HIST 1011 Greeks, Romans, Kings and Crusaders: European History to 1600

Instructor Contact:

David Paradis, PhD

Email: David.Paradis@colorado.edu

About the Course:

On one level, this course traces the origins of European Civilization.  Ancient civilizations first appeared around 3,500 BCE in the Middle East and gradually spread across the Mediterranean.  Europeans adapted features of these ancient civilizations and developed their own distinctive civilization by around 1200 CE.

On another level, this course asks you to examine the thoughts, assumptions, biases, and logic that surfaced in the writings of ancient and medieval sources – historians call such sources primary sources.  By using historical context to understand and interpret texts from people who were very different from us, we can strengthen our ability to understand those in our our time with whom we disagree.

Course Prerequisites:

Because this course is an introductory course, it has no prerequisites. However, students who wish to do well will have the abilities to comprehend college-level texts and to write polished, formal essays, free of grammatical errors. Therefore, I highly recommend that you can comprehend a sustained argument and explanation in English that extends for several pages and that you can write at a college level. You may want to complete an English composition class from a fairly demanding instructor before taking this class, which will help you develop your ability to write in clear, concise prose. You may also want to take advantage of available tutoring services to improve your reading comprehension.  Every student in the course should take advantage of the writing center either at one of the walk-in centers on campus or online.  Even professional writers use editors, and these services provides capable writing instruction for free.


Each assignment relates to the course objectives listed below.  In addition you can review the specific objectives for each module of the course in the Course Topics and Assignments listed in Canvas.  The following course objectives reflect the History Department’s Student Learning Objectives, which can be found on the History Department’s website.

1. Students will be able to comprehend, interpret, and explain complex evidence contained in primary and secondary sources.

2. Students will be able to identify and analyze the historical context, perspectives, and biases that shaped primary source documents.

3. Students will be able to develop a historical argument in concise and well-structured prose based on the synthesis of information provided in lecturers and readings.

4. Students will be able to express and share ideas in class discussions, papers, and other types of assignments.

5. Students will be able to explain how pre-modern Europeans digested and disseminated stories, rumors, gossip, news, and other information.

6. Students will gain an appreciation and understanding of culturally diverse societies of the past.

In order to help students achieve these objectives, the course employs a concept known as scaffolding.  This approach gives students the opportunity to increase their command of the material through a series of lower stakes grading events: a project proposal, early drafts, discussions, and presentations before completing the final draft of the semester-long research project.  Students will mostly be responsible for demonstrating higher-level skills of synthesizing and explaining the materials in the paper assignments.  The course uses this scaffolding technique in each of the six course modules and students will achieve the most learning if they undertake each of the lower stakes assignments in the prescribed sequence before engaging in the high-level assignments.

To summarize, the objectives of the course include the development of a series of widely applicable skills related to reading, comprehension, analysis, and expression. The evidence that we will be working on in this course resides in the assigned readings and in the research materials that student will gather.  By helping you develop comprehension, analysis, and expression, the course also aims to increase your critical thinking skills, including authorial intent, historical context, and the appearance of sometimes subtle biases or perspectives in various works. Ultimately these skills will help you not only in your professional life but also in your private life and personal relationships by making your more aware of nuances and the perspectives of various sources of information.

Required Texts:

All of these assignments require familiarity with the assigned readings, which I have chosen to advance the course objectives.  The grading events (discussions, quizzes, and papers) will focus primarily on the required readings.  No outside reading is required or recommended in terms of completing the assignments.

Most of the readings come in two varieties: electronic (free) or hardcopy (free to low cost).  Below you can find the links to both.  When obtaining a print copy, please make sure to use the specified editions by using the ISBN provided.  Do not rely on other editions of the materials.  It is important that we all work from the same evidence.

  1. Textbook: The Origins of European Civilization by Christopher Brooks, David Paradis, Sheena Barnes, and Abby Lagemann
  2. Plays by Aristophanes (Module 2)
    a.  no electronic copy available at this time
    b.  Print: Aristophanes, Lysistrata and Other Plays – Penguin Classics, ISBN 9780140448146
  3. Agricola and Germany by Tacitus (Module 3)
    a.  electronic copies of Agricola and Germany are located in Canvas under Module 3
    b.  Print: Tacitus, Agricola and Germany, Oxford World Classics ISBN 9780199539260
  4. Beowulf by an anonymous author (module 4)
    a.  Electronic: You will need to login and install an adobe plugin to access this version of the poem:
    https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucb/detail.action?docID=3441741 (Links to an external site.)
    b.  Print: Beowulf, ed. trans. Seamus Heaney, Norton critical edition ISBN 9780393975802
  5. Boccaccio’s Decameron (Module 6)
    a.  Electronic: listed under module 6
    b: Print: Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, trans. and ed. Wayne Rebhorn, Norton Critical Edition, ISBN 978-0393935622

Make sure to obtain the specified edition of the assigned texts; these books offer the best insights into the material. If you are taking this course near the University of Colorado Boulder campus, I have placed two copies of each print book on reserve at the Norlin Circulation Desk. Otherwise, if you use the ISBN number listed above to search for the book online, you can get a sense of how much each book costs.  If you are going to buy the print version, I encourage you to order the books as soon as possible so that you are ready for the quizzes, discussions, and papers, which will ask you to demonstrate knowledge of these readings.

In addition, the course also contains a series of shorter primary source readings, mostly in Module 1 and Module 5.

Grading (out of n points):

I will assign grades according to the number of points you accumulate during the semester.

Overview Videos (7 simple quizzes) 100 points
Class Participation (come to office hours) up to 100 points of extra credit
Online Discussions (best 5 out of 6) 500 points
Quizzes (best 5 out of 6) 500 points
Paper 1 300 points
Paper 2 400 points
Paper 3 600 points
Paper 4 600 points
Total possible points (before extra credit)  3000 points

I will assign grades for each assignment out of the total number of points for that assignment.  Canvas will then calculate your course grade to date based on the completed assignment grades.

Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
9:00am to 4:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado