Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Medieval France

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

This course explores the development of the nation-state of France during the medieval years, from AD 987 – 1328. We will explore the gradual move to a more secular society, the growth of science, and the influence of science on the arts.


This course aims to explore the changes in French society from the 10th to 14th century, providing you with insight into the cultural trends and movements of that place and time in history.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • discuss the changes in French society from the 10th to 14th Century
  • discuss the growth of the centralised state and breakup of feudal culture
  • explain the changes in architecture and the arts that took place
  • explore the role of the church in medieval society
  • identify the difference between Romanesque and Gothic architecture
  • explain the causes for the crusades.



The house of Capet ruled France from the late 10th Century to the early 14th Century, creating the France we know today. Hugh Capet and his descendants consolidated their control through struggles with various independent principalities and neighbouring states. From the 12th Century onwards, France was at the centre of a vibrant culture that extended across much of Europe. This informed and influenced the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture, the foundation of medieval universities, the growth of secular literature, and development of the arts. In the 13th and early 14th Century, Royal power was consolidated by eradicating heresy in the south and curtailing the power of the Catholic Church and the Knights Templar.

Lecture 1: The Carolingian legacy

At the death of Charlemagne in AD 814, his heirs were incapable of maintaining the political unity of his empire. Vikings raids on Francia saw the Normans under Rollo settled in the region which would become Normandy. In 987 Hugh Capet, Count of Paris, established the rule of the new Capetian Dynasty, which consolidated royal power and transformed France over the next 350 years.

Lecture 2: The early Capetians

Robert the Pious was crowned King of the Franks and his successor Robert II made agreements with the Holy Roman Empire to secure the realm. The long reign of Philip I (1060-1108) saw the First Crusade and Duke William of Normandy took possession of England.

Lecture 3: The 12th Century

Royal power in France was consolidated by Louis VI (1108-1137) who confiscated the lands of many vassals. The skilled religious leadership of Abbot Suger saw the marriage of Louis VII (1137-80) to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Louis VI participated in the Second Crusade and later divorced his wife. Abbot Suger’s vision of church construction saw the development of a new Gothic style of architecture first manifest in the Abbey of St Denis north of Paris.

Lecture 4: Saint Louis IX and his age

Philip II Augustus saw the expansion of the French royal domain through warfare – with Richard II of England, he participated in the Third Crusade. Late in his reign, the Pope called for the Albigensian Crusade against heretics in the south, with this region being incorporated into French royal domains. Louis IX was involved in the ineffectual Seventh and Eighth Crusades leading to his canonisation. He commissioned one of the great Gothic buildings of Europe: the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

Lecture 5: The later Capetians

The late 13th Century saw the rule of Philip IV the Fair (1285-1314) who brought French royal power to its greatest heights in the Middle Ages. He defeated the forces of Edward I of England and suppressed the Catholic Church through conflict with Pope Boniface VIII over taxation and confiscation of church property. Pope Clement V was the first of a line of compliant French Popes who ruled from Avignon. Late in his reign, Philip IV destroyed the order of the Knights Templar. The death of Charles IV in 1328 without male heirs saw the French throne pass to the House of Valois.

Intended audience

Anyone with an interest in history.



Delivery style

  • One-day interactive lecture
  • Talks and discussion


You will be provided with course handouts in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Free, expert advice
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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