and often supernatural content, including hagiography (saints’ lives), visionary accounts, and material evidence (whether art historical or archaeological).
Of particular interest in this context is the experience of conversion in late antiquity and the early middle ages, since it allows us to examine interfaith relations between pagan, Christian, and Jewish communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe at a crucial period of transition between the Roman empire and its successor Germanic kingdoms. In this module, we will discuss attitudes toward sycnretism (blending of religious beliefs), proselytism (missionary work), interfaith relations (including religious intolerance, forced conversions, and martyrdom), and the afterlife in the period between 200 and 800 CE. In the second part of the course, we will follow the spread of Christianity, its institutionalization within the borders of the Roman empire, and its impact on newer arrivals who entered its frontiers as pagans, heretics and Nicene Catholics. We will end by discussing monasticism and missions, ideology and religious intolerance between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and the problems of primary sources in dealing with these issues.
HIST585: History and History-Writing in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Prof. Bonnie Effros (Module Convenor)