Fall 2015 - HIST 460 D100

Themes in Byzantine History (4)

Class Number: 5885

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Wed, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including 9 hours of lower division history.



Familiarizes the student with the main problems in the study of Byzantine social, political, economic and intellectual history. Students will be exposed to the main primary sources available to the Byzantinist and will read articles and books by the most influential scholars in the field of Byzantine studies. Students with credit for HS 460 may not take this course for further credit.


Production, Profits, and Prudence: The Economies of the Ancient and Byzantine Worlds

The Middle Ages evoke images of underdevelopment and assumptions of backwardness. The shine of Classical Greco- Roman civilization and the glory of the Renaissance conspire to render the Middle Ages into a byword for bleakness, poverty, and failure. Yet, the long period from the fall of the western part of the Roman Empire to the so-called barbarians all the way to the fifteenth century was neither sterile in terms of political and cultural developments nor universally bleak. At the same time while the break from the traditions of the ancient world was never in fact complete, the seeds of modernity could be traced in this same period.

In this course we look at the economic life of the Byzantine Empire in the context of its ancient origins and medieval surroundings. We also maintain a side interest in developments taking place in the world of Islam which dominates the southern parts of the Mediterranean after the seventh century. Our emphasis will be on those continuities and breaks that characterized medieval economies.

Our focus will be on the material basis of the medieval economies with a discussion of the technological, social and intellectual dimensions of economic activity. We will also discuss the methodological problems that colour the study of ancient and medieval economies.

This class is reading intensive and convenes in seminar form once a week. Students are responsible for all the readings on a weekly basis. With the exception of the first two weeks when secondary literature will dominate the agenda, each week will see three or more students teaming-up with the instructor for the discussion of the assigned material.


  • Informed seminar participation 15%
  • In-class material presentations 15%
  • Proposal 5%
  • Prospectus 15%
  • First Draft 20%
  • Seminar Paper 30%



Finlay M., The Ancient Economy (California, 1999)

Laiou A., & Morrisson C., The Byzantine Economy (Cambridge, 2007)

The rest of your readings will be available in PDF form on my Wordpress site or may be found on JSTOR

Registrar Notes:

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