SPRING SEMESTER 2012/ Dr. George Dameron

Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:20-2:50

Office:  Library 306/Telephone extension x2318

Office Hours:  Mondays, 1-3; Wednesdays, 3:15-4:15, and by appointment.


Web site:



San Gimignano/Photo: George Dameron/copyright 2006

The purposes of the course are several:  1) to examine the history and culture of early and later medieval Italy in a chronological and inter-disciplinary manner; 2) to improve the ability of the student to think critically and analytically about the past through a close examination of primary and secondary source materials; 3) to familiarize the student with the wide variety of primary sources available for the study of medieval Italy, 4) to present an overview of the major historiographical issues and historical problems associated with the study of Italian history during those centuries,  5) to instill in the student a desire to learn more about the Italian medieval past, 6) to expose the student to recent research in the field of medieval Italian history, and 7) to explore the complex interactions between society (class,  economy, gender, social structure, politics), environment (geography, climate, ecology), and culture (literature, fine arts, political theory) by using medieval Italy as a case study.


History 461 operates as a discussion-based seminar.  Each week requires readings in primary and secondary sources, and most weeks also have links to the visual arts.   The seminar is interdisciplinary in approach.  We will rely on a list of study questions each week posted at eCollege, and each seminar meeting a student will be responsible to propose one or more questions to help guide the discussion.  Another student will be also responsible for choosing a primary source to discuss.  Most assigned primary sources are from Medieval Italy:  Texts in Translation (for purchase), and each text is numbered.  The works of art are located in ARTstor (an online database available through our library online catalog) and at the Web Gallery Web site.  Each student will choose a seminar research project, and at the end of the semester, (s)he will present his or her research results.  The seminar meets twice a week, and there will usually be a short five-minute break in the middle of each session.  There are no tests or examinations.

On April 19 there will be a screening of Pasolini’s The Decameron (1970) at 7 pm, located tba.  There will be no regular class meeting the next day, which is Student Research Day.


The pre-requisites of the course are Humanities 101 (Ancient and Medieval Civilization) or History 111 (Europe in the High Middle Ages, 1000-1400) or History 108 (Medieval Europe).  Students should have junior or senior standing.  


There are several requirements:  1) two (2) two- to three-page typed essays on two sets of readings (20% of final grade, 10% each essay) due February 3 and February 15; 2) a thirteen to fifteen (13-15) page research paper on a topic of the student's choosing, based on research using primary sources, and due on May 2 (the last seminar meeting of the semester, 40% of final grade); 3) a prospectus and annotated bibliography for the research project (10%) due March 23; 4) oral presentation of the principal results of the research project at the end of the semester (10%), on either April 27 or May 2; and 5) class participation in weekly seminar discussions (20%).  There are no examinations.

The success of the seminar, especially the quality of discussion, will depend on the degree of involvement and preparation of each member of the seminar.


Students will attend every seminar meeting and come fully prepared, having completed all the assigned readings for that week and having reviewed the study questions for that particular week.  More than two unexcused absences from a seminar meeting will have an impact on the final grade.  As a courtesy, students should inform me in advance of any anticipated absence. Please arrange all travel arrangements so that you will not miss any scheduled seminar meetings.  Note:  because I will be attending a medieval conference in Florida on March 9, I will not be able to attend the March 9 (Friday) seminar meeting.  However, I am arranging for a film on early Renaissance art to be screened to the seminar in the classroom. 

Students who miss two consecutive seminar meetings will submit a 2-3-page response paper, responding to the study questions for those seminars. 


The paper is due on May 2 (last day of seminar).  There will be a half a letter grade penalty (5 points) for every day any of the assigned papers are late.   The seminar paper will follow the required methods of citing primary and secondary sources, and it must also include a formal bibliography.  History department policy requires students to use footnotes or endnotes in the proper format.  The two essays on assigned readings will also include footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography.  Early in the semester I will provide for the seminar an orientation of the online and library resources available for the research paper, and we will visit the library to explore research resources.  Resources regarding the proper citation of sources are available online at the Saint Michael’s College Web site (Citation Guides).

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.  According to the Academic Integrity Policy (Saint Michael’s College Policy on Academic Integrity), plagiarism is the presentation of “another person's ideas as your own, by directly quoting or indirectly paraphrasing, without properly citing the original source.  This includes inadvertent failure to properly acknowledge sources."  The penalties for plagiarism can range from receiving a failing grade for the plagiarized assignment to receiving a failing grade in the course.  In some cases plagiarism can result in suspension or expulsion from the college.   


Each student on will submit to me an annotated research bibliography of primary and secondary sources in proper format (due March 23).  (Five primary and ten secondary sources are recommended.) The prospectus will detail the historical problem being addressed, the primary and secondary sources available, the historiography on that particular issue (if applicable), and the projected thesis or conclusion.  


Students with learning differences (documented by the Office of the Coordinator of Academic Compliance—Ms. Toni Messuri) will receive special accommodations where appropriate.  Please see me if you would like to request such arrangements.  


·         Frances Andrews and Joanna Drell, editors, Medieval Italy:  Texts in Translation (Pennsylvania, 2009).  ISBN 978-0812241648

·         David Abulafia, editor, Italy in the Central Middle Ages (Oxford 2004).  ISBN 10-0199247048.  

·         Boccaccio, The Decameron (Norton Critical Editions), trans. Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa (Norton 1977).  ISBN 10-0393091325

·         Trevor Dean and Daniel Waley, The Italian City-Republics, 4th edition (2010).  ISBN  978-058255388-0

·         Marios Costambeys, Power and Patronage in Early Medieval Italy  (Cambridge University Press 2007).  ISBN 978-0521178303



John Kenneth Hyde, Society and Politics in Medieval Italy (ACLS 2008).  ISBN 10-1597405434.  ACLS Humanities E-book (PLEASE NOTE:  accessible through the Saint Michael’s College library catalog—online).





·         Conor Kostick, editor, Medieval Italy, Medieval and Early Modern Women:  Essays in Honour of Christine Meek (Dublin:  Four Courts Press, 2010).


Week One (January 18 and 20):  Introduction to the Study of Medieval Italy

Week Two (January 25 and 27):  Early Medieval Italy, 300-1000 (The World After Rome)

Week Three (February 1 and 3):  Early Medieval Italy, 300-1000 (Power and Patronage:  A Case Study), Part One

Week Four (February 8 and 10):  Early Medieval Italy, 300-1000 (Power and Patronage:  A Case Study), Part Two

Week Five (February 15):  The Age of the Communes in the North, Monarchy in the South, 1000-1300

Week Six (February 22 and 24 ): 

Week Seven (February 29 and March 2 ):  Italy in the Age of Dante, c. 1250-c. 1350

Week Eight (March 7 and 9):  The Commedia (Inferno)

Week Nine (March 14 and 16):  Spring Recess

Week Ten (March 21 and 23):  The Commedia (Inferno)

 Week Eleven (March 28 and 30):  The Commedia (Purgatorio)

Week Twelve (April 4):  The Commedia (Purgatorio)

Week Thirteen (April 11 and 13):  Italy in the Age of Boccaccio

Week Fourteen (April 18 and 20):  Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1400 (conclusion)

Week Fifteen (April 25 and 27):  Seminar Presentations

Week Sixteen (May 2):  New Directions in Research on Medieval Italy