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Seminar Questions - The Medieval World 1200 - 1500 (HI127)

Term 1

1. Feudalism

  • What are the defining characteristics of feudalism?
  • ‘Regional differences in medieval society were so marked that the whole concept of feudalism is meaningless’. Discuss.
  • How do you account for the decline of feudalism in the later middle ages?

2. The Manor

  • What was the role of the manor in the medieval economy?
  • Why did the manorial system begin to break down in the later middle ages?
  • To what extent was manorialism responsible for the English Rising of 1381?

3. The Economy of Europe before 1350

  • Why were some areas of medieval Europe more urbanised than others?
  • In what sense was there a commercial revolution in the thirteenth century?

4. The Economy of Europe 1350-1500

  • ‘The impact of the Black Death has been greatly exaggerated’. Discuss.
  • ‘For those who survived, the fourteenth-century crisis was a blessing in disguise’. Discuss.
  • In what sense was the Renaissance economy depressed?

5. The Church before 1300

  • Did the papal reform programme succeed in increasing the power of the papacy?
  • How effective were the church’s attempts to combat heresy c.1200?
  • In what sense did the friars represent a departure from tradition, and why might they be seen as ‘a product of their time’?
Term 2

6. The Church 1300-1500

  • Why did the Great Schism last so long?
  • How serious a challenge did calls for reform pose to the papacy in the fifteenth century?

7. Women and the Family

  • How restricted was the role of women in medieval society?
  • How and why did attitudes towards marriage change in the middle ages?
  • Was there any place for affection in medieval family life?

8. The Twelfth-Century Renaissance

  • In what sense was there a Twelfth-Century Renaissance?
  • Is the vernacular culture of the twelfth century more important than the Latin culture?

9. The Italian Renaissance

  • Why was there a revival of antiquity in the Italian states between 1250 and 1500?
  • ‘The importance of Florence in the development of the Italian Renaissance has been exaggerated’. Discuss.

10. Government and Warfare

  • Is it accurate to describe medieval Europe as ‘a society organised for war’?
  • Why were the English successful for so long in the Hundred Years War?
  • ‘For the monarchies of France and England the period 1450-1500 was one of recovery and consolidation rather than of innovation’. Discuss.
Term 3

11. The Crusades

  • Were the motives of the crusaders primarily religious or economic?
  • Why were the later crusades so much less successful than the first?

12. Europe and the Wider World

  • How far were contacts between Medieval Europe and the North Atlantic fact and how far were they fantasy?
  • How far were contacts between Medieval Europe and Asia fact and how far were they fantasy?