Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Famine in Medieval England
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  50%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word supplementary (resit) essay  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   1 x 2 hour supplementary (resit) examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

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

Demonstrate an understanding of the causes, nature and consequences of famine in the middle ages.

Demonstrate an understanding of the historiographical debates relating to famine in the middle ages.

Identify and evaluate a wide range of relevant primary and secondary material.

Demonstrate an ability to analyse and deploy relevant historical evidence to produce appropriate arguments.


The proposed module arises from the lecturer's research interests and relates to ongoing work and work conducted over a number of years. The lecturer is currently engaged in a funded-research project on famine in the Middle Ages and the proposed module will allow students both to access a good range of historical work in this area as well as to engage with current research on the topic. The topic is also one that has a wide applicability and will encourage comparative reflection in ways that may appeal to students studying a variety of degree schemes.

Brief description

Contemporary writers in medieval England recognized that famine was a recurrent and potentially devastating feature of everyday lives. Historians have also begun to show interest in this important but sometimes overlooked feature of medieval society. This module will provide an opportunity to establish what is currently known about medieval famine, set it in the context of our understanding of medieval English society and consider its impact upon that society. ‘Famine’ is also a topic which encourages comparative reference both within the period (with other European societies in particular) and across periods. Students will develop an understanding of medieval society and be encouraged to address the topic in comparative perspective.


1. Famine – a general introduction
2. Medieval and modern famines compared
3. Famine in medieval England – social and economic context
4. Famine in medieval England – political context
5. What do we know about medieval famine?
6. A chronology of medieval famine
7. The causes of famine in the middle ages (i) – climate
8. The causes of famine in the middle ages (ii) – food availability
9. The causes of famine in the middle ages (iii) – social inequality
10. (i) The impact of famine – mortality
11. (ii) The impact of famine – mobility
12. (iii) The impact of famine – morbidity
13. (iv) The impact of famine – social dislocation
14. (i) Responses to famine – governmental
15. (ii) Responses to famine – economic
16. (iii) Responses to famine – social and religious
17. How important was famine in the middle ages?
18. An end to famine?


1. Understanding famine – medieval and modern explanations
2. Context – was medieval England ‘famine prone’?
3. The causes of famine in medieval England
4. The impact of medieval famine
5. Reponses to famine
6. Famine – assessing its significance in the middle ages.

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 encouraged to work with and interpret simple quantitative materials, including information in tabular and graphic form.
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 5