History: Early Medieval Europe

History: Early Medieval Europe

Assignment 1 A research project enables you to investigate a historical topic or problem in detail. Many students enjoy the challenge of researching, thinking, and writing. The ability to evaluate evidence and present it as part of a persuasive argument is a valuable skill to develop and practice. You will begin your research project by submitting a research plan and a preliminary bibliography of scholarly books, articles, and primary sources that you are considering. Later, for Assignment 2, you will report on one of the scholarly articles/essays that you plan to use for Assignment 3, a 12–14 page research paper that responds to your selection from the following list of assigned questions. Assignment 1 is worth 5 per cent of your final course grade. Step One: Choose a Research Topic 1. Recent scholars have questioned the traditional assumption that “Germanic” barbarians migrated in large numbers to the former Roman provinces of western continental Europe. What about the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain? Are there historical, archaeological, or other types of evidence that invading Anglo-Saxons migrated and displaced native Britons or are there other explanations for how Britain became Anglo-Saxon? See Unit 4. 2. The Eastern Roman (or early Byzantine) Empress Theodora, wife of Emperor Justinian, was a formidable woman. The courtier and historian Procopius considered her a demon; Riddle’s textbook considers her a hero. What can be known about her and how have recent scholars interpreted her extraordinary career? See Unit 5. 3. Consider the career of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Heraclius (r.620–641) who fought against Avar and Slav barbarians, Persians, and Arabs. Does he deserve his reputation as a hero or was his reign a disaster? See Unit 5. 4. What evidence survives for the Muslim invasion of Spain in 711 and how do modern historians explain the rapid conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom? See Unit 6. 5. The traditional ending of the Middle Ages is the Italian Renaissance (fourteenth to sixteenth centuries), the “rebirth” of learning and culture based on the study of ancient Greek and Roman writings and art. Medievalists, however, point to various “medieval renaissances” including the cultural revival that took place in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. Consider who participated in this cultural revival, their motives, and their achievements, and their long-term impact. To what extent do you think a “renaissance” occurred? See Unit 7. 6. The long-haired Merovingian Franks who ruled Gaul (France) have long been dismissed as weak “do-nothing” kings, especially during the late seventh and early eighth centuries. How did they gain this reputation and do historians still think it is deserved? See units 4 and 9. 7. The most famous Christian missionaries were men, but they were often supported by networks that included less well-known women. Explain the roles and motives of the women involved with Boniface’s mission to Christianize the Germans? Suggested primary sources include the letters of Boniface, the Life of Boniface, and the Life of Leoba. See units 7 and 8. 8. In 732 or 733, the Frankish leader Charles Martel defeated an Arab army at Poitiers (or Tours). He has been remembered as the saviour of western Europe. Was Charles Martel really a sort of Carolingian “crusader” who halted the advance of Islam or did he have other motives? See Unit 9. 2 9. The Frankish king, Charlemagne, knit together a formidable empire in western Europe. How did he obtain troops and organize his army? What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Carolingian army? See units 9 and 10 10. Vikings are usually considered destructive savages—but is this traditional portrayal fair? To what extent did the Scandinavian adventurers have positive and constructive effects on western Europe from the late eighth to eleventh centuries? See units 11 and 12. 11. The “Vinland Sagas” describe the Norse (Viking) discovery of North America, c.1000. How reliable are these Icelandic accounts and how do they relate to other evidence that “Vikings” visited the east coast of North America? See Unit 12. 12. What were the Peace and Truce of God movements? How successful do scholars think these movements were in restricting aristocratic violence at the end of the Early Middle Ages during the late tenth and early eleventh centuries? See Unit 13. Step Two: Conduct Preliminary Research on your Topic Investigate your chosen topic by looking up background information in the textbook or other sources. This will help you focus your research on particular events, names, places, as well as on modern scholars. Research scholarly writings and primary sources on your topic, as explained in Skills Module 1. The bibliographies in the appropriate Study Guide units and textbook chapters are good places to start, but you should also use the Library’s online catalogue and journal databases to find relevant articles and books. Don’t pick the first title that the computer suggests—it is up to you to choose the material. Newspapers, book reviews, general-audience magazines, popular histories, encyclopaedia entries, coffee table books, and textbooks are not appropriate sources. You may have to try various search terms, or use an Advanced Search to limit the results as you sift through materials that a database lists. Some students find this a little frustrating; others find it fun. You can contact a librarian or your tutor if you have difficulties. It is helpful to skim through promising, but recent, articles (within the last 10 years) to see which are the most relevant to your long essay. Pay attention to the citations that may indicate other articles, books, or primary sources useful for your project. As you find books and essays, carefully record all the information you will need for a bibliographic entry. You should also record where you found each item. Step Three: Write a Research Plan The proposal should be about 300–400 words in length. Note which question you will answer and explain how you intend to answer it. You are not expected to have a thesis or even an outline of your essay ready yet, but be prepared to demonstrate that you have given thought to how you plan to research your project. For example; do you need to find general background to an event or person? Are there particular issues or subquestions that you will have to investigate in detail to address your larger research question? Is there a primary source that you know you will have to read carefully? Are there scholars who seem to write extensively on your topic? Step Four: Attach a Preliminary Bibliography Attach a bibliography of at least 10 scholarly books, articles, and primary sources (if applicable) that look promising to you. You may not end up reading or reviewing all the writings in your bibliography, and you may not need every item in your final essay, but you should have a good reason for including each in your preliminary bibliography. Annotate each entry with a sentence explaining how you think the item may be useful to your project. Use the Chicago Style for Humanities when formatting the entries. Also indicate how you will access the item; for example: “Online journal” or “Printed copy at AU library” or “Requested through Interlibrary Loan.” Only include materials to which you will have access. Finally, clearly indicate the item for which you plan to write your article/essay review (Assignment 2).

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