The Black Death And The Transformation Of The West HIST4049

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 60
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

As best sources in translation allow, the course will investigate the Black Death-the disease and its epidemiology--but more intently, the Black Death's impact on psychology, society, economic transformation, literature, art, and socio-political conflict. The course will begin with a wide lens--the role of disease in history--before zooming in on 1347 to 1352 in the West. However, the course will be ever conscious of comparative vistas into the Middle East and to pandemics over time, especially recurrences of bubonic plague in early modern history to the 'Third Pandemic' that spread to Hongkong in 1893/4 and which remains with us today.


60 contact hours: three hours per week over 20 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.

This is one of the Honours options in History, and may not run every year. The options that are running in the current session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Successful completion of Junior Honours in History

Excluded Courses





Two seminar presentations/papers, one each semester, each worth 6%: presentations each of ten minutes duration; papers each of 1,000 words: 12%

Two essays, one each semester, each of 2,500 words and worth 15%: 30%

Seminar contribution, 4% each semester: 8%

Examination (two papers, each of two hours): 50%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ develop an understanding of the character of the Black Death disease;

■ investigate its impact on social and economic structures;

■ investigate its effects on mentalities;

■ develop skills in the critical analysis of texts generated during the Black Death and with subsequent plagues;

■ develop a non-technical understanding of new approaches to the Black Death and disease history from scientific disciplines, principally, genetics;

■ (6) develop skills in unravelling complex historical debates.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Critically assess the bias and reliability of various types of historical sources - in particular fourteenth and early fifteenth century medical descriptions, chronicles, stories, poetry, and paintings - to reconstruct social and psychological realities of the fourteenth century in Western Europe; 

■ Critically evaluate the character of the Black Death disease; 

■ Explain the consequences of the Black Death for late medieval and early modern society and culture;

■ Lead and participate in seminar discussions devoted to selected passages from primary sources and the interpretive literature.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.