Going to the Devil
Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences
20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits
Overall aims and purpose
This special subject provides and in-depth examination of the reign of King Henry II and the primary sources that tell us about it. Henry II lived in a period of intellectual revolution and political consolidation. "From the Devil he has come, and to the Devil he will go" ran one contemporary prognosis of the reign of Henry II. Henry is one of the towering personalities of his age, husband of the beautiful and exotic Eleanor of Aquitaine, ruler of England and the whole of western France from the Normandy coast to the Pyrenees, a man responsible (some would say) for the martyrdom of his turbulent priest, Archbishop Thomas Becket, and the conqueror of Ireland. Henry lived in a vibrant age, where troubadours and poets sought the audience and patronage of great men, where knights won great renown in tournaments, and where civilized men were instructed that when they emptied the contents of their noses into their alms (in an age before handkerchiefs) they should not show it to those around them. This course uses the copious contemporary narrative, literary, and documentary sources to help students build up a detailed picture of the man, the king, and his times. There will be a strong focus on those primary sources throughout the module, which is designed to give students the experience they need of weighing the strengths and weaknesses of such documents. It will also look at how Henry's career has been portrayed by later generations, using, for example, James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter" and T. S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral".
The course will examine a number of important episodes of Henry II's life and reign, and also key themes such as the growth in the efficiency and expertise of royal government, the development of the English common law, and the patronage or punishment of subjects, the right balance of which was vital to successful kingship. Close attention will also be given to Robert of Torigni's Chronicle, Gerald of Wales's The Conquest of Ireland, and a number of textbooks produced at the time such as the legal treatise known as Glanvill, The Dialogue of the Exchequer, and The Civilized Man - the first book of etiquette. The castles constructed by Henry II will also be considered, as will some of the wall-paintings and manuscript illuminations produced during his reign, so as to provide a rounded picture of the environment in which Henry lived. The module handbook provides a full breakdown of the content of the module.
There are three grades for upper second-class performance:
B+ (68%) Work will receive a B+ mark if it is consistently strong in: covering the necessary ground in depth and detail; advancing a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument; analysis and deployment of an appropriate range of historical and/or archaeological evidence and consideration of possible differences of interpretation; and is correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.
B (65%) Work will receive a B mark if it: is clear that it is based on solid reading; covers the necessary ground in depth and detail; advances a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument; analyses and deploys an appropriate range of historical and/or archaeological evidence and considers possible differences of interpretation; and is correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.
B- (62%) Work will receive a B- mark if it: is clearly based on solid reading; covers the necessary ground in some depth and detail; advances a properly-structured, relevant, and focused argument; analyses and deploys an appropriate range of historical and/or archaeological evidence and considers possible differences of interpretation; and is correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.
Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.
There are four grades for first-class performance:
A* (95%) At this level, first-class work earns its mark by showing genuine originality. It may advance a novel argument or deal with evidence which has not been considered before. Such originality of ideas or evidence is coupled with the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected of first-class work graded at A or A+. At this level, the work exhausts relevant secondary material, includes in dissertation work extensive and often unanticipated primary evidence, and betrays no factual or interpretative inaccuracy. It can also show a mastery of theory and deploy hypotheses subtly and imaginatively. In the case of essays and dissertations, work of this standard will be impeccable in presentation and will be publishable.
A+ (87%) At this level, first-class work will also have its argument supported by an impressive wealth and relevance of detail, but will further deploy the evidence consistently accurately and give indications of deploying unexpected primary and secondary sources. It will habitually demonstrate a particularly acute and critical awareness of the historiography and/or archaeological debate, including conceptual approaches, and give a particularly impressive account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical or archaeological debate. It will show a particularly sophisticated approach to possible objections, moderating the line taken in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. It will be original work. The standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently first-class work. In essays and dissertations standards of presentation will be very high.
A (80%) At this level, first-class work will have its argument supported by an impressive wealth and relevance of detail. It will usually also demonstrate an acute awareness of historiography and/or archaeological debate, and give an impressive account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical or archaeological debate. It may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, moderating the line taken in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. In essays and dissertations standards of presentation will be high.
A- (74%) A first-class mark at this level is often earned simply by demonstrating one or more of the features of a good upper-second essay to a peculiar degree, for example presenting a particularly strong organization of argument, strong focus, wide range of reading, engagement with the historiography and/or archaeological debate, depth of understanding, an unobjectionable style, and strong presentation.
C- to C+
There are three grades for lower second-class performance:
C+ (58%) Work will receive a C+ mark if it: shows evidence of solid reading, but remains partially superficial; covers the important aspects of the relevant field, but in some places lacks depth; advances a coherent and relevant argument; employs some evidence to back its points; and is presented reasonably well with only a few or no mistakes. It will also contain appropriate references and bibliography, which may, however, be slightly erratic and/or partially insufficient.
C (55%) Work will receive a C mark if it: shows evidence of solid reading, but remains superficial; covers most of the important aspects of the relevant field, but lacks depth; advances a coherent and largely relevant argument; employs some limited evidence to back its points; and is presented reasonably well with only limited mistakes. It will also contain appropriate references and bibliography, which may, however, contain some mistakes or be slightly erratic and/or partially insufficient.
C- (52%) Work will receive a C- mark if it: shows evidence of solid reading, but little knowledge of in-depth studies (for first-year work the student may not have read beyond a few standard works; at second or third year the student may not have read a good selection of journal articles and specialist monographs); covers most of the important aspects of the relevant field, but lacks depth or misses a significant area (for second- and third-year work this may mean that it fails to deploy the historical details found in specialist literature); advances a coherent, and sometimes relevant argument, but drifts away from tackling the task in hand (for example, by ordering the argument in an illogical way, becoming distracted by tangential material, or lapsing into narrative of only partial pertinence); usually employs evidence to back its points, but occasionally fails to do so or deploys an insufficient range; displays an awareness that the past can be interpreted in different ways, but may fail to get to the heart of the central scholarly debate or fully understand a key point (in second- and third-year work this may extend to a failure to discuss important subtleties or ambiguities in the evidence, or to a lack of awareness of the current state of historical or archaeological debate); is reasonably well presented and contains appropriate references and bibliography, but makes some mistakes in presentation or appropriate use.
For lower second-class marks for gobbet answers in third-year examinations specifically: the answer discusses the content and context of the general document from which the gobbet is taken, but fails to concentrate on the particular passage set and to discuss its particular significance. Alternatively, the answer may analyse the particular passage but fail to say enough about its wider context.
An ability to form and present cogent historical arguments (promoted by experiencing arguments in reading, by practice in seminars (especially seminar presentations), and by feedback on coursework essays, and tested by the written assessments).
The ability to analyse individual pieces of historical evidence very closely (promoted in specially designated seminars and tested by the written assessments).
A detailed knowledge of the events and developments of the reign of Henry II (gained through private reading and seminar discussions and tested by the written assessments).
An ability to handle and digest a large corpus of primary source material, including narratives, charters, writs, legislation, and pipe rolls.
An awareness of the competing interpretations of Henry and his reign, and an ability to judge between them (gained through private reading and seminars, many of which will take the form of debates on the period).
Close familiarity with primary sources for the reign (promoted by student examination of a file of such sources (either in hard copy or online) which forms part of the course literature). The ability to analyse these sources and use them in argument will be promoted by seminars (some of which will concentrate on the sources in the file), and by feedback on coursework.
Essays are a test of a student’s ability to research a topic; to analyse material and understand different interpretations of the past; to produce clear, evidence-based and properly referenced historical argument; and to organise their time so that the essay is submitted by the deadline. Degree essays should be the result of considerable reading and research and of time spent considering historical argument. Little credit will be given for work which simply repeats lectures or basic textbooks. The essays and their bibliographies will be expected to show evidence of wide reading (including journal articles and monographs). The argument of the work is expected to show independent judgement and engagement with any relevant historiographical debates—and to include references in the form of footnotes to the same. Essays should be word-processed and well-presented.
This examination is a test of a student’s ability to bring together a range of historical information within a limited period of time; to select the material relevant to making specific arguments; and to construct arguments quickly and flexibly. As students will have to prepare for the exam in advance of the release date if they want to ensure access to all relevant materials, the exam is also a test of time-management and organization. Students will answer two questions, one of which will focus on one of the primary sources.
Teaching and Learning Strategy
The module is taught entirely by seminars. There will be two x two-hour long seminars every week for ten weeks. Students will need to prepare in advance for these meetings, and will often be given tasks to complete during them, too.
Including preparing for seminar discussions, general reading around the topic, and research for the written assessments.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
Subject specific skills
- problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
- understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
- being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
- being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
- producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
- planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
- marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
- demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
- presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
- preparing effective written communications for different readerships
- making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
- making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
- making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
- collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
- appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
- critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
Resource implications for students
None, although it would be useful to purchase a copy of W. L. Warren, Henry II (London, 1973).
Introductory/General Reading: M. Aurell, The Plantagenet Empire, 1154–1224, trans D. Crouch (London, 2007); R. Barber, Henry Plantagenet: A Biography of Henry II of England, new edition (London, 1994); F. Barlow, The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042–1216, 4th edn (London, 1987); R. Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075–1225 (Oxford, 2000) M. Chibnall, Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1166 (Oxford, 1986); M. T. Clanchy, England and its Rulers, 1066–1307, third edn (Oxford, 2006); E. M. Hallam, Capetian France 987–1328 (1980); A. L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (Oxford, 1955) W. L. Warren, Henry II (London, 1973). This last book is indispensable for this module.
More detailed reading lists for each weeks' topic are found in the module handbook. Many of the primary sources are available online or via Blackboard.
Courses including this module
Compulsory in courses:
- 3QV1: BA History and English Literature year 3 (BA/ELH)
- P3V1: BA Film Studies and History year 3 (BA/FSH)
- V100: BA History year 3 (BA/H)
- V103: BA History and Archaeology year 3 (BA/HA)
- VV41: BA Herit, Archae & Hist year 3 (BA/HAH)
- VV42: BA Heritage, Archaeology & History with International Exp year 4 (BA/HAHIE)
- V1V9: BA History with Archaeology with International Experience year 4 (BA/HAIE)
- V1V4: BA History with Archaeology year 3 (BA/HAR)
- MVX1: BA History/Criminology year 3 (BA/HCR)
- LV11: BA History/Economics year 3 (BA/HEC)
- RV11: BA History/French year 4 (BA/HFR)
- V1W6: BA History with Film Studies year 3 (BA/HFS)
- V1W7: BA History with Film Studies with International Experience year 4 (BA/HFSIE)
- RV21: BA History/German year 4 (BA/HG)
- 8B03: BA History (with International Experience) year 4 (BA/HIE)
- RV31: BA History/Italian year 4 (BA/HIT)
- V1P5: BA History with Journalism year 3 (BA/HJ)
- VW13: BA History and Music year 3 (BA/HMU)
- V1PM: BA Hanes gyda Newyddiaduraeth year 3 (BA/HN)
- RV41: BA History/Spanish year 4 (BA/HSP)
- LVJ1: BA Cymdeithaseg/Hanes year 3 (BA/HSW)
- V130: BA Mediaeval and Early Modern His year 3 (BA/MEMH)
- WV33: Music & Hist & Welsh Hist (IE) year 4 (BA/MHIE)
- VVV1: BA Philosophy and Religion and History year 3 (BA/PRH)
- LV31: BA Sociology/History year 3 (BA/SH)
- LV41: BA Social Policy/History year 3 (BA/SPH)
- LVK1: BA Polisi Cymdeithasol/Hanes year 3 (BA/SPWH)
- QV51: BA Cymraeg/History year 3 (BA/WH)
- V1VK: BA Welsh History with Archaeology year 3 (BA/WHA)
- VV12: BA Welsh History/History year 3 (BA/WHH)
- V101: MArts History year 3 (MARTS/HIST)