HST 553 - The Medieval City
Portland State University
Fall 2017


Due in my office (CH 441-M) by 5:00 on Wednesday, December 6

General guidelines

Please follow these guidelines when preparing your papers.  Papers should be around 15-18 pages long.

Late papers

Papers received after class on Wednesday, December 6, and before 5:00 on Friday, December 8, will be deducted one half grade step automatically per day (-5/100 points up to -15/100).  I will not accept papers after 5:00 on Friday, December 13, unless there are mitigating circumstances that have been discussed in advance of the paper due date. Under otherwise normal circumstances I will not give an “Incomplete” grade.


An historiographical essay or review essay examines historians’ approaches to a particular historical problem or subject over an extended period of time, up to and including recent scholarship of the past few years.  In the context of this course, the historical problems we have addressed concern various aspects of medieval cities, which represents broad and diverse historical terrain.  In this essay, using a combination of sources spanning at least three different decades (70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, etc.) evaluate the past and current status of a historical question pertinent to the history of medieval cities, as well as past interpretations of that question.  Where possible, assess current and/or likely future directions of historical inquiry.  Examples of historiographical review essays can be found in most of the more important journals and periodicals published on medieval topics, as well as in journals of general historical scholarship like The American Historical Review.  It might also help to start with general textbook treatments of a particular subject, and you are strongly encouraged to make use of PSU's subscription databases on the Middle Ages, specifically Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance and the International Medieval Bibliography, to locate sources and relevant scholarship.

You cannot, and should not pretend to be, comprehensive in your coverage, but you should take pains to identify key works in the field (and what makes them "key works," perhaps their influence on later scholarship).  In the end, after reviewing and critiquing individual articles and monographs (usually starting with the earliest published and working your way to the most recent), you should be able to pronounce on the state of the field as a whole, and how its methodologies, source materials, criticisms, and conclusions have changed; note possible furture directions for research; and identify problem areas or weaknesses in past historical writing on the subject.  In doing so, you must present a thesis of your own, which should be a critical assessment --  with your reasons given and defended -- of the development of a particular historiographical question and the current state of the field.