Before and After the Black Death: Life in the Medieval Village C.1086-1500

Course summary

  • Tue 18 Apr 2017 to Tue 20 Jun 2017
  • 2:00-4:00pm 10 meetings
  • Ewert House, Ewert Place, Summertown, Oxford
  • From £195.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O16P492LHW
  • 01865 280892
  • In progress - closed to new applications

Before and After the Black Death: Life in the Medieval Village C.1086-1500


As well as aspects of every day medieval village life, including the manor, the church, work and recreation, this course will also consider the impact on villagers of national events and phemonena, like the Peasants Revolt and the Black Death.

Sufficient documentary evidence remains from different parts of England to enable historians to reconstruct many aspects of medieval life. As everyone lived in a manor, the course begins with manors and the records that they generated. Then we will look at Domesday Book, that unique source for eleventh-century landholding. Turning to landscapes of fields, commons and forests, we will consider how families made a living, usually from the land but sometimes through crafts or industries. The many surviving church records and standing buildings allow historians to consider, and reconsider, the nature and role of medieval religion. Although work was hard and monotonous, it was frequently punctuated by holy days, or holidays: some recreational activities were of a religious nature, others most definitely were not.

We will also consider two extraordinary phenomena: the decimation of the population by the Black Death, and the Great Rising that caused mayhem in 1381. Various documentary sources, some generated locally, others by central government, will be used to examine the lives of medieval English villagers, both men and women.

Programme details

Week 1: Introduction; the manor and its records

Week 2: Domesday Book

Week 3: Making a living

Week 4: Law and order

Week 5: Population and social strcuture up to c.1340

Week 6: The Black Death

Week 7: The Great Rising of 1381

Week 8: Medieval religion

Week 9: Personal records left by medieval villagers

Week 10: Leisure and the medieval villager

Background Reading:

Dyer, C., Making a living in the Middle Ages: the people of Britain 850-1520 (Yale UP, 2002; pbk, 2009)

Harper-Bill, C., The Pre-Reformaton Church in England (Longman, 1989; or later editions)

Hatcher, J., The Black Death: An intimate history (Weidenfield & Nicholson, 2008) Also published as The Black Death: The intimate story of a village in crisis, 1345-1350 (pbk, Phoenix, 2009)

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)


Course Fee: £195.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


If you are in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Heather Falvey


Heather is an active local historian with a variety of research interests including early modern riots and eighteenth century recipes.  Amongst other publications, she has co-edited two books of fifteenth century wills. 

Course aims

To introduce students to a wide variety of aspects of life in medieval England.

Course Objectives:

1. To familiarise students with various aspects of medieval life and the range of sources that are available for this.

2. To enable students to examine and interpret documentary sources.

3. To encourage students to share ideas and to discuss historical interpretations of sources.

Teaching methods

A range of teaching/learning methods will be employed including: short lectures; the examination, interpretation and analysis of documentary sources; class discussion; presentations using various formats.

Teaching outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

Be able to describe various aspects of life in medieval England.

Be able to interpret, evaluate and discuss a range of primary source materials.

Be able to evaluate and discuss historical interpretations of the period.

Assessment methods

Students will be able to choose the form of assessment that they undertake.

During the course they will be provided with four exercises based on documentary sources relating to topics covered by various sessions.  To gain credit, they will be required to provide a detailed written answer of c.500 words to three of the four exercises.

Students who prefer to undertake one sustained piece of writing will be offered an alternative form of assessment such as an essay or book review of c.1,500 words. 



Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form with any piece of work that is part of the assessment criteria. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)