CL2JP-The Justinianic Plague

Module Provider: Classics
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Arietta Papaconstantinou


Summary module description:
«p»Adopting a strongly interdisciplinary approach, this module will study the pandemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the Mediterranean in 542, widely known as the Justinianic Plague, which has often been understood as one of the factors precipitating ‘the end of Antiquity’.«/p»


Focusing on a single event, the module aims to give a rounded view of the different historiographical approaches and the large range of sources that can be used to understand it. In particular, it will give insights on how humanities and the sciences can collaborate to advance our knowledge of the ancient world.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to 

- distinguish between modern approaches and be able to discuss them

- recognise and assess the implications of the cultural assumptions made by written sources 

- be able to find and use scholarly material from other academic disciplines

- show knowledge of the history of the period and of the geography of the areas discussed.


Additional outcomes:

The module encourages and supports independent student learning, written communication skills, and discussion with other members of a group.

Outline content:

The module will review in a systematic manner and conduct a thorough, in-depth analysis of all the evidence collected over the years for the Justinianic plague. This includes textual sources, archaeological evidence, and recent work on ancient climate, ancient DNA, and epidemiology, all of which contribute to a much better understanding of the phenomenon than when using a single type of evidence. It will also offer a historiographical overview, showing how modern historians have understood the phenomenon through the eyes of their own time, and how their analysis is constrained by the evidence they have at their disposal.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will be taught in five two-hour sessions in weeks 1-5 of term. This will be a mix of short introductory lectures followed by longer seminars, relying heavily on the discussion of pre-assigned readings, with the intent of allowing students to build up their own knowledge independently. Each student will be asked to present the week’s readings once. The remainder of the term will be devoted to research for a personal project/essay related to the subject, run under supervision. A starting bibliography for that project will be prepared by the end of the teaching sessions. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 5
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 90
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 80
Oral assessment and presentation 20

Other information on summative assessment:

A short class presentation (10 mins) of one or several of the readings assigned for discussion (20%). 

A starter bibliography for the essay due in at the end of week 5 (10%).

One essay of ca 3000 words due at the end of week 1 of the term following the one in which the module is taught (70%)

Formative assessment methods:

Feedback will be provided for the class presentations and more generally for the literature discussions in class. This is intended to ensure that the materials we will be working with are well mastered and understood.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission by 1st September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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