Department of History



Professor: Dr. Florin Curta

Office: 202 Keene-Flint Hall

Office hours: W 12-2 or by appointment

Phone: 273-3367


Class will meet in Flint Hall 119 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 9:35 and 10:25

Countess Uta of Ballenstedt (Cathedral of Naumburg, painted statue, ca. 1255)


Fall 2017

Course description

The German medievalist Eckhard Müller-Mertens once wrote that he could accept only a strictly geographic definition of medieval Germany. Indeed, there was no such thing as Germany in the Middle Ages. No term in medieval German existed for what we now know as "Germany." It was only in the 1500s that the term Deutschland came to be used and the term received its nationalistic ring only in the nineteenth century. The land and the people whose medieval history is to be the subject of this course were known by a great variety of names. Most of the provinces of which modern Germany is made up were incorporated into the Frankish Empire, a process completed only during the reign of Charlemagne (768-814). In 800, Charlemagne adopted the title of "emperor of the Romans," but in the tenth century, the eastern parts of his empire came to be known as the East Frankish kingdom, united since 961 with the Lombard kingdom consisting of northern Italy and augmented by the Saxon conquests of the Slavic territories in the East, across the Elbe River. It was only during the eleventh century that the term regnum Teutonicum ("the kingdom of the Germans") came to be used. German historians have traditionally referred to the medieval history of Germany as the period of the "old empire." The medieval empire was "old" in contrast to the German Empire established in 1871. It is with this idea in mind that the Nazis called their Germany "the third empire (Reich)," after the medieval and modern one. So what was medieval Germany? What makes it so difficult to represent by the traditional means of Western historiography and so easy to manipulate in the modern political discourse? What were the historical conditions in which German kingship came to represent the earthly vicariate for Christ, the epitome of the State whose main reason to exist was to protect the Church? How were ethnic identities formed and under what circumstances did the Holy Roman (-German) Empire come into being? Above all, this course aims to provide answers to some of these questions. We will explore social and political issues of German medieval history and examine various aspects of daily life and Church organization. Following a chronological order, we will look, each week, at the questions and problems raised by the study of the entire region of Central Europe, and at some of the primary sources from which historians draw their analysis.


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 a research paper. 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 (except, of course, week 10). There are only 36 class meetings with required readings (textbook readings are indicated in brackets, followed by online readings, if any, in the weekly topic list below), so journal entries for these days represent 70 percent of your final grade, 1.9 percent for each entry.You can make up a reading report only in extraordinary circumstance such as absence due to participation in an official university activity, observance of a religious holiday, performance of a military duty, or any other conflict (e.g., jury duty), about which you know in advance of the scheduled assignment. In such cases, you are required to notify me of the conflict before the assignment is due, and if possible at the start of the semester. Be aware that missed reports may result in a substantially lower grade. For further information, consult the attendance policies of the University of Florida.

Research paper. The remaining 30 percent of your final grade will be based on a paper of approximately ten pages (with a minimum of 8 and an absolute maximum of 15 pages).  The topic of interest to you may be chosen from a variety of issues pertaining to medieval Germany that we will discuss in class (economic life, society and social structures, ministerials, Crusades, conversion to Christianity, rise and growth of towns, art and literature, costume, chivalry and Minnesang, etc.). The research paper topic is due on the day of the first class meeting of Week 10. Keep in mind that your research must include both primary and secondary sources. You can use the readings for this course, but in addition you need to have at least six sources not listed below. Your relatively complete list of sources to be used for the research paper is also due on the day of the first class meeting in Week 10. You are strongly encouraged to begin looking earlier for the material for your research paper and to consult with me as early and often as possible. Your research paper must follow the formatting and style rules of the Chicago Manual of Style. It should also follow the expectations of a good research paper, with a proper introduction, thesis, body and conclusion, well written in proper formal English with correct spelling and punctuation. A research paper also implies the proper use of footnotes documenting the sources for your facts and ideas. My recommendation is that you write a first draft, which we (you and I) can go over during my office hours. 

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

Points Grade
95-100 A
84-88 B+
79-83 B
74-78 B-
69-73 C+
64-68 C
59-63 C-
54-58 D+
under 43E


                               You must conform to UF’s academic honesty policy regarding plagiarism and other forms of cheating. The university specifically prohibits 
                                        cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation, bribery, conspiracy, and fabrication. For more information about the definition of these terms and other                                                 aspects of the Honesty Guidelines, see

                                        If found to have cheated, plagiarized, or otherwise violated the Honor Code in any assignment for this course you will be prosecuted to the full                                                         extent of the university honor policy, including judicial action and the sanctions listed in 6C1-4.047 of the Student Conduct Code. For serious                                                             violations, you will fail the course.

Students with

                                        Please do not hesitate to ask for accommodation for a documented disability. Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register                                                 with the Dean of Students Office ( The Dean of Students Office will provide documentation to the student, who must                                                 then provide this documentation to me when requesting accommodation. Please ask if you would like any assistance in this process.


 Week 1 (08/21-26):      Introduction.

 Week 2 (08/28-09/01):    Sources Week 3 (09/04-08):    Carolingian Germany Week 4 (09/11-15):   "The iron century" (882-983) Week 5 (09/18-22):       Germany under the Ottonians Week 6 (09/25-29):      Ottonian hegemony in Europe Week 7 (10/02-10/06):    Henry II and Thietmar of Merseburg: the emperor and the chronicler  Week 8 (10/09-13):    Germany under the Salian emperors  Week 9 (10/16-20):      The Investiture Controversy   Week 10 (10/23-27):    The Investiture Controversy and its long-term consequences (research paper topic and list of sources due on Monday, 10/23 Week 11 (10/30-11/03):  Twelfth-century Germany Week 12 (11/06-10):   Germany under the Staufen emperors Week 13 (11/13-17):  Land and lordship Week 14 (11/20-24):   The thirteenth-century expansion Week 15 (11/27-12/01):  A new society
 Week 16 (12/04-08): Late medieval German culture (research paper due on Wednesday, 12/06)
© 2017 Florin Curta