Byzantium and the Rise of Islam HIST4308

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Byzantium, or the eastern Roman Empire, was the dominant power in the Mediterranean at the beginning of the seventh century, but a hundred years later, much of the Near East and North Africa were ruled by Umayyad caliphs, rulers who both followed a new religion, Islam, and held sway over lands well beyond Byzantium. Understanding these geopolitical, cultural, and religious changes involves an examination of the Byzantine background alongside wider Eurasian connections to the Arabian Peninsula, as well as engaging in ongoing historiographical debates. By surveying a broad range of textual and material sources from Britain to Iran, this course will assess the key changes and continuities of this transformative period in Europe, Asia, and Africa.


10 x 1 hour lectures and 10 x 1 hour seminars. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Written work:

Final essay responding to set questions - 3,000 words - 60%

Source analysis of selected primary text and its use for historians - 1,000 words - 30%


Oral assessment:

5-minute seminar participation and responses to Q&A - 10% 

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. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will 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 will provide the opportunity for students to:

■ develop an understanding of the political, cultural, and religious transformations that occurred in the seventh-century Near East

■ assess a wide range of primary sources and hone their skills in source criticism

■ develop effective communication skills through engaging with existing historiographical debates

■ develop the confidence and skills required in writing convincing arguments for both historical research and future employment

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ explain key developments in the history of Byzantium and early Islam in the seventh century

■ analyse and critique key debates in the historiography of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages

■ formulate their own interpretations of the evidence in seminar discussions, written source analysis, and seminar presentations

■ consolidate and develop their writing skills in formulating persuasive historical arguments

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.