Thematic Seminar Simple Past - Future Tense: Life, Death and the End of Time in the Middle Ages
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleLET-GESB2201-CEH
Credits (ECTS)10
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Arts; History;
dr. B. Roest
Other course modules lecturer
dr. B. Roest
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
dr. B. Roest
Other course modules lecturer
dr. B. Roest
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2021
PER 3-PER 4  (31/01/2022 to 30/08/2022)
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksAccessible to exchange students
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
After the successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • independently find, select and process relevant literature and historiography on a historical topic
  • apply knowledge and insights gained from literature with regard to the theme of this course in your own historical research
  • search, select, contextualize and interpret - under the guidance of the lecturer - relevant source material in a methodologically sound manner;
  • formulate a relevant, well-defined research question within the theme provided
  • answer this research question under the supervision of the lecturer
  • write a scientific paper with a clear argumentation structure and adequate annotation, in correct English or Dutch
  • report orally about your activities in a convincing manner;
  • provide feedback on the arguments of fellow students, and to process feedback from others in your own work (in relation to your personal writing file).
During the Thematic Seminar, students will work their way through a complete research cycle mapping the historiographical debate around a given topic, designing a research questions, analysing sources and literature, and present an interpretation based on a sound methodological framework. This presentation will take the form of a scientific paper in correct Dutch or English. The topic of the course closely mirrors the research interests of the teachers. Your paper will be part of your Writing Portfolio.

In this Thematic Seminar, we will take a closer look at the ways in which people in Late Antique and Medieval Europe handled the temporal nature of earthly existence - from individual lives, to creation as a whole. Based around the idea that the End will come unexpectedly, "like a thief in the night", great thinkers like Augustine or Jerome already warned their audience that they should not be too anxious about all this: the how, what and when of the Apocalypse would reveal itself in due course. This, of course, led to anxiety but also to anticipation, and throughout the subsequent centuries people from all walks of life have speculated about life and death, the beginning and the end of existence - and whatever comes afterwards.

In the course of an initial series of meetings, we will encounter a broad range of interpretations about these issues. Based on theological, historiographical and personal sources, we will look at the social, political and especially also very human interests underlying these sources (texts, images, and otherwise). From the Book of Revelation and its reception, to the way eschatological modes of thinking were used to frame political developments as they unfolded, we will show as many different ideas about "The End" as possible, in order to show that apolcalyptic thinking did not only induce fear and anxiety, but also provided people with optimism and hope for the future.

Presumed foreknowledge
Due to the chronological and geographical framing of this course (the Mediterranean and Western Europe, 300-1600 CE), as well as its over-arching theme (apocalyptical thinking and eschatology), we recommend that you start this course with a firm basic knowledge of the social, political and economic developments in medieval Europe. Moreover, it is obviously necessary to be enthusiastic about studying the way religious modes of thought influenced (and were influenced by) these events and developments. Also, please take into account that we will be working with primary source material predominantly. While  we will start from available translations (knowledge of Greek, Latin, Syriac etc is not required for this course!), we will do a lot of Close Reading- and Discourse Analysis-exercises, meaning that it is recommended that you have at least a passing acquaintance with such historical methodologies as well: the goal of this course will be to learn about and deepen your understanding of these methods.
Knowledge of Christian hierarchical structures, patristics, and the Bible is useful of course, but not necessary: this course will be structured around a number of highly specific case studies, meaning there will be ample opportunity to contextualise and analyse the sources and the sources of those sources. So be prepared to prepare for the meetings!
Test information
Paper kan in Engels of Nederlands geschreven worden.

Paper may be written in English or Dutch.
During this course we will encounter and engage with the tensions between religious life, theological thinking and historical developments - and we will do so with an eye towards present-day events as well. Moreover, we will discuss phenomena like "life", "death" and "the end of all things": there are not always the easiest topics to discuss, even at an analytical level. Take this into account!
Assumed previous knowledge
Admission to themed lectures in B2 and B3 is contingent on successfully completing the courses, which are part of the writing and research skills track: RADAr: Academic Language Proficiency (NB:before 2020-2021 the Language Proficiency was part of History of Globalization ór Tutorage), Tutorage and Study Skills, Writing History.
See the Education and Examination Regulations (EER) 2021-2022.

Exchange students: Only admitted if you are in a BA-degree program in History (USA: majoring in History).

Required materials
To be announced
Secondary literature (articles and book chapters), source texts and source images as well as the booklet Geschiedenis schrijven!, ed. Jeanette Kamp et al., 3e druk (Amsterdam 2016).
Title:Geschiedenis schrijven! Wegwijzer voor historici
Author:J. Kamp et.al.
Publisher:Amsterdam University Press

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Test weight30
Test typeOral exam
OpportunitiesBlock PER 4, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Test weight70
Test typeProject
OpportunitiesBlock PER 4, Block PER 4

Minimum grade

Paper may be written in English or Dutch.

Paper kan in Engels of Nederlands geschreven worden.