High and Later Middle Ages 305 Syllabus

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History 305 – The High and Later Middle Ages

Professor William A. Percy, III Spring 2010

Class Meeting Times: Monday and Wednesday, 5:30-6:45PM

Class Location: McCormack, M03-0204A

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 2:20-3:50PM, or by appointment

Office Location: McCormack, 4th Floor, Room 634

Office Phone: 617-287-6879

Home Phone: 617-262-2101 (7:00AM-3:00PM TuTh; emergency only)

E-Mail / Website: williamapercy@comcast.net / www.faculty.umb.edu/william_percy Please call me rather than email.


Course Description

This course depicts the amazing turnabout of the year 1000 when the superstitious, impoverished, and misgoverned Roman Catholics of the depopulated British Isles, France, Germany, northern Italy, and northern Spain began an amazing ascent that lasted for 300 years.

The three-field system doubled the arable land, the horse collar increased traction sevenfold, and the moldboard plough utilized better the deep rich northern soils and saved seeds from drowning. The Vikings converted, opening the North and Baltic Seas to Christians, who simultaneously drove the Muslims from the Mediterranean. The upsurge in agriculture and commerce supported the rebirth of cities and guilds. The population doubled. Cathedral schools and Romanesque Architecture flourished until about 1150 when universities arose along with Gothic cathedrals. Scholastics recovered Greek logic and Arabic science from Latin translations. While the papacy reached its apex in part by undermining the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, kings in the West suppressed robber barons and with the help of parliaments and judges improved laws.

Catastrophes (famine, plagues, and wars) followed between 1300 and 1450. The Black Death and the Hundred Years War killed one third of the population. Then in about 1450 a dramatic recovery set in until Europeans after 1500 began to dominate the world. The Italians led the way in culture, the English in liberty, the French in population, and the Spaniards in wealth.

The Renaissance, the Great Explorations, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution followed, the groundwork for all of which was laid before 1500. Breakthroughs in technology and government enabled the Westerners to seize control of world trade during the 16th Century. Admittedly Westerners did then brutally oppress Indians, enslave Africans, and exploit Asians. But only in the West did subjects secure liberties and property rights and elect representatives, privileges won in spite of the Inquisition, papal tyranny, and clerical censorship during the later Middle Age.


The lectures, general syntheses or explanations of particular points of view, will normally be followed by discussion periods. Students are encouraged to ask questions and make comments. It is most helpful if they complete the reading assignment before the lecture. In addition, students should seek to enhance their command of geography and chronology by memorizing the three or four crucial places and dates for each topic. For the former purpose a paperback atlas will be helpful. Also read as many of the documents that pertain to each lecture as possible.


The grades will consist primarily of an average of the hour exams (25% each) and the comprehensive 3-hour final (50%). The essay part of these exams will be graded on organization and style as well as historical theory and command of facts. Students will find it advantageous to read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (in 78 brief and witty pages). Helpful historical atlases are published in paperback by Hammond, Shepherd, and Penguin. Extra credit is allowed for rewriting the essays on each of the hour exams in light of my comments, and further research on your part. Notable contributions to classroom discussion will also be weighed; failure to participate in discussions, however, will not detract from a student's grade. The rewritten papers, together with quizzes, and classroom participation may help raise the grade. Lastly, students who attend classes regularly, pay attention to lectures and discussions, and take notes have a better chance of doing well in this course.

About Me

I am a Southerner, an Episcopal atheist, a capitalist, a gay activist, a refugee from the Ku Klux Klan, from the Southern Baptists, and from other fundamentalists whether Protestant, Catholic, Jew or Muslim. Having a heart, I became a Socialist as an undergraduate. When I got my fulltime teaching job and a level head, I became a Democrat in 1960 and voted for John F. Kennedy. In 1967 I became a Republican because of the atrocities of the Vietnam War and its disastrous economic effects of L.B.J. I quit being one because of the 2nd Iraq War but gave up on Republicans because of Bush II’s insanity. Now I am an Independent. I am also the senior professor of the history at UMB and senior pre-law advisor. I attended nine intuitions of higher learning and have taught in nine. I have published 5 books, 10 articles, 100 notes (short articles), 100 book reviews. On my extensive website, (www.WilliamAPercy.com) I have parts of my memoirs, and 2 screen plays and other things by me and by other scholars that I admire, as well as text from some of my better students. From me you will gain a different perspective. On this politically-correct campus, I am diversity itself: a semi-expired white male of the old school.


Disseminating scholarship on the printed page in the twenty-first century is analogous to publishing it on manuscripts during the sixteenth century. The Internet is now no longer like Cunabula (books printed before 1500)—rare commodities even then. It is in fact now rapidly displacing print on paper. Look at what Wikipedia is doing to the Encyclopædia Britannica! Printed dictionaries and bibliographies likewise are becoming obsolete because their online counterparts are so easy to update. Expenses, delays, and storage problems are also forcing scholarly journals to go online. Why not monographs (which sell too few copies to be cost-effective), syntheses, and textbooks, as well? In light of the changing publishing landscape, the formerly required texts listed below are now optional:

Bryce, James. The Holy Roman Empire. The_Holy_Roman_Empire

Hallam, Elizabeth M. and Judith Everard. Capetian France: 987-1328.

Haskins, Charles Homer. The Rise of the Universities (Cornell).

Huscroft, Richard. Ruling England.

Panofsky, Erwin. Renaissance and Renascences.

Myers, A.R. England in the Late Middle Ages

Any edition of the books above is suitable for this course. They can be found, at great discount, online on Amazon, (see used prices for each book), Ebay, and half.ebay.com. In addition, all editions (including those from 60 years ago) of The Encyclopedia of World History, whether by William L. Langer or Peter N. Stearns, are highly recommended. Useful Links on the Internet

1. The Online Library of Liberty: <oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/index.php>

2. The Encyclopedia of World History by Peter N. Stearns: www.bartleby.com/67/

3. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition: <encyclopedia.jrank.org>

4. Elements of Style: www.bartleby.com/141/


Southern, R.W. The Making of the Middle Age

Historical Atlas – Penguin, Hammond or Shepherd

Contact Policy

Although I have provided my e-mail address and home telephone number, please e-mail or call me only if you have an urgent matter to discuss with me (TuTh 7AM-3PM). Understand that if you e-mail me, it may take me several days to see your e-mail as I am computer illiterate and must rely on others to access my e-mail. Therefore, call me in case of an emergency. There is, however, no need for you to e-mail or call me to let me know that you will miss or have missed a class. I fully understand that events out of your control will arise from time to time and may cause the occasional absence. So explanations are unnecessary. If you would like to find out what you missed in class while you were absent, ask a classmate.

Click here to download full syllabus, including weekly assignments and testing schedule

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