Department of History


Professor: Dr. Florin Curta

Office: 202 Keene-Flint Hall

Office hours: WF 1:00-2:00, or by appointment

Phone: (352) 273-3367


Class will meet in Flint 119 on  MWF between 9:35 and 10:25
   2009 archaeological summer school in Pohansko

Glagolitic inscription (Baska Tablet), late eleventh century


Fall 2008

Course description

    The medieval history of Eastern Europe is poorly represented in today's scholarly work published in English. Scholarly interest in Eastern Europe focuses especially on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the period of nationalism. The medieval history of the area is given comparatively less attention, which often amounts to slightly more than total neglect. For most students in medieval studies, Eastern Europe is marginal and East European topics simply exotica. One reason for this reticence to engage in serious research in that area may be the uneasiness to treat its medieval history as (Western) European history. When peoples of Eastern Europe come up in works on the medieval history of Europe, they are usually the marginalized, the victims, or the stubborn pagans. To many historians, they appear only as the object of the conquest and colonization that shaped medieval Europe and their role is restricted to that of victims of the "occidentation," the shift towards the ways and norms of Romano-Germanic civilization. The conceptual division of Europe leaves Slavs, Magyars, and Romanians out of the main "core" of European history, though not too far from its advancing frontiers of "progress" and "civilization." Who were those peoples? What made them so difficult to represent by the traditional means of Western historiography? What historical circumstances separate the Western from the Eastern half of the European continent? What social structures and political institutions were responsible for the specific developments in the medieval history of the area? How were ethnicities formed in that region and under what circumstances did the ethnic groups come into being? Above all, this course aims to answer some of these questions. Since it is impossible to get more than a taste of the subject in a semester, we will concentrate on major problems, such as the search for political, economic and religious stability/power, the interaction of secular and religious forces, the influence of the Byzantine, Carolingian, and Ottonian empires in Eastern Europe, the role of the region in the medieval history of the Continent. Following a chronological order, we will look, each week, at the questions and problems raised by the study of this region, and at some of the primary sources from which historians draw their analysis.


NOTE: It is essential that you read the assigned sections in the books ahead, i.e., before the time they are due in class. Class meetings will be organized around a lecture/discussion format and your weekly assignments  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 a reading journal and five in-class assignments. Below is a detailed description of these assignments and the corresponding percentages of your final grade. Extra-credit work will be accepted only for students with active participation in class discussions. If necessary, I will explain the format of the extra-credit option during regular office hours. You are otherwise encouraged to keep in touch with me by e-mail, if you have any questions: I check my mailbox regularly, and promise to answer quickly.

Reading journal. A quick glimpse at the list of weekly topics (see below) will no doubt convince you that this is a course with serious readings. You will be expected to digest a substantial amount of information in a fairly short period of time. The best way to do this is to keep a journal. Before every class meeting, you will post an e-mail message on my address (on top of this syllabus), in which you will discuss briefly the readings for the coming meeting, ask questions and/or make comments, raise issues that need clarification, etc. All e-mails should arrive at least 12 hours before class meetings. Be sure to keep your postings to a reasonable length (175 to 250 words long). I do not want you to spend too much time on them, but I expect you to give an articulate presentation of your thoughts. Needless to say, I also expect you to check on correct grammar and spelling before clicking on "Send." Because the journal is designed to demonstrate your efforts towards an initial understanding of the readings, I must have in time one report for each class meeting, every week. The reading journal represents seventy percent of your final grade, 1.6% for each entry. I will send written feed-back (via e-mail) on weekly entries midway through the term. Reading reports cannot be made up; you simply need to have a journal entry for every class meeting. Be aware that missed reports may result in a substantially lower grade.

In-class assignments. The remaining thirty percent of your final grade will be based on five short assignments in class. All five will consist of multiple-choice, map, matching, short-essay questions, or a combination thereof. Besides material covered in class lectures, the in-class assignments will focus primarily on primary source readings from the Pack and the Internet  Medieval Sourcebook.  A careful study of these texts is necessary for a good performance at the test. Because in-class assignments are announced, I do not intend to grant any make-ups, except for emergencies (e.g., illness), in which case I may ask for official justification.

Grades. The following scale will be used in determining your final grade

Percentage Grades
93-100 A
85-92 B+
75-84 B
65-74 C+
55-64 C
45-54 D+
35-44 D
under 34 E



Week 1 (August 15-29): What is Eastern Europe?
Week 2 (September 1-5): East European Dark Ages
Week 3 (September 8-12): Early medieval Balkans
Week 4 (September 15-19): The West in the East. In-class assignment #1
Week 5 (September 22-26): "Steppe empires"
Week 6 (September 29-October 3): Conversion to Christianity
Week 7 (October 6-10): The "iron century." In-class assignment #2
Week 8 (October 13-17): Early medieval Russia
Week 9 (October 20-24): Byzantium and the Balkans
Week 10 (October 27-31): New powers (I)
Week 11 (November 3-7): New powers (II). 
In-class assignment #3
Week 12 (November 10-14): Economy and society
Week 13 (November 17-21): Catholicism and Orthodoxy. In-class assignment #4
Week 14 (November 24-28): Crusades in Eastern Europe
Week 15 (December 1-5): The Balkans and the Mongols. In-class assignment #5
Week 16 (December 8-12): Late medieval or early modern?

© 2008 Florin Curta; the Zvonimir relief from Split is from Croatia Net