UNIVERSITY HIST J400
EARLY MIDDLE AGES
Office: Ballantine Hall 708
Office hours: Wed. 1:30-3:30 or by appointment
Between AD 33 and 1400, the people of Europe gradually converted from a variety of other religions to Christianity. In this course, we will consider the (scanty) evidence for pre-Christian religions and the narratives of conversion for each region of Europe, focusing on the post-Roman period (i.e. after AD 400). We will critically read both primary sources and secondary literature, and we will also consider archaeological evidence, in order to understand what can be learned about these topics.
There is one main textbook for the semester, which is available for purchase at the IU Bookstore and on reserve in the main library:
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity (University of California Press, 1999).
Other readings are assigned on the weekly course schedule, and will be accessible via the online syllabus, found via Oncourse or directly at:
A full bibliography , with complete references for the readings and additional works of interest, can be found here.
Note that several of the readings are copy-right protected, and you must use a password to see them. The username and password are on the written syllabus, and on Oncourse under Announcements.
The course will require weekly readings and short exercises on primary sources, participation in discussion sections, and a midterm and final exam.
|Attendance and participation in discussion||20%|
|Weekly written assignments (as below)||15%|
|Bibliography (due Feb. 16)||5%|
|Thesis sentence (due Mar. 23)||5%|
|Rough draft (due Apr. 1)||5%|
| Peer review of drafts
(due Apr. 8)
Attendance will be taken in every class. Participation means having done the assigned reading for the day, having formed opinions about it based on the set discussion question for the day, and taking part in discussion. Your grade for this component will be based on your attendance percentage, modified by your participation. Thus, if you have 100% attendance but never talk, you will earn a B-; if you have 87% attendance but contribute frequently and usefully to the class, you will earn an A- or A, and so on.
For each class there will be an assigned discussion question based on the readings; in some cases these will be related to your research paper. You are to write a short one-page (double-spaced, 1" margins, 12-point font) response to the question. These will be graded with check/check-minus/F. You may miss up to 4 of them; I suggest that you save these in case you are sick or have some other emergency. Your grade for this component of the class will be based on your turning in the correct number of papers, and performing satisfactorily on a majority of them.
Each student will present one book report on a scholarly book. The books are listed by date on the syllabus, and there is a list at the end of the syllabus. Your book report should take no more than 10 minutes (practice! and be concise). In it you should briefly explain (a) what the subject and thesis of the book are; (b) what primary sources the author uses in the book; and (c) whether you found it informative and convincing. THERE IS NO WRITTEN COMPONENT TO THIS ASSIGNMENT.
Your research paper should be 15-20 pages (12-point font, double spaced, 1" margins), and will be on a topic of your choice. A list of suggested topics can be found at the end of the syllabus, and it is strongly suggested that you choose one of them; if you wish to write on something else, you must discuss it with me.
Paper topics must be officially declared in writing on Feb. 2 (just a brief one-sentence statement about what you are going to research). A preliminary bibliography is due in writing, in class on Feb. 16. A preliminary thesis sentence (which presumes that you have already read many of the items on your bibliography) is due in writing, in class on Mar. 23.
A rough draft of your paper, of at least 8 pages, is due in electronic and in hard copy on April 1. You will be assigned the drafts of two other students in the class, to critique. Your written, 1-page, critiques of these two drafts will be due in class on April 8.
During the last two weeks of class, each student will give a short (10-12 minute) presentation of the material that will be covered in your paper. The dates will be assigned on Feb. 4, based on the topics of the papers. It is strongly suggested that your paper be finished by the date of your presentation. Your presentation will be graded on how clearly you explain the topic of your paper, whether you use appropriate visual aids (diagrams, transparencies, etc.), whether you stick to the time limit, and how well you answer questions.
The International Medieval Bibliography (IMB Online) is an essential resource for research on medieval topics (but does not include books). It can be accessed online through the IU Libraries webpage at:
Another excellent online bibliography (that includes books), the Regesta Imperii, is maintained by the University of Mainz:
The History Department has set up an extremely useful webpage about writing research papers for J400 classes; it can be found at:
Finally, a group of scholars headed by Nora Berend have set up a website on "Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy", to go along with their book of the same title. It contains a lot of information on the regions of Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe, and can be found at:
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Suggested Term paper topics
A good term paper should use primary sources, plus any and all secondary sources that have been written about the topic. While reading the secondary sources, you may well find references to more primary sources. Some of these may not be translated into English; if you have questions, ask!
Your paper should offer a detailed account of a particular issue, framed around a question and a thesis. Do not simply write on "St. Boniface," for example, but find a question about St. Boniface to which you would like to know the answer.
You may frame your question around a single individual, object, or text; or you may instead ask a more general question. Some examples of the former are:
The burials under Cologne Cathedral (Franks)
The Franks Casket (Anglo-Saxon England)
The Sutton Hoo Mound 1 burial (Anglo-Saxon England)
The Gosforth Cross (England/Vikings)
St. Bridgit (Ireland)
St. Patrick/Palladius (Ireland)
The "Zbruch/Zbrucz Idol" (Russia)
The Khazar conversion to Judaism
Svarog (Slavic god)
The Crown of St. Stephen (Hungary)
St. Adalbert of Prague (Hungary, Poland)
Adam of Bremen's descriptions of pagans
Here are some more general topics (but you need to make sure that you can use primary sources):
The transition from adult to infant baptism
The conversion of slaves
Women and conversion (pick some particular aspect)
Marriage between Christians and non-Christians
Religious justifications for violence against pagans/apostates
Eastern vs. Western Christianity (pick one region: Slavs, Bulgaria, Livonia)
Missionaries to the Muslims
Pagan attacks as "God's punishment" [Vikings, Magyars]
Pagan reactions to conversion (choose Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, or compare)
Conversion of Jews to Christianity
Conversion of Christians to Islam
Magic and Christianity/paganism
Or, you can pick something else that interests you, or ask me to help you figure something out.