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

Undergraduate Course: The End of an Empire: The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 (HIST10450)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
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 moment in the history of 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, north Africa and the Balkans. Even today, the year 1453 is regularly used to signify the end of the Middle Ages. This momentous event will be explored through a range of sources, from eyewitnesses serving on the Greek and Turkish sides, to the accounts of Venetian and Genoese merchants in and around the city. By focusing on these different sources, students will be able to analyse this event not only in the context of the Western medieval world, but also from the perspective of the Byzantines and the Ottomans.
Course description 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. But how exactly were the Byzantines able to resist Ottoman pressure for so long, and how was Mehmed II ultimately able to conquer the city when so many others had failed? What role did the western European powers take in assisting the Byzantines against the Ottomans, and how important were factors such as religion, commerce and diplomacy in the fragmented world of the late-medieval eastern Mediterranean? These are some of the key questions which this course will tackle.

The first half of the course examines the background of the decline of Byzantium and the rise of the Ottomans in Anatolia and the Balkans, with particular emphasis given to the key protagonists in the region: the Ottoman Turks, the Byzantines, the papacy, and the Genoese and Venetians. The failed Crusades of Nicopolis and Varna will be discussed, along with the accession of Sultan Murad II (1421-1451) and his 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 half of the course includes 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. Finally, the response to Mehmed's victory and the failure to mount any effective counter-attack will be considered. 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.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 44, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 348 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
2 x 4,000 word Essay (40% each)
2,000 word Written Assignment (20%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate, by way of written coursework a coherent grasp of key political, religious, social and cultural dynamics in the late medieval eastern Mediterranean, and of the history of the later Byzantine and early Ottoman empires;
  2. Demonstrate, by way of written coursework an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship in late medieval European, Byzantine and Ottoman history, and of the fall of Constantinople;
  3. Demonstrate, by way of written coursework an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of primary source material;
  4. Demonstrate, by way of written coursework the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. Demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers.
Reading List
Angold, M., The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans (2012). DF649 Ang.

Barbaro, N., Diary of the Siege of Constantinople, trans. J.R. Jones (1970). DF649 Bar.

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

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

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

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

Kritovoulos, M., History of Mehmed the Conqueror, trans. C.T. Rigg (1954). DR501 Kri.

Necipoglu, 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 & E-Resource.

Philippides, M. & Hanak, W.K., The Siege and Fall of Constantinople in 1453: Historiography, Topography and Military Studies (2011). DF649 Phi.

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

The Siege of Constantinople: Seven Contemporary Accounts, trans. J.R. Melville-Jones (1972). DF647 Sie.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Michael Carr
Tel: (0131 6)50 2554
Course secretaryMiss Lorna Berridge
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