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Unit information: Plague, Politics and Society: England 1348-1400 (Level C Special Topic) in 2015/16

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Unit name Plague, Politics and Society: England 1348-1400 (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14021
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Smith
Open unit status Not open



HIST13003 Special Topic Project

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


The Black Death killed around 40% of the population of England in 1348-9, and the return of plague at intervals over the following decades prevented a recovery from this demographic calamity. What were the immediate and longer term consequence of this sudden catastrophe for the survivors? This unit attempts to answer this question with reference to different elements of English society - peasants, town-dwellers, clergy, landed nobility, and the crown itself. All had to adapt to massive economic change and the social consequences that flowed therefrom. As the appearance of heresy in the shape of the Lollards, of popular unrest in the form of the Peasants' Revolt, and of political fracture in the form of the deposition of Richard II demonstrated, such adaptation in late fourteenth-century England was traumatic. And always there was war with France and Scotland: rarely has England experienced a more turbulent, formative half-century in its long history.


  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor
  • To enable students to explore the issues surrounding the state of research into the Black Death in England
  • 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 a particular aspect of current historical research
  • 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 2 hour exam

Reading and References

  • R. R. Davies, Lords and Lordship in the British Isles in the Late Middle Ages, ed. B. Smith (Oxford, 2009)
  • G. Harriss, Shaping the Nation: England 1360-1461 (Oxford, 2005).
  • R. Horrox, The Black Death (Manchester, 1994)
  • R. Horrox and W. M. Ormrod (eds.), A Social History of England, 1200-1500(Cambridge, 2006).
  • M. Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 1225-1360 (Oxford, 2005)