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Towns and trade in the early Middle Ages


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or other relevant discipline.


The Middle Ages, the years between the Roman Period and the Renaissance, have been coined as such because of an underevaluation of this period in comparison to the Antique world. However, it is in the Middle Ages that fundamental processes stated that gave Europe the characteristics it has today. One of them is urbanisation.

In this course, the nature of early medieval urbanisation will be dealt with. We will look at topics such as the role of Roman towns in the medieval world, the fast rise of trading places in the north and the Adriatic, the reason for their failure, and some important European towns such as London, Paris and Rome in the Middle Ages.
We will look at the modern debate on the role of long distance trade and production in the urbanisation of Europe in the early Middle Ages.
This course relates to a course on urbanisation in the late Middle Ages.

Course objectives

  • Ability to explain the major phases of urbanisation in North-Western Europe before AD 1000;

  • Ability to describe the major characteristics of urban centres in each period;

  • Knowledge about 3 topics in relation to urbanisation;

  • Ability to reproduce the state of archaeological research in a number of important towns;

  • Writing skills;

  • Presentation skills;

  • Skills in argumentation and debate.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7 lectures (1 ects);

  • 360 pages of literature (2,5 ects);

  • assignments, 3,000 words (1,5 ects).


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Student presentations.

Assessment method

  • Assignments;

  • Presentation.

Assessment deadline

The assignments have weekly deadlines, the last assignment is to be handed in on the day before the last class.

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on Blackboard.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contractonderwijs: all information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr F.C.W.J. Theuws.