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Medieval History

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Before 1066: Anglo-Saxon England

Have you ever wondered where the names for the days of the week came from? Or whether King Alfred the Great really did burn the cakes? The literature, art, religion and society of the Anglo-Saxons are examined in detail, and the truth behind the 1066 and All That is revealed. From their origins in Germany in the 5th century AD to the Battle of Hastings, where William of Normandy was victorious and brought a new culture to England, the story of the Anglo-Saxons is fascinating and... [More]

The Turbulent 17th Century: Caroline and Restoration England

This course examines cultural life in England during one of its most turbulent political and social periods: from the reign of Charles I to the reign of William and Mary. It begins with the outstanding paintings of Van Dyck, court portraitist to Charles and the music of William and Henry Lawes, who served the Caroline court. The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 coincided with the work of the architectural genius Christopher Wren. Also studied is the poetry of John Dryden, some... [More]

Medieval Learning: Throwing a Light on the Dark Ages

The Middle Ages have often been dismissed as a period of ignorance stuck between two epochs of intellectual achievement - the world of Classical Antiquity and the flowering of the Renaissance. However if we look closer we will discover a rich tradition of innovation and learning. From Charlemagne’s reign in the 8th century to the 14th century, the Middle Ages were instrumental in laying the foundation for the Renaissance and the Western intellectual tradition as a whole. This... [More]

Portraits of Italy: Cicero, Alberti, Raphael, Titian, Vivaldi and Domenic Scarletti

This course explores the glories of creativity in Italy from Ancient Rome through to the Renaissance, using a mixture of written commentary, original texts, and audio and visual material. Cicero’s famous speeches examine the interconnection between writing and public speaking in Ancient Rome; the Alberti unit looks at his architecture and his satirical novel Momus; the Raphael, Titian, and Vivaldi units hardly need any comment, as these figures are all so famous and celebrated,... [More]

The World of The Venerable Bede: Anglo-Saxon And Celtic Britain

The Venerable Bede (c.673-735) was one of the leading scholars in early medieval Europe and ‘father’ of English history. He lived during one of the most vibrant periods of Anglo-Saxon civilization and played an important role in its evolving society. This society witnessed the transformation of England both religiously and socially with the spread of learning and literacy, a greater sense of unity among its peoples, opportunities for increased travel abroad, and a great flowing of... [More]

Eve, the Apple and Medieval Society

Medieval theologians believed the nature of Eve’s disobedience, as told in the book of Genesis, was sexual and thus viewed women as a persistent source of sexual temptation. This course examines medieval society’s attitude to sex, love, romance, marriage, courtly love and various other alternatives through authors such as Andeas Cappellanus and Chretien de Toyes. It will also look at heretical sects that condoned sexuality outside of marriage and family, in defiance of Church... [More]

From French Royalty to Empire – Art and decorative elegance from Louis XIV’s Versailles to Napoleon

French monarchs managed their images as carefully as any self-branded celebrity today. How did Louis XIV use the artisans and artists of the day through his patronage to enhance and dazzle his image as Sun-King? How did he make Versailles the representation of himself to be envied and copied by monarchs all over Europe? Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were the epitome of 18th century frivolity and play with artists creating portraits to reflect their extravagance but also to make... [More]

The Cultures and History of Medieval Catalonia

The area between Barcelona and Nimes has a distinctive atmosphere, and its position between the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula, and northern Europe meant that from the Romans onwards the region has been strategically significant. Today visitors encounter a unique tapestry of classical, Visigoth, Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences, recognized by the Spanish as 'Catalonian' (French 'Languedoc') culture. In the Middle Ages the region was a crossing-point for pilgrims... [More]

Gothic Cathedrals

The great medieval cathedrals of Britain and Europe are extraordinary and beautiful works of architectural and engineering ingenuity that still dazzle and thrill the viewer, yet they were planned and built in times when much of human life was cheap and ugly, brutal and brief. The cathedral was a concrete reminder of what they felt as the close contact between the spiritual and physical worlds. This course seeks to understand the philosophy of Gothic architecture, the society in... [More]

The Celts and their World

This course will explore the world of the Celts from earliest times (800BC), through the classical eras of Ancient Greece and Rome, to Medieval Ireland and Wales and then on to Celtic revival politics in the European Union. Who were the Celts? What did they believe in? How did they live? What legacy have they left to the modern world? We will seek to discover something about the richness of Celtic culture with its poetry, myths, dance, music, and mystery as it developed and changed... [More]