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Major Seminars

History 201-206 seminars are open to history majors only during pre-registration. If the course does not reach its enrollment maximum, it will be open to all students beginning with drop/add on a first-come first-serve basis.

HIST 201 Renaissance and Renewal: European Intellectual History, 1000-1200


Taught as schedule allows (consult the Course Directory)


Beginning around the year 1000, a series of sweeping and interrelated events changed the face of Europe forever. Economic advances spurred population growth, renewed urban centers, and encouraged ever wider trade and travel. After a century of obsolescence, monarchs began reestablishing their political power, while the papacy embarked upon a campaign to consolidate and extend its jurisdiction throughout Latin Christendom. These social, political and religious shifts encouraged, and drew momentum from, equally dramatic advances in intellectual culture. The later eleventh and twelfth centuries saw the birth of the university, renewed interest in academic subjects like law and theology, and new directions in book production.

Understanding this period of cultural and intellectual renewal will be our project this semester. We won't attempt a comprehensive survey of high medieval intellectual history, though. Instead, we'll concentrate on three monuments of twelfth-century scholarship – the greatest achievements of the intellectual trends set in motion after the year 1000, each of which exercised an enduring influence on legal and religious thought through the early modern period. These are Gratian's 'Decretum', a systematic textbook and reference work for canon law; Peter Lombard's 'Sentences', a similar reference book for theology; and the 'Ordinary Gloss' to the Bible. We will read substantial excerpts of all three texts in translation in order to understand how scholars studied, how they thought and how they argued during the High Middle Ages. To prepare ourselves for this work, we'll start the semester by situating ourselves in the context of the church and the papacy, monasticism, the rise of universities, and scribal culture. Because this seminar is all about books, every class will use actual evidence in the form of medieval manuscripts.

Course Syllabus (PDF)