Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
From Black Death to Great Fire: the British Town 1349-1700
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 4 x 2 Hour Seminars
Lecture 18 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%

Learning Outcomes

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the secondary source material and on-going historiographical debates (such as those relating to urban definition or notions of crisis) in the study of the pre-modern town in Britain.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the transition from a medieval to early modern urban society
3. Critically evaluate pre-modern primary sources in relation to particular topics on the module, such as demography and social structure
4. Demonstrate an understanding of key concepts in urban history in general, and pre-modern urban history in particular


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.

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.



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


1. Urban definition and population
2. The occupational profile
3. Wealth and poverty
4. Reformation
5. The Great Plague of London
6. The Great Fire of London

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills Students will be introduced to relevant primary documents during seminars to develop their skills in analyzing primary sources.
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6