Medieval Britain Summer Programme

Join us in Oxford for a 5-week exploration of Medieval British history and culture

About the course

Medieval Britain is an intensive, five-week course offered to undergraduate students during the summer vacation. Designed for students with an interest in historical studies but with no requirement for prior familiarity with the subject matter, the course designed to help students develop a wide-ranging understanding of the history, culture, and heritage of the middle ages in Britain. Based at Greene’s Institute, in central Oxford, the course takes full advantage of its location at the heart of the medieval city, with field trips to sites connected with the period and opportunities to examine manuscripts held by Oxford colleges.

Students taking Medieval Britain take two class-based modules in a mixture of lectures and individual tutorials:

  1. Britannia to Bosworth: This class is focussed on the historical development of medieval Britain, its economic, social, and political structures, from the end of the Roman occupation to the fall of the Plantagenet dynasty. It is taught by the Institute Director, Dr Daniel Gerrard.
  2. From Felix Brutus to Morte Darthur: Literature and material culture of medieval Britain. The class follows the development of the medieval literatures of medieval Britain through textual history, manuscript production, and art, from the works and times of Gildas and Bede to Sir Thomas Malory. It is taught by Dr Juliana Dresvina, the Deputy Director of Greene’s Institute.

Both class-based courses run in parallel chronologically. In addition to these two courses, students take Medieval Reception to consider popular understanding of medieval Britain as is it communicated to the general public by the heritage industry at the sites of their field trips, and in popular culture through novels and cinema.

Students are expected to complete one essay per week over the first four weeks of study. They also receive additional support to write an original presentation specialising in one of the three key areas of the course – history, literature and culture, and public reception of the middle ages. This is presented to the class at the end of Week 5.

Course dates

Teaching begins on Monday 13th July 2020 and will conclude on Friday 14th August.

Course Outline

Britannia to Bosworth From Felix Brutus to Morte Darthur Medieval Reception
Week 1: After Rome The collapse of the Roman presence in Britain and the ‘barbarian’ invasions. St Patrick, Augustine, and Christian Conversion. Early English kingdoms. Migration and Conversion: Gildas, Bede, Caedmon. Field Trip: Bath and Glastonbury.

King Arthur in story and cinema (Part I).
Week 2: The world of Bede and Alfred Mercia and Wessex. Coinage and the development of the economy. The Viking Age. The Kingdom of the English. The Problem of the Picts. Old English before and after the Conquest, from Beowulf to the Tremulous Hand. Field Trip: Winchester (abbey, library, castle, museum, and Holy Cross Hospital).

The Vikings in cinema.
Week 3: Conquest The Norman Conquest. Transformation of the English state after 1066. Urban and rural conditions. The rise of Scotland. The trilingual Arthuriana: Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, and Layamon Field Trip: Oxford Castle and Medieval Reading.

King Arthur in story and cinema (Part II).
Week 4: Angevin and English Empires Disorders of King Stephen’s Reign. Debate over the ‘Angevin Empire’. The Becket Crisis Relations with Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The impact of Magna Carta. The rise of the vernacular: The Golden Age of the Middle English Field Trip: The manuscripts of Magdalen College Old Library.

The Lion in Winter and Robin Hood.
Week 5: The end of the Middle Ages Late medieval urbanisation and trade. The social and economic impacts of the Black Death. The Great Cause and Robert Bruce. The Hundred Years’ War. The Wars of the Roses. The Books and the Roses: Fifteenth-century English literature from Margery Kempe to Thomas Malory Field Trip: Leicester Cathedral and the Richard III Centre.

Shakespeare’s Richard III.

The Oxford Experience

The city of Oxford is one of the gems of medieval culture an learning. It was the home of the early medieval cult of St Frideswide and remains the seat of one of the great universities of medieval Europe. Much of the medieval fabric of the city has been preserved in its churches, its castle, and its colleges. It is a place where the medieval foundations of the twenty first century world are vivid and accessible.

The medieval heritage of Oxford is synonymous with teaching by tutorial. In addition to lectures and seminars, every student on every Greene’s Institute programme is taught by an expert at least once a week, either individually or in pairs.

Field Trips

Week 1: Bath & Glastonbury

Bath and Glastonbury text: Bath displays some of the best-preserved Roman architecture still standing in Britain. The city of Aquae Sullis was a site of great religious importance to Romano-British civilisation and a place where some of the highest achievements of Roman city planning and engineering achievement are on display.

If Bath is a city where we can see Romano-British civilisation at its height, walking the streets of Glastonbury introduces us to the emergence and mythology of the medieval civilisation that arose in its wake. A fortified town as early as the seventh century, and home to the spectacular ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, by the twelfth Glastonbury was already at the heart of the mythology of King Arthur.

Week 2: Winchester

At Winchester, students on the course get a glimpse of the Old English monarchy at its height of piety, power, and sophistication. The city was the ceremonial heart of the monarchy of Wessex, a fortification in the wars against the Vikings, and the seat of some of the wealthiest and most powerful bishops in Britain.

Week 3: Oxford Castle & Medieval Reading

At Oxford Castle, we see the new order that William the Conqueror brought to British history. Part of the Anglo-Saxon city of Oxford was destroyed by the Normans to make way for the grim fortress that dominated the west of the city in the high middle ages. Still preserved and accessible below is the chapel of St George, a place where students can stand among stones raised by the generation that lived through the Norman Conquest.

The Norman Conquest did not just bring new and terrifying forms of political power to Britain. It also brought important changes in art and devotion. At Reading, students can explore the ruins of the Abbey built by Henry I in 1121 and see the local reproduction of the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

Week 4: The Manuscripts of Magdalen College Old Library

The heritage and history of medieval Europe is more preserved in parchment than in stone, and the remarkable manuscript resources of the medievalOxford Colleges are a central part of that legacy. Magdalen College’s library of medieval material is among the most important in Britain, and includes books from Saint Thomas Becket’s own library and work by the Venerable Bede and the early English master poet Caedmon.

Week 5: Leicester Cathedral & the Richard III Centre

To see not only the end of the Middle Ages in Britain, but the closest interaction of the medieval and modern worlds, there is nowhere better to go than Leicester. A few miles from the city was fought the famous battle of Bosworth (1485) that ended the Plantagenet dynasty of Richard III and brought the Tudors to power. Richard III’s burial site was lost for centuries, but the king’s remains were rediscovered through a remarkable and fascinating act of forensic detective work and archaeology.


Accommodation is available at no extra charge for a small number of students at the Institute, but will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. If all of the available rooms on site have been taken, students can arrange accommodation with host families for a very reasonable rate by contacting There are also a number of local hotels, hostels, and B&Bs within walking distance of Greene's Institute.

Course Tutors

Dr. Daniel Gerrard was educated at the Universities of St Andrews (M.A., M.Litt) and Glasgow (Ph.D.). He has taught at the University of Oxford, where he was a college lecturer in medieval history at St Peter’s and Merton, as well as for Oxford Brookes University, and the University of Warwick. In 2013, Oxford University Student Union named him ‘Most Innovative Teacher in the Humanities’. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

View Dr Gerrard's full academic profile here.

Dr Juliana (Julie) Dresvina was educated at Moscow State University (History), Balliol College, Oxford (Theology), and Magdalen College, Cambridge (English), with brief forays into the German and Chinese academes, as well as certificates in psychology from Psychology Academy of Ireland and University of Roehampton. She has taught at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, QMUL, KCL, Reding, and Winchester, and held additional research positions in the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art and Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Paris. She is also the Executive Assistant for the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature.

View Dr Dresvina's full academic profile here.

Course Fees

Course Fee Summer 2020
including course tuition and field trips
AccommodationGratis, but availability is extremely limited. Otherwise, please contact Alternatively, you are free to make your own accommodation arrangements.

How to Apply

In order to apply, please complete an application form here. The deadline to submit your application is 31st March 2020. If you have any queries about the course before you apply, please contact Dr Daniel Gerrard at

Places are limited, so we recommend making your application as early as possible.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!