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Ancient and Medieval History

Ancient and Medieval History

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Key information

Duration: 3 years full time

UCAS code: VV19

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

The course

Ancient and Medieval History (BA)

Drawing on expertise from our Classics and History departments, Ancient and Medieval History offers the opportunity to study the history of Greece and Rome in the Classical period (600 BCE - 700CE) and how that world developed into the Medieval period (c. 600 CE - 1400 CE). The course brings together the two key periods of pre-modern history, offering students the opportunity to compare and contrast pre-modern social and political systems and to develop the knowledge, theories and methodologies necessary for the study of these periods of history.

Taught by a variety of internationally recognised experts, Ancient History allows you will delve into the politics, events and developments underpinning our understanding of many aspects of historical societies and, indeed, our own culture. You will explore themes, key periods and problems in Greek and Roman history, such as the emergence (and fall) of democracy and the rise, decline and fall of Empires.

As a student of Ancient History you will be part of our Classics Department, where the quality of research that informs our teaching and a friendly, individual approach which shapes the way we guide our students combine to create an unbeaten academic experience. A thriving Classics Society contributes to the friendly and sociable atmosphere of the Classics department.

Studying Medieval History within the Department of History is exciting and rewarding; it encourages you to appreciate the human experience in other places and at other times, in a world whose consequences are with us still, be it through the development of international relations, the formation of geopolitical regions (Christendom/ the Islamic world), or the development of town life.

Our internationally renowned academics are developing the very latest thinking on historical problems; this cutting edge knowledge informs the curriculum and will enhance your learning experience. By studying History at one of the largest and most influential departments in the country you will be able to choose from an exceptionally broad range of subjects.

From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • History in the Making is Royal Holloway's first year foundation History module. This module covers the broad sweep from antiquity to the modern day, but it is not intended to provide a straightforward narrative. Instead, this module introduces our first-year students to an array of different topics and themes - from the rise of Christianity to the rise of modern nation states - that they will encounter throughout their degree. How have historians discussed themes like Renaissance, Revolution or Gender? What kinds of sources have they used? How do such ideas influence our understanding of historical change? And how has this shaped public debate and public history beyond the academy? Although titled “History in the Making”, this module might easily have been called “Historians in the Making”, providing our students with the skills, methods and critical approach to the past that will prove essential to successfully completing a university History degree.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the Greek World in the Classical Period. You will look at the key events in Greek History from 580 to 323 BC and place these in their historical context. You will consider historical problems and critically examine information and accounts set out in the Greek sources as well as in the works of modern historians. You will analyse a range of sources materials, including inscription, historiography and oratory, and develop an awareness of potential bias in these.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the development of Roman politics and society over the extended period of Roman history, from early Rome through to the emergence of the Medieval World. You will look at the chronology and development of Rome, examining key themes in the interpretation of particular periods of Roman history, including the rise and fall of the Republic and the Imperial Monarchy. You will consider the difficulties and methological issues in the interpretation of Roman Historiography and analyse a variety of theoretical approaches used by historians.

Year 2
  • All modules are optional
Year 3
  • All modules are optional

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the framework of Greek literary history from Homer to Heliodorus. You will look at the chronology of major authors and works, and how they fit into larger patterns in the development of Greek culture and political history. You will examine ancient literary texts in translation, considering issues in key genres including epic, lyric, drama, oratory, philosophical writing, historiography, Hellenistic poetry, and the Greek novel.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the history of Roman literature from its beginnings until the end of the Republic. You will look at the work of the major Republican Roman authors Plautus and Terence, Lucretius, Catullus and Cicero. You will consider the issues in the earlier history of Roman literature, including the relationship with Greek models and the question of Roman originality, literature and politics, the use of literature for scientific or philosophical exposition, and the development of narrative style ant attitudes to the Roman Republican past.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the history of Roman literature in the early imperial period. You will look at the work of five authors selected from the Julio-Claudian period, considering the ways in which Roman literature responded to the new political conditions established by the Principate. You will develop your skills in interpretation, analysis and argument as applied both to detailed study of texts (in translation) and to more general issues.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of ancient philosophical ideas and the ways in which philosophical arguments are presented and analysed. You will look at the thought and significance of the principal ancient philosophers, from the Presocratics to Aristotle, and examine sample texts such as Plato's 'Laches' and the treatment of the virtue of courage in Aristotle, 'Nicomachean Ethics' 3.6-9.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how classical Greek and Roman societies developed the concept and role of the individual as part of the wider community. You will look at Greek and Roman education, and how that encouraged the formation of ideal behaviour and identity. You will consider the role of rhetoric, and how competition was encouraged within these societies though literary and dramatic contests, sport, military life, and religion. You will examine how these ideas reflect the role of the individual in the community of the cosmos, and the place in society of 'others', including the lower classes, women, children, the elderly, and slaves.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the Greek World in the Classical Period. You will look at the key events in Greek History from 580 to 323 BC and place these in their historical context. You will consider historical problems and critically examine information and accounts set out in the Greek sources as well as in the works of modern historians. You will analyse a range of sources materials, including inscription, historiography and oratory, and develop an awareness of potential bias in these.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the development of Roman politics and society over the extended period of Roman history, from early Rome through to the emergence of the Medieval World. You will look at the chronology and development of Rome, examining key themes in the interpretation of particular periods of Roman history, including the rise and fall of the Republic and the Imperial Monarchy. You will consider the difficulties and methological issues in the interpretation of Roman Historiography and analyse a variety of theoretical approaches used by historians.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how different classical disciplines interrelate. You will focus on specific academic skills such as avoiding plagiarism, approaching and evaluating a range of ancient evidence, using library and other resources, critically evaluating modern scholarship and theoretical approaches, and relating academic study to employability.

  • This is a survey module covering a large and disparate field. No previous knowledge is assumed: it will offer a basic introduction to the principles of classical archaeology and to the archaeological material of ancient Greece. The module will help you to place archaeological objects and contexts alongside literature and philosophy and to gain a more rounded understanding of how the Greeks thought about their world and the physical environment they created for themselves. The main aim of the module is to familiarise you with the material culture of the Greek civilisation from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period. We will examine the principal forms of Greek art and architecture, together with their stylistic development and social context. We will also consider developments in political organisation and religious practice, as well as evidence for everyday life. The module will introduce basic methodological concepts and theoretical approaches to the study of ancient Greek material culture.

  • This module studies the broad spectrum of archaeological evidence for the Roman world. It will provide an introduction to the main sources of archaeological evidence and key sites across the Roman world. It will offer a taste of how we can use the evidence they provide in the study of history, society and technology during the period c. 200 BC – c. AD 300. It aims to familiarize you with the principal forms and contexts in which art and architecture developed in the Roman world; to introduce you to the uses of material culture in studying history, i.e. to study the art and architecture of Rome as part of its history, social systems, culture, and economy; and to develop critical skills in visual analysis.

  • This module investigates the origins of our ideas about human rights and duties, revolution and democracy, consent and liberty. Key original texts are studied, ranging from Plato and Aristotle in the ancient world to Machiavelli, More, Hobbes, Locke and the Enlightenment in the transition from the early modern to the modern world. The module takes a wide view of the boundaries of ‘European Political Thought’, also introducing a number of political thinkers from the Islamic world like al-Mawardi, Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Taymiyya.

  • The early modern period is an age of change. It has been seen by many as the beginning of modernity, for it witnesses the consolidation of both national monarchies and the central state, the split of Christianity with the emergence of the Reformation, the spread of Islam to the Balkans, European expansion into the ‘new world,’ the introduction of print, and significant changes in patterns of consumption. This module will assess the impact that these processes had on the lives of ordinary early modern Europeans and on their ways of making sense of the changes in the world around them.

  • The period from c.400 to c.1500 saw Western Europe transform itself from the poorer part of the retreating Roman empire to a wealthy, sophisticated and dynamic society. This module explores some of the changes and developments that took place along the way and asks: What happened after the Roman empire fell? What was 'feudalism'? How were castles and Gothic cathedrals built? Why did the Pope become so powerful? What were the Crusades? Why did the Hundred Years’ War go on for so long? How did Europe survive after losing as much as half its population in the Black Death? And does this remote era have any relevance whatsoever to the modern world?

Year 2
  • Greek History to 404 BC
  • Greek History from 403 to 322
  • Greek Historiography
  • Historiography of the Roman World
  • Gender in Classical Antiquity
  • Greek Law and Lawcourts
  • Greek History to 322 BC
  • Augustus: Propaganda and Power
  • The Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire: An Economic and Social history
  • This module spans the four centuries (AD 284 to 641) that marked the transformation from classical antiquity to the early medieval world. Those years witnessed the emergence of a Christian Roman empire, the barbarian migrations, the fall of imperial power in the west, and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms and the eastern Roman empire. These were centuries of dramatic change, accessible through both literary sources (in translation) and material evidence, and the legacy of those changes exerted a profound influence on later history.

  • In AD 700, the very existence of Byzantium was in question. The Byzantine Empire had lost almost half its territory to the Arabs and even its capital Constantinople was under threat. Yet the state revived and flourished so that by 1050 it was once more a major power stretching from southern Italy to Armenia. This module traces the reasons why Byzantium survived, the profound social, cultural, religious and military changes that took place, and how the Byzantines interacted with the world around them.

  • In this period London grew from a town of 50,000 inhabitants to a capital city of some 200,000. The Reformation not only swept away ‘superstitious’ beliefs, but destroyed much of the fabric and topography of the medieval City - this module will consider how Londoners coped with these changes. How were Londoners fed and watered? How were crafts organised? How was the City governed?

  • The triumph of the First Crusade (1099) resulted in the establishment of a Latin Christian community in the Levant for almost two hundred years. This module is primarily concerned to examine how the settlers maintained their hold on a region which was spiritually, economically and politically important to the Byzantine empire and the Muslim world as well.

  • Medicine and Society in Medieval Europe
  • The Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilisation. In this module, we explore the history of the Republic from the foundation of Rome to the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC. Students will examine the social and political pressures that drove Rome to conquer her Mediterranean empire and the consequences of that expansion for the Romans and for the peoples they conquered. The major literary sources will be discussed in translation, together with the evidence of archaeology and material culture which helps us to bring the ancient Romans to life.

  • For almost half a millennium, the Roman empire ruled over the ancient Mediterranean world. This module surveys the golden years of imperial Rome, from the achievement of sole rule by the first emperor Augustus (31 BC - AD 14) to the murder of Commodus (the white-clad emperor from Gladiator) in AD 192. We will analyse the political, social and cultural developments under the emperors of the first and second centuries AD, and reassess their achievements and legacies: Claudius’ invasion of Britain, Nero’s cultured tyranny, the terrible efficiency of Domitian, Trajan the conqueror, and the philosophical Marcus Aurelius.

  • The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1000-1250
  • This module examines a period of momentous change, which witnessed the Great Famine and Black Death kill perhaps half of Europe’s population, the consequences of endemic warfare rampaging across the continent, and outbreaks of popular revolt involving exceptional brutality. Lectures and seminars trace the major developments in the period.

  • This module examines the formation of the Mongol Empire and its impact on the social, political, and cultural life in Western Asia. While discussing the Mongols and their presence in Western Asia, we will also consider other intellectual and social changes that occurred in the late medieval period.

  • The Italian Renaissance is conventionally portrayed as a period of cultural and artistic renewal, economic prosperity and advanced political forms (republican governments). This module will verify the validity of this picture by considering the everyday experience of the men and women who inhabited the cities of Northern and Central Italy between 1350 and 1650 - political participation, class conflict, education, ways of inhabiting, material culture, crime and violence, gender relationships and sexual deviancy, devotion and the use of magic.

  • The approach of this module is firmly comparative, and the geographical scope is wide: from the British Isles to the Crusader States. The period c.1000–1250 in Europe saw many key developments, including: the establishment of universities and of the Inquisition; the persecution of heretics, religious minorities and of perceived sexual deviants; and the growth of vernacular literature.

  • Late medieval Christian Europe was a world of contrasts. Plague was endemic, but those lucky enough to survive enjoyed improving standards of living that rested in many parts of Europe on a flourishing economic life. This naturally affected life in cities, opening up opportunities for many.

  • This module examines the early modern history of Western Asia from 1500 to 1789. In terms of political history, this crucial period witnessed the formation of the regional empires, i.e. the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires in the Central Islamic lands - we examine the formation and transformation of these three empires through the prism of the social, religious, and intellectual changes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

  • This second-year module gives students the opportunity to write an extended essay on a subject of their own choosing separate from their various Survey Module and Further Subject taught modules. The essay is intended to facilitate and develop the student's powers of independent thought and research, and to help prepare students for their final year dissertation. Students select their topic in discussion with their academic supervisor, who will provide regular guidance across the year.

Year 3
  • The Extended Essay is a unit of independent study under the supervision of a member of staff. Students are required to write a long essay of 8,000 to 10,000 words.

  • Greek Law and Lawcourts
  • Augustus
  • The Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire: An Economic and Social history
  • Alexander the Great
  • The City from Augustus to Charlemagne: The Rise and Fall of Civilisation
  • This module covers the crucial transitional period in which Christianity came to dominate the Mediterranean world, from the accession of the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine to the death of Augustine of Hippo (author of the Confessions and City of God). The fundamental political, social and religious changes that took root during these dramatic years, which also witnessed the early Germanic invasions into the Roman empire, are brought to life through a spectrum of translated texts and material culture that students will analyse and debate.

  • Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was obsessed with crusading and he dedicated his pontificate to defeating the enemies of the Church. A profound challenge to his authority came from the Cathars of southern France - men and women following an austere lifestyle and holding a dualist belief in a Good God and an Evil God. Using a series of vivid contemporary narratives, in conjunction with other documents (including inquisitorial records), this course examines the beliefs and organisation of the Cathars and the progress of the Crusade and the Inquisition against them.

  • This course scrutinises an area of English social history that was once universally disparaged. Recent work, however, suggests that the Church in England from c1375-c1525 displayed remarkable resource in adapting to and satisfying the needs of contemporaries. As well as surveying some of the more vibrant areas of the Church’s institutional life, the course will dwell on the laity’s response, particularly as expressed through the parish. This will provide the opportunity to delve into areas such as popular belief and practice, parish government, and more informal activity in the foundation and management of lay confraternities.

  • The capture of the capital of the Byzantine empire by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481) on 29 May 1453 was a pivotal event of the later Middle Ages. This module explores the background, events and legacy of the fall of Constantinople, drawing extensively on the many contemporary accounts of the siege. Students will debate how eyewitnesses explained the disaster, balancing metaphysical reasons such as divine judgment and the wheel of fortune with practical concerns for human weakness and the role of heavy cannon.

  • Genghis Khan and His Empire, 1150-1300
  • This module takes students with GCSE level Latin up to Advanced Level knowledge of the language in one year. The objective of the module is to enable students to read Latin with reasonable fluency.

The course has a modular structure, whereby students take 12 course units at the rate of four whole units per year. At least four course units of Ancient History must be taken over the three years of the degree, one at year 3 level and 3 course units of Medieval History, at least one at year 3 level. You will be able to mix Ancient and Medieval courses as suits your particular interests and develop your own specialisms within the flexible provision on offer.

You will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars and tutorials, depending on the subjects studied. Much of your work will be outside class: reading in the library or via e-learning resources (we have a comprehensive e-learning facility called Moodle). You will also be preparing for seminars and lectures, working on essays, and undertaking group projects and wide-ranging but guided independent study.

In your final year we provide ongoing support for your dissertation work, which usually includes:

  • Lectures and practical sessions on Dissertation Research Methods e.g. planning your topics, carrying out research, using specialist resources, finding information in print and online, and managing your search results and references. These sessions are run in conjunction with the Library Service and are generally also open to second year students.
  • Short departmental writing ‘surgeries’, in which academic staff offer general writing support if you experiencing problems and/or those who have specific queries.

Assessment takes place by a flexible combination of essays, projects, examinations and tests, various methods being employed depending on the nature of the course unit and the intended learning outcomes. In the third year, you complete a guided and extended piece of independent research, a 10,000 word dissertation on a historical subject.

A Levels: ABB-BBB

Required subjects:

  • At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.

Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university, you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.


We accept T-levels for admission to our undergraduate courses, with the following grades regarded as equivalent to our standard A-level requirements:

  • AAA* – Distinction (A* on the core and distinction in the occupational specialism)
  • AAA – Distinction
  • BBB – Merit
  • CCC – Pass (C or above on the core)
  • DDD – Pass (D or E on the core)

Where a course specifies subject-specific requirements at A-level, T-level applicants are likely to be asked to offer this A-level alongside their T-level studies.

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.

Undergraduate preparation programme

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, for this undergraduate degree, the Royal Holloway International Study Centre offers an International Foundation Year programme designed to develop your academic and English language skills.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Our degree courses not only promote academic achievement but also the means to hone the life-skills necessary to excel, post-graduation.

Studying History both Ancient and Medieval requires research, assessment, reasoning, organization and self-management often on your own or as part of a team.  So, by choosing to study this intellectually demanding discipline you will develop a broad range of skills which are highly prized by employers, including:

  • the ability to communicate views and present arguments clearly and coherently
  • the ability to critically digest, analyse and summarise content
  • time management and the discipline to meet deadlines
  • organisation and research skills
  • problem-solving skills and capability

Being able to understand and process complex issues, to critically evaluate resources and construct coherent arguments both verbally and in writing is why many Royal Holloway classicists become employed in law, marketing, publishing, the media, government and finance. Employers like Channel 4, multinational law firm SJ Berwin, The Guildhall (City of London), accountancy firm KPMG, the Natural History Museum, Customs and Immigration, London Advertising, Broadstone Pensions and Investments and the Armed Forces have all recently recruited Royal Holloway alumni from the Department of Classics.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £20,000

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loansscholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.

*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25, the fee is £9,250 for that year.

**This figure is the fee for students starting a degree in the academic year 2023/24, and is provided here as a guide. The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you are classified as an international student. Please see the fees and funding page for more information.

Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2023/24 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.


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