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Unit information: Expectations of the End (Level C Special Topic) in 2015/16

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Unit name Expectations of the End (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14007
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Holdenried
Open unit status Not open



HIST13003 Special Topic Project

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The belief in a Last Judgement and the expectation of Antichrist's final onslaught on mankind were central to a medieval person's world view. These beliefs were founded upon the veiled prophecies of a cataclysmic End in the biblical 'Book of Revelation' (or Apocalypse).

This Unit explores the origins and differing contexts of medieval beliefs about the End of the World (mainly c.1050-1350), singling out two themes in particular. First, we will explore how belief in the Apocalypse was deployed as a way to express political, social and reforming opinions in the medieval period. We will then consider the devotional context for the Apocalypse, that is, medieval responses to the notion of a Last Judgement and personal concerns about death and the afterlife. Students will gain experience using a range of sources, both textual and drawn from medieval material culture (e.g. manuscripts, architecture).


  • To explore the origins and differing contexts of medieval beliefs about the End of the World
  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.
  • To introduce students to working with primary sources
  • To introduce students to issues relating to setting primary sources in their wider context
  • To introduce students to the practice of learning independently within a small-group context.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • deepened their understanding of current historical research on the origins and differing contexts of medieval beliefs about the End of the World
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from a small-group environment.

Teaching details

10 x 2 hour seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x 2hour exam (summative, 100%)

Reading and References

  • R.K. Emmerson, Antichrist in the Middle Ages. A Study in Medieval Apocalypticism, Art and Literature (1981)
  • H. Fuhrmann, Germany in the High Middle Ages c. 1050-1200 (1986)
  • B. McGinn, Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (1979)
  • B. McGinn (ed.), Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. 2: Apocalypticism in Western History and Culture (2000)
  • R.W. Southern, Aspects of the European Tradition of Historical Writing 3: History as Prophecy, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society [5th series], 22 (1972), 159-80
  • C. Walker Bynum and P. Freedmann (eds), Last Things. Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (2000).