Spring 2016 - HIST 288 D100

History of Christianity to 1500 (3)

Class Number: 5841

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 8:30 AM – 10:20 AM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2016
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    AQ 5007, Burnaby



A survey of the history of Christianity from its origins to 1500. Breadth-Humanities. Breadth-Humanities.


In this typical iconographic depiction of the Three Magi who brought frankincense, myrrh and gold to the infant Jesus, we see medieval Europeans struggling to express, visually, the global character of their faith, with each of the magi representing one of the three continents into which the world was thought to be divided, Africa, Europa and Asia. This depiction accords with Christ’s famous charge to his apostles to spread this new religious movement to “every corner of the earth.”

Pre-modern Christianity’s global character was neither imaginary nor aspirational. While stories of the entangled projects of early modern European imperial expansion and Christian missionization are often credited with Christianity becoming a “world religion,” this is a status that it had achieved in its early centuries, prior, even, to the emergence of the Holy Roman Empire and beginning of the Crusades in the Middle Ages.

The course will be organized chronologically into three main periods: Emergence and Differentiation (30-226 CE); Christianities and Conversions (226-1000 CE); and Medieval Christendom (1000-1500 CE). In the first part of the course, students will be introduced to the schism of the Jesus movement from the John the Baptist movement and its competition with other social movements in Roman Asia, followed by the subsequent, more lengthy process by which it came to compete with the Rabbinic movement for leadership in Judean projects of conversion and governance, following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

In the second part, students will be introduced to the key regions to which Christianity spread early and developed substantial followings, the Eastern Roman Empire, Southern India, Germanic Europe, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. Using the understanding of conversion pioneered by historian William Christian, students will be introduced to the “local Christianities” of Europe, Africa and Asia, their distinctive teachings and practices and the meanings made by converts in radically different cultural and political contexts.

In the third part, students will be introduced to efforts by medieval European, African and Asian Christians to move information, people, ideas and money, and harmonize their disparate cultures, theologies and sociopolitical positions to address the major events of the Middle Ages: Muslim expansion, the Mongol conquests, the remaking of China and new understandings of religious and cultural pluralism. From the Solomonid Restoration in Ethiopia, to the incorporation of Sufic thought in the works of Chaucer and stories of the Holy Grail, to the Nestorian advisors to the Mongol Khans, this was a period of extraordinary intellectual dynamism as much as it was one of military retrenchment.

Assignments and tutorial discussions will be organized around the rich record of primary sources left by Christian leaders and missionaries. And, as a second-year course, an important part of History 288 will be instructing students in the understanding and handling of primary source materials.


  • Attendance and Informed Participation 25%
  • Primary Source Analysis #1 20%
  • Primary Source Analysis #2 25%
  • Final Exam 30%



Students will not be required to purchase any printed texts from the bookstore. Instead, articles, book chapters and primary sources will be posted to the course’s Canvas site.

Registrar Notes:

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