Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
From Black Death to the Great Fire: the British Town 1349-1700
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 18 x 50 minute lectures
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 50 minute seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Semester Assessment - 2 X 2,500 WORDS ESSAYS  50%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Semester Examination - 3 HOUR CLOSED EXAMINATION  50%
Supplementary Assessment Supplementary Assessment  submit any missing or failed written work  50%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Supplementary Examination - 3 HOUR CLOSED EXAMINATION  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a firm grounding in the secondary source material and on-going debates in the study of the pre-modern town in Britain.

Show an understanding of the value of an inter-disciplinary approach to the study of the past.

Reflect upon and critically analyze secondary and primary sources.

Collect, collate and analyze historical evidence and produce both oral and written arguments.

Work independently and collaboratively.

Produce work in a professional manner and demonstrate skills appropriate to the study of history.

Brief description

During the late medieval and early modern period towns and urban living were important features of life in Britain. Most settlements may have been small by the standards of European cities, but they contained a substantial and growing minority of the population, and played a crucial role in the operation of the wider economic, political and social systems. Research into the subject has flourished over the last few decades. Drawing on the findings of archaeologists and geographers, as well as that of historians, this module seeks to convey something of the discoveries - and excitement - of recent work on the subject. Fundamental issues such as how to define a town in a pre-industrial era, how many people lived in towns, how towns related to each other, and the variations in urban experience between the different parts of Britain will be explored. There will also be an opportunity to assess the impact on urban life of some of the major historical events of the period, including the Black Death, the Reformation, the Civil Wars, and the Great Plague and Fire of London. The module will examine the vigorous debate which has emerged between historians as to whether or not the period witnessed an urban crisis, and explore the extent to which a medieval world survived and a modern world emerged during the period.


This module introduces students to the study of pre-modern urban history. It is a field which has seen an upsurge in research in recent decades, and the purpose of the module is to engage students with this work and its implications in understanding the role of towns in a pre-modern society. Because of the module's chronological span it should appeal to students of both the medieval and early modern periods, and encourage them to examine the continuities and differences between these two eras. Drawing on the work of archaeologists and geographers, as well as historians, it will also offer the opportunity to take an inter-disciplinary approach to study.



1. Introduction
2. Before the Black Death
3. Population
4. Urban Systems
5. Economy I
6. Economy II
7. Social structure
8. Standards of Living
9. Power: Internal Relations
10. Power: External Relations
11. Beliefs: Sacred Culture
12. Beliefs: Secular Culture
13. Public Landscapes
14. Private Landscapes
15. Catastrophe: Plague and Disease
16. Catastrophe: Fire and War
17. The Monstrous City: London
18. A Crisis?


1. Urban definition
2. Can we know the population?
3. The occupational profile
4. Wealth and poverty
5. Who ruled towns?
6. Reformation
7. Guild hall and town hall
8. The Great Plague of London
9. The Great Fire of London
10. Medieval or modern, continuity or change?

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Read a wide range of both primary and secondary texts; improve listening skills during the lectures, and consequently develop skills in note taking; demonstrate and develop the ability to communicate ideas in two essays; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but not assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Show awareness of own learning styles, personal preferences and needs; devise and apply realistic learning and self management strategies; devise a personal action plan to include short and long-term goals and to develop personal awareness of how to improve on these.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to access information on CD-Roms and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be encouraged to word-process their work. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Develop awareness of personal skills, beliefs and qualities in relation to course in progression; plan and prepare for future course/career.
Problem solving Identify problems and factors which might influence potential solutions; develop creative thinking approaches to problem solving; evaluate advantages and disadvantages of potential solutions.
Research skills Understand a range of research methods and plans and carry out research; produce academically appropriate pieces of written work
Team work Understand the concept of group dynamics; contribute to the setting of group goals; contribute effectively to the planning of group activities; play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars); exercise negotiation and persuasion skills; evaluate group activities and own contribution.


This module is at CQFW Level 6