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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Debating Marriage between Antiquity and the Middle Ages (PGHC11449)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course examines how and why ideals and practices of marriage in later Roman and post-Roman societies shifted between c.400 and c.1000. Focussing on a range of primary sources, students will gain a detailed understanding of how marriage was contested, disputed and transformed in this period, and will carefully examine the social, political and religious contexts of these developments. Students will also critically examine strikingly different ways in which historians have debated the evolution of marriage, gender, family and kinship within grand narratives of the transition from antiquity to the middle ages.
Course description In the fifth century a pope presented with a tricky marriage dispute could take it for granted that slaves could not marry. In a society deeply shaped by Roman law, married slaves were legally unintelligible. Fast forward to the ninth century and bishops were cautiously protecting the rights of unfree people to marry (so long as their masters consented). Something was shifting. The slow emergence of unfree marriage as a legal and social possibility is one facet of the broader evolution of marriage across late antiquity and the early middle ages. This course examines the history of marriage and related topics, including gender, family and kinship, in western Europe between c.400 and c.1000. Students will root important changes and continuities in ideals and practices of marriage in the shifting social, religious and political landscape of the post-Roman world. Drawing on a range of primary sources, students will closely examine how the place of marriage in church, royal courts and wider society was vigorously debated; and critically examine historiographical debates over the significance of marriage, gender, family and kinship in understanding the transition from antiquity to the middle ages. The opening weeks introduce three tectonic plates in the history of medieval marriage: legal regulations and social norms in classical and late Roman society; tense debates over the place of marriage within late antique Christianity; and 'Germanic' or 'barbarian' customs surrounding marriage and kinship.

Thereafter, subsequent seminars explore the new configurations created - and, sometimes, the friction generated - as these tectonic plates shifted in post-Roman societies. Key themes include: legal regulations in theory and social norms in practice; marriage, gender and sexuality in pastoral practice; married sexuality, sanctity and lay piety; clerical marriage; incest regulations and spiritual kinship (godparenthood); royal/aristocratic marriage disputes and the politics of sexuality; marriage and social status.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  17
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1,000 word Book Review (20%)
4,000 word Essay (80%)
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment and/or via email. Feedback on an essay plan and annotated bibliography will be provided ahead of the essay deadline.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate through seminar discussion and the coursework essay a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning marriage and related subjects, including kinship, in late antique and early medieval Europe, c.400-1000.
  2. Demonstrate through seminar discussion and the coursework essay an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship on marriage and related subjects in late antique and early medieval Europe, c.400- 1000.
  3. Demonstrate through seminar discussion and the coursework essay an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon a variety of primary source material relating to marriage and related subjects in late antique and early medieval Europe, c.400-1000.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilizing relevant evidence considered in the course.
  5. Demonstrate originality and independence of mind; intellectual integrity and maturity; a considerable degree of autonomy.
Reading List
David d'Avray, Medieval Marriage: Symbolism and Society (Oxford, 2005)
David d'Avray, Papacy, Monarchy and Marriage, 860-1600 (Cambridge, 2015)
Georges Duby, The Knight, the Lady and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France (London, 1984)
Dyan Elliott, Spiritual Marriage: Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock (Princeton, 1993)
Valerie Garver, Women and Aristocratic Culture in the Carolingian World (Ithaca, 2009)
Jack Goody, The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe (Cambridge, 1983
Judith Evans Grubb, Law and Family in Late Antiquity: Emperor Constantine's Marriage Legislation (Oxford, 1995)
Kyle Harper, From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass., 2013)
Karl Heidecker, The Divorce of Lothar II: Christian Marriage and Political Power in the Carolingian World (Ithaca, 2010)
Bernhard Jussen, Spiritual Kinship as Social Practice: Godparenthood and Adoption in the Early Middle Ages (Newark, 2000)
Ruth M. Karras, Unmarriages: Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 2012)
Philip L. Reynolds, Marriage in the Western Church: The Christianization of Marriage during the Patristic and Early Medieval Periods (Leiden, 1994)
Pauline Stafford, Queens, Concubines and Dowagers: The King's Wife in the Early Middle Ages (Leicester, 1983)
Rachel Stone, Morality and Masculinity in the Carolingian Empire (Cambridge, 2011)
Suzanne F. Wemple, Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900 (Philadelphia, 1981)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Effective retrieval of scattered and highly technical information
- The ability to evaluate critically a range of relevant scholarly methodologies and to choose and apply successfully the most effective one(s) necessary to answer specific research questions
- The ability to evaluate 'primary' sources of evidence of the past in order to draw valid conclusions about it
- The ability to produce a sustained and effective analysis of a difficult research problem
- Preparing balanced and accessible discussions of complex issues and detailed material
- Composing concise but effective arguments to firm deadlines
- The ability to work effectively and professionally in a seminar/group discussion atmosphere
- Critical thinking and reading as applied to fragmentary evidence and/or scholarly argument
- The ability to develop a strong grasp of complex subjects through directed reading
- The ability to test, modify and strengthen one's own views through collaboration and debate
- The ability to identify and carry out a viable research project with occasional supervision, but with readiness to take responsibility for one's own learning
- The ability to approach problems with academic rigour, imagination and mental agility
- Possession of an informed respect for the principles, methods, standards, values and boundaries of study in this area of enquiry, as well as the capacity to question these
- IT skills connected with Internet use, word processing and visual presentations
- Command of bibliographical and library and/or archival research skills
- Analytical reading skills
KeywordsMarriage,Antiquity,Middle Ages
Course organiserDr Zubin Mistry
Course secretaryMr George Bottrell-Campbell
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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