Minor in Medieval Studies

Every student at Mason has a connection to the Middle Ages

Minor in Medieval Studies

The Minor in Medieval Studies at George Mason University offers students the opportunity to learn how the medieval past has shaped our modern world. If you’ve wanted to learn about the lives of caliphs and kings, or if the COVID-19 pandemic made you curious about life during the bubonic plague; if you’ve ever wondered how accurate a Hollywood blockbuster is, or enjoyed a medieval meme on Twitter or TikTok; if you’ve heard people mention the Magna Carta or the Justinian Code in your other classes and want to learn more, consider adding a Minor in Medieval Studies to your degree! The Minor in Medieval Studies features a flexible curriculum that allows students to pursue their own interests, from medieval spirituality to the history of science.

One Thousand Years of History

A Thousand Years of History

The field of Medieval Studies covers the period c. 400-1600. It therefore includes the study of many of the cultural and political events that shape our modern world, including the survival of the eastern Roman empire in Byzantium, the establishment of the Tang dynasty in China, the spread of Islam in the Middle East, the diffusion of Scandinavian peoples across Europe and western Asia, the growth of the papacy’s political power in Europe, the rise of the Mongol influence in Asia and Europe, and the development of the Mali empire in west Africa—just to name a few. Students in Medieval Studies classes learn how the world we inhabit today came to be. By taking classes in subject matters spanning continents and centuries, students develop a comprehensive, complex understanding of the medieval period.

A Whole World to Discover

Man Riding Camel

The field of Medieval Studies encompasses the study of art, culture, history, language, literature, religion, and other topics. For this reason, students can choose their required and elective courses from several different departments at Mason, including English, History and Art History, Modern and Classical Languages, and Religious Studies. The Minor in Medieval Studies thus gives students the opportunity to explore several disciplines as part of their degree program, helping them develop a wide range of skills that will increase their employability in today’s dynamic workplace.

A Different Way of Thinking

People listening to a lectureMedieval cultures offered a diverse array of worldviews that differ from the predominant outlooks of the twenty-first century. A Minor in Medieval Studies opens students’ eyes to new ways of interpreting the world around us. In courses on medieval culture, you can learn about different ways to organize society, define individuality, and understand the role of art in everyday life. Contrary to what might be expected, a Minor in Medieval Studies widens students’ perspectives, providing ideas and tools that will help them challenge today’s status quo.

A Long-Lasting Legacy

Medieval astrolabeIn our fast-paced modern world, studying the Middle Ages might seem quaint, even pointless. Yet the Middle Ages had a powerful, long-lasting effect on cultures worldwide. Even the idea of the university can be traced back to the Middle Ages. As a result, every student at GMU has a connection to the medieval world. Our Minor teaches students to cast an analytical eye on that connection. Once they can recognize the influence of medieval culture on everything from local architecture to political propaganda, students learn not to take the world around them at face value. Knowledge of the medieval past thus empowers us today.

Get Started

Knight riding a horseInterested in learning more? Ask the professor of your Medieval Studies class or contact the Director of the Medieval Studies Minor, Professor Jacqueline Burek (jburek@gmu.edu).

Image Credits

  1. Middle 7th century. Traveler on a camel. sculpture. Place: Musée Guimet (Paris, France). https://library.artstor.org/asset/ARMNIG_10313258258.
  2. 1339-44. Romance of Alexander ms. Bodley 264 fol. 79: det.: a friar preaching from a pulpit to five people. Place: Bodleian Library. https://library.artstor.org/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822001843190.
  3. 16th C. Istanbul: Astronomers at work in observatory built by Murad III for Taqi ad-Din. https://library.artstor.org/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822001797735.
  4. 1295-1305. European astrolabe, 1295-1305, French planispheric astrolabe with a single plate. Astronomy. https://library.artstor.org/asset/26230183
  5. 12th century, second half. Gospel of St. Matthew with gloss.. Manuscript. Place: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. https://library.artstor.org/asset/BODLEIAN_1039911583.
  6. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Rawl. Q. b. 6: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/cee84920-8cef-42f4-afa3-7fcd97ea55f1/.



All students will have opportunities to:

  • Conduct independent research
  • Pursue their interests across departments
  • Engage in globally-related activities through coursework and language study at Mason and abroad
  • Expand their linguistic and analytical skills