Department of History


Professor: Dr. Florin Curta

Office: 202 Flint Hall

Office hours: T 1:00-2:30, or by appointment

Phone: 273-3367


Class will meet T 10:40-11:30 and R 10:40-12:35 in Matherly 105


Spring 2011

2011 archaeological summer school in Ireland

Course description

    "The past is a foreign country." There is perhaps no period in history to which the words of the American historian David Lowenthal may apply better than to the Early Middle Ages. The early part makes it exotic: it is not about gallant knights, courtly love, or crusaders, all of which "happened" much later, after AD 1000. By contrast, this was a world of warriors and missionaries, though the names of Beowulf and Boniface may not be as familiar to you as those of King Arthur and Joan of Arc. Moreover, the study of the Early Middle Ages presents a number of serious challenges, especially the combination of written sources and archaeological evidence. In fact, the lack of written sources explains why some historians refer to the early Middle Ages as the Dark Ages. In this course, we will examine some of these problems and attempt to present, if not a definite picture, then at least a survey of the current knowledge on this topic. Our focus will be on social and cultural history, our approach chronological and sometimes thematic. From Huns to Vikings, we will bring some light into the study of the Dark Ages.


In addition, there will be numerous readings from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, compiled by Paul Halsall ( 

NOTE: It is essential that you read the assigned sections in the textbook(s) at the time they are due. Class meetings will be organized around a lecture/discussion format and quizzes will necessitate familiarity with the material.


There is no attendance policy, but you are responsible for attending all lectures and reading the required texts. Class participation  may be taken into account to determine the overall grade. The basis for evaluation of performance will be four quizzes and two exams (Midterm and Final). The unannounced quizzes are exclusively based on primary source readings from your Andrea and Byzantium books, as well as from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. All quizzes will consist only of questions (no essay). A careful study of these texts is necessary for a good performance at the quiz. The Midterm and Final exams will cover everything from lectures and readings. Both Midterm and Final will consist of two parts: an identification and/or multiple-choice part, and a short essay, in which you will be asked to synthesize your knowledge of the topic, dropping in facts to show that you understand the concrete aspects of that topic. Only the Midterm will be cumulative. In other words, the Final examination will cover only the material since the Midterm examination. Please review the University's academic honesty guidelines and the  Disability Resource Center checklist. Make-up Midterm and Final exam will be given for very serious reasons. There is no make-up for quizzes. Extra-credit work will be accepted only for students with active participation in class discussions. The format of the extra-credit option shall be discussed with the instructor during regular office hours. The following point-system will be used in determining the final grade:

Quizzes: 40 points
Midterm: 30 points
Final exam: 30 points
Total: 100 points


Points Grade
95-100 A
87-89 B+
81-86 B
68-74 C+
61-67 C
48-54 D+
41-47 D
under 30 E


Week 1 (January 4-7): Introduction (terminology, purpose, and methods). The Late Roman Empire.

 Week 2 (January 10-14): Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages

Week 3 (January 17-21): "Barbarians at the gates?"

  Week 4 (January24-28): Some barbarians

Week 5 (January 31-February 4): Successor states... 

Week 6 (February 7-11): The sixth century

Week 7 (February 14-18): Islam 

Week 8 (February 21-25): A case study: Spain

Week 9 (February 28-March 4): Far and not too far from the Empire

Week 10 (March 7-11): Spring break - no classes

Week 11 (March 14-18): The early medieval Church 

Week 12 (March 21-25): Western and Eastern Christianity

Week 13 (March 28-April 1): Early medieval culture and art 

Week 14 (April 4-8): New powers

Week 15 (April 11-15): The ninth century

Week 16 (April 18-20): The tenth century

Week 17 (April 25-29): Final exam week

© 2010 Florin Curta