Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3219 : Living Together: Christians, Muslims and Jews in Medieval Iberia

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Nicola Clarke
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



Medieval Iberia, meeting place of monotheisms, has attracted more than its fair share of extravagant claims over the years. At their most intemperate, assessments of Iberia have lauded it as a wonderland of inter-religious tolerance – sometimes expressed by the concept of convivencia, or ‘living together’ – or else lamented it as a war-torn warning that multiculturalism is always doomed to fail. Hyperbole aside, Iberia offers us the chance to see how medieval societies coped with religious and cultural difference in both war and peace. Social norms, legal frameworks, architectural styles and the rhetorics of political legitimacy are all testament to the patchwork of accommodation, repression and anxiety that was life in medieval Iberia, on both the Muslim and the Christian sides of the territorial divide.

This module will explore the experiences of Muslims, Christians and Jews in the peninsula as political, cultural and religious actors. The primary focus will be on moments of contact between these cultures, between 711 (the Muslim conquest of Iberia) and 1284 (the end of the reign of Alfonso X of Leon-Castile). We shall approach the period primarily through case studies of particular times, places and texts. One such case study is that of the so-called ‘spontaneous martyrs’ of Cordoba, a small group of ninth-century Christians who deliberately sought death at the hands of the Muslim authorities in al-Andalus; we shall use the martyrs to consider how processes of acculturation and assimilation affect social institutions, cultural belonging, and family life. The picture of monolithic clashing civilisations will be challenged and complicated throughout by attention to diversity and fluidity on both sides: ethnic and sectarian divisions among Muslims; the experiences of converts and the children of religiously-mixed marriages; and the mismatch between external and internal approaches to the conflict, in the shape of Frankish and North African incomers to Iberia.

As is usual for a 'special subject' module, we'll approach all this first and foremost through primary source texts, discussed in seminars. Particular attention will be paid to lawcodes, chronicles, and poetry for evidence of the theory and practice of relations between dominant and subordinate religious groups, in both al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) and the Christian kingdoms of the northern peninsula.

Outline Of Syllabus

Themes covered may include the following: conceptualisation and legitimisation of authority; communal and individual identities; multiculturalism; gender; law in theory and practice.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be familiar with the major themes and events in the history of medieval Iberia, and be able to explain key concepts and terms within medieval Muslim and Christian Iberian culture, including dhimma, Mozarab, reconquista, and fuero. They will have detailed knowledge of a range of types of primary sources - arrived at collaboratively, through directed study and detailed discussion in class - and be able to go beyond simple judgements of bias and reliability, to explain how and why these sources present the world in the ways they do. They should also be familiar with theoretical approaches to multicultural societies, difference, and gender. They will be used to working as a group, during class time, to test ideas and alternative readings of the sources, with a foundation of secondary reading completed outside of class.

Intended Skill Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should:

•be used to weekly preparation of both primary and secondary readings for intensive in-class discussion, focused on reading for argument, and researching content and context;
•have honed their skills of analysis, argument and independent study through class discussion, oral presentations, and written work;
•have learned how to listen to each other’s arguments and ask informed questions in response;
•be able to engage with modern historiography on the period, and explain the arguments of their readings orally in class, and in written assessments;
•be able to think of their feet, and respond in class to agreement, disagreement and alternative suggestions on both primary and secondary readings.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion371:0037:00Additional time for work on summative assessments
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading201:0020:00Essential background reading in secondary literature, approx 2 hrs per week
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities301:0030:00Structured reading to prepare primary sources for seminars, approx 3 hrs per week
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching103:0030:00Weekly group seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study801:0080:00Wider reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time31:003:00Drop-in surgeries for assessment preparation. Online synchronous or via Canvas message board
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability; they allow students to develop and test their own ideas, based on reading undertaken independently; they encourage students to discuss with each other, not just with the tutor. They are central to the special subject as an extended group project, in which staff and students discover and analyse primary sources collectively.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M40Essay of 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Essay1A60Documentary commentary portfolio totalling 2,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, and develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

Essays test students’ ability to conduct independent research, relate primary source documents to broader problems, formulate an interpretation of evidence in response to a question, and write in clear academic language. Documentary commentaries test students' ability to engage closely with primary sources, assessing issues such as authorship, genre, context, style, and usefulness to the historian.

The form of the resit is no different from the above, i.e. no marks are carried over from the sit to the resit. Students are not allowed to submit for the resit any work that they have previously submitted.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.