SPRING SEMESTER 2010/ Dr. George Dameron

Thursday afternoons, 2:30-5:50 pm

Office:  Library 306/Telephone extension x2318

Office Hours:  Mondays, 2-4; Wednesdays, 1-2, 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 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 seminar, so each meeting will focus on discussions of assigned readings, works of art, or on reports of research projects.  We will rely on a list of study questions, and each week a student will be responsible to bring to the seminar one or more questions to help guide the discussion.  (S)he will be also responsible for choosing a primary source to discuss.  Most assigned primary sources are from Medieval Italy:  Texts in Translation (on reserve), 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 once a week for at least two hours and forty-five minutes (165 minutes), and there is a 15-minute break in the middle of each meeting.  However, the seminars on January 14 February 25 will be longer because it will include a trip to the library.  The success of each seminar meeting will depend on the level and quality of student preparation.


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 permission of the instructor. 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 January 28 and February 11; 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 April 29 (the last seminar meeting of the semester); 3) a prospectus and annotated bibliography for the research project (10%) due March 11; 4) oral presentation of the principal results of the research project at the end of the semester (10%) on either April 22 or April 29; and 5) class participation in weekly seminar discussions (20%).  There are no examinations.                                                              


Students will attend every seminar meeting and come fully prepared, having completed all the assigned readings and having reviewed the study questions for that particular seminar.  To miss a single meeting is equivalent to missing an entire week of classes.  More than one unexcused absence 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 the Renaissance Society of America annual conference in Venice, Italy between April 7 and 11, I will not be able to attend the April 8 (Thursday) seminar meeting.  However, I am arranging for a film, Paolo Pasolini’s Decameron, to be screened to the seminar in the classroom. 


The paper is due on April 29 (a Thursday) at my office.  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 (twelve to fifteen sources recommended), along with a one-page prospectus of the paper (due March 11).  (Five primary and ten secondary sources are recommended but not required.) 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.  


·         David Abulafia, editor, Italy in the Central Middle Ages (Oxford 2004).  ISBN 10-0199247048.   $38.00









Week One (January 14):  Introduction to the Study of Medieval Italy
Discussion:  “Vendetta in Fourteenth-Century Siena,” and “A Peace Contract (1274)”, in Medieval Italy:  Texts in Translation, pp. 131-4, 187-8.
Film and discussion:  “Romeo and Juliet” (Franco Zefferelli, director, 1968)


Week Two (January 21):  From Rome to the Age of the Communes, 300-1250
Hyde (e-book), Introduction and chapters 1-4
Abulafia, chapters 1, 2, 5, 7
Art:  Italo-Byzantine (ARTstor)
Primary Sources:  Medieval Italy 2, 5, 10, 13, 14, 19, 30, 55


Week Three (January 28):  Southern Italy Before 1250 (The Norman Kingdom)
Matthew, Parts 1 and 2
Abulafia, chapters 10, 11
Primary Sources:  9, 31, 33, 44, 90
*First Essay*


Week Four (February 4):  Southern Italy Before 1250 (The Norman Monarchy and Legacy)
Matthew, Parts 3 and 4
Art:  Cathedral of Monreale (ARTstor)
Primary Sources:  47, 58, 60, 75, 92

Week Five (February 11):  Italy During the Age of the Communes, 1250-1350
Hyde, chapters 4, 5, 6
Abulafia, chapters 3, 6, 8
Primary Sources:  17, 34, 35, 36, 67, 71, 72
*Second Essay*


Week Six (February 18):  Religion and Church, 1250-1350
Lansing, Introduction and chapters 1-4
Dameron, Florence and Its Church, chapter 4
Art:  Duccio, Maestą (ARTstor)
Primary Sources:  80, 85, 89, 94


Week Seven (February 25):  Religion and Church, 1250-1350 (continued)
Lansing, chapters 5-8
Thompson, chapter 5 (on reserve)
Dameron, “Cathedral, Clergy, and Commune” (on reserve)
Primary Sources:  81, 83, 88, 109
*Library Orientation for Research Paper*


Week Eight (March 4):  Politics, 1250-1350
Compagni, entire
Abulafia, chapter 4, Conclusion
Najemy, “Dante and Florence,” in The Cambridge Companion to Dante (on reserve)
Giotto, The Arena Chapel (“Life of Christ,” “Last Judgment”) (
Web Gallery) (online)
Primary Sources:  48, 50, 52, 99


Week Nine (March 11):  Literature and Culture, 1250-1350
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio (online, The World of Dante), cantos 1-16
Abulafia, chapter 9
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, “Introduction to the Purgatorio” (on reserve)
*Prospectus and Bibliography for Research Paper*

Week Ten (March 18)
**Semester Break**

Week Eleven (March 25):  Literature and Culture, 1250-1350 (continued)
Dante Aligheri, Purgatorio (online, The World of Dante), cantos 17-33
A. N. Williams, “The Theology of the Comedy” (on reserve)

Week Twelve (April 1):  Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1400
Hyde, chapter 7
Norton Critical Edition:  Boccaccio, The Decameron, 1-147
Art:  Orcagna, “Triumph of Death,” “Polyptique”; Francesco Traini, “Camposanto di Pisa” (ARTstor)

Week Thirteen (April 8):  Medieval Italy on Film
Film:  “The Decameron” (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1970)
In-class response-paper to film (questions to be distributed)


Week Fourteen (April 15):  Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1400 (conclusion)
Norton Critical Edition, The Decameron, 151-187, 269-331
Primary Sources:  6, 7, 18, 40, 41, 76, 117


Week Fifteen (April 22):  Seminar Presentations
Seminar Presentations


Week Sixteen (April 29):  Seminar Presentations
Seminar Presentations and Conclusion of seminar
**Seminar Paper Due**