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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: The End of an Empire: The Siege and Fall of Constantinople in 1453 (HIST10375)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThe fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 was a pivotal point in the history of medieval Europe and the Near East. It marked the end of the Byzantine empire and the beginning of the centuries-long Ottoman domination of the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans; the effects of which are still being felt to this day. The course will give students wide scope to pursue their own interests within the course topics, whether they be in the study of Italy, Byzantium and the Ottomans, or in military, art and intellectual history. The sources provide a variety of contrasting perspectives of the siege and resulting conquest of the city, from eyewitnesses serving on the Greek and Turkish sides, to the accounts of Venetian and Genoese merchants in and around the city, all in translation. By focusing on these different sources, this course will enable the students to analyse this event not only in the context of the Western medieval world, but also from the perspective of Byzantium and the Ottomans. It will therefore give the students the opportunity to explore less-familiar themes which are not often covered in other surveys of the period.
In the early fifteenth century with most of the Balkans under the domination of the Ottoman Turks, Constantinople, capital city of the shrunken Byzantine empire, held out behind its formidable defences. The first part of course examines the background of the decline of Byzantium and the rise of the Ottoman Turks and takes as its starting point the accession of Sultan Murad II (1421-1451). It examines Murad┐s unsuccessful attack on Constantinople in 1422 following the ill-judged attempt by the Byzantine emperor to back a rival candidate for the Ottoman throne and the subsequent Byzantine attempt to secure western military aid at the Council of Florence. The second part makes a detailed examination of the many contemporary accounts of the siege of 1453 launched by Murad┐s successor, Mehmed II (1451-1481) and considers the political, strategic and military factors that enabled him to succeed where so many before him had failed and to break through the city┐s land walls. Finally, the response to Mehmed┐s victory will be considered and the failure to mount any effective counter-attack.
Course description The course will be seminar-based, here is a list of topics covered in the seminars:

I The Background

1. The Protagonists: Byzantium, the Ottoman Turks, the Papacy, Venice and Genoa

II The Lead-up to the Siege

2. Constantinople in the Early Fifteenth Century: Travellers┐ Accounts (1)

3. Constantinople in the Early Fifteenth Century: Travellers┐ Accounts (2)

4. Murad II and the Siege of 1422

5. The Council of Florence 1438-9

6. Sylvester Syropoulos on the Council of Florence

7. The Last Years of Byzantine Constantinople

8. Guided Study Week: Seminar replaced by essay tutorials

III The Fall of Constantinople

9. The Accession of Mehmed II

10. The Building of Rumeli Hisar, February 1451-November 1452

11. The Preparations and beginning of the Siege, November 1452-April 1453

12. The Naval Developments of April 1453

13. Cannon, April-May 1453

14. Undermining, April-May 1453

15. The Final Assault, 29 May 1453

16. The Aftermath: May-July 1453

17. Guided Study Week: Seminar replaced by essay tutorials

IV Europe Confronts the Ottomans (1453-1481)

18. The Call for a Crusade

19. Pius II and the Congress of Mantua (1)

20. Pius II and the Congress of Mantua (2)

21. Italy and the Ottomans: Cultural and Commercial Contacts

22. A Turkish Capital: Constantinople Transformed

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2014/15, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  15
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Summative Assessment Hours 4, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 344 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 50 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 2 x 3,000 word essay (1 per semester) (50%)
2 x 2 hr examination (40%)
2 x seminar presentation (10%)
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course it is intended that students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the relevant areas of Byzantine and Ottoman history

2. Execute defined research and produce structured and analytical essays on aspects of the course

3. Critically analyse the sources relevant to the course and be familiar with their strengths and limitations

4. Work effectively with classmates and take part in detailed discussions and debates
Reading List
ANGOLD, M., The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans (2012). DF649 Ang.

BARKER, J.W. Manuel II Palaeologus (1391-1425): A Study in Late Byzantine Statesmanship (1969). DF639 Bar.

BISAHA, N., Creating East and West: Renaissance Humanists and the Ottoman Turks (2004). CB251 Bis.

BABINGER, F., Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time (1978). DR501 Bab.

CROWLEY, R., Constantinople: The Last Great Siege (2005). HUB DR730 Cro.

HARRIS, J., The End of Byzantium (2010). HUB DF639 Har.

HOUSLEY, N., The Later Crusades: From Lyons to Alcazar, 1274-1580 (1992). D202 Hou.

NECIPO┐LU, N., Byzantium between the Latins and the Ottomans: Politics and Society in the Late Empire (2009). DF631 Nec & E-Resource.

NICOL, D.M., The Last Centuries of Byzantium, 2nd ed. (1999). DF631 Nic.

PHILIPPIDES, M. & HANAK, W.K., The Siege and Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography and Military Studies (2011), pp. 297-357. DF649 Phi.

RUNCIMAN, S., The Fall of Constantinople (1965). DF649 Run.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The module will encourage transferable skills by encouraging students to work independently for essay research, class and exam preparation and for their assessed presentations. It will also encourage teamwork through the focus on in-class debates and discussions, which will sometimes be carried out in groups. Assessed presentations will enable students to focus on communication skills. The focus on different cultural perspectives will give students an overview of non-western European source materials and ideologies.
Course organiserDr Michael Carr
Course secretaryMiss Clare Guymer
Tel: (0131 6)50 4030
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