From Hamlets to Metropolises: Sources and Uses of Settlement Topography

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Academic Year: 
US Credits: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Code: 
Course Description: 

The course will examine urban development in medieval Europe from the Early Middle Ages (and a few detours to Late Antiquity) to the early Modern Period with a special focus on settlement topography. We will discuss urban morphology, criteria of urbanity, and urban typology in general and in the context of (European) regional as well as global urban developments. Since towns are the most dynamic types of human settlements, modern metropolises often hide their historical phases. In order to trace the elements of urban heritage (historical buildings, actors, and actions) in present-day urban fabrics, one must understand the general trends and characteristics of medieval (regional) urbanism. The aim of this course is, therefore, to investigate different types of sources related to the topography, their character, and their methodological usability for urban topographical reconstructions. The course consists of general introductions to individual topics (provided by the instructor and by some invited colleagues) and regular discussions of the assigned readings during the class. The course will also provide several opportunities for field work by organizing guided visits to external institutions (archives and archaeological sites). 

Learning Outcomes: 

During the course, the students will familiarize themselves with different sources and methodologies concerning urban history and urban topography as well as the current research trends. The course will concentrate on the following topics: urban morphology, urban typology, towns and their environment, towns and their lords, and the effects of religions, social groups, and their economic and daily activities on topographical characteristics of medieval towns and urban-like settlements. It will provide an overview of the different methodological approaches to urban history; in order to assist the students in developing a comprehensive and critical understanding of the major debates within the relevant seminal studies and their impact on present-day scholarship. The aim of the course is for the students to enhance on the following skills: the ability for independent orientation in multidisciplinary research environment, the application of innovative methodology on diverse source material, and (comparative) assessment of different historiographical (regional) approaches. 


Progress in the course will be evaluated as follows: 

  1. Class Participation 40% 

Class participation means regular attendance (at least 10 out of the 12 sessions – missing is only with good reasoning allowed), preparation for the classes (with a one-page written resume and/or reflection on selected sources), in-class comments and questions related to the weekly lectures and readings.* 

  1. In-class Presentation 20% 

The student should choose among the themes of the seminar (as agreed in the introductory meeting) and should prepare a short, in-class oral presentation (c.1015 minutes) with a proper power-point presentation. 

  1. Term Paper 40% 

The term paper is a fifteen-page paper (Times New Roman, letter size 12, space 1.5, margins 2cm) case study on the chosen topic discussed during the term, chosen by the student and accepted by the instructor, linked to the themes of the seminars and the in-class presentation. 


*Additional note: during a few occasions, instead of the in-class meeting, we are going to visit an institution and/or do an on-site walking tour with guided presentation. These occasions will be announced in time. Please be prepared to be punctually there on the given site ca. half an hour away from the CEU main building. 

**Two additional “excursions/field tripscan be arranged for the course. This will be discussed in class with the participating students.