John S. Ott
Portland State University
HST 453/553
Fall 2022



175/75 points
Written report is due on day on which you make your presentation to the class

Guidelines -- papers
  • Undergraduate papers should be roughly five (5) pages long and include a bibliography. Papers may be slightly longer but should not exceed 7 pages. They should be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point font, with paper margins of 1-1.5 inches. Bibliography/works cited page should be formatted in Chicago, MLA, or APA style.
  • Papers must utilize a minimum of five (5) sources (grad students should use seven) external to the course syllabus. Of these five, at least one must be a tertiary source of some kind. Tertiary sources may include but are not limited to academic encyclopedias and reference works, such as handbooks/companion collections of essays, etc. (print or on-line are both fine). The remaining sourcesr may include both primary and secondary sources, but a paper such as this will generally depend heavily on secondary and/or tertiary source material.
  • Each student should focus on a different town; in cases where more than one student is interested in a particular town, a fair means to resolve the shared interest will be determined.
  • Papers should not produce arguments so much as summarize known and reliable research; the tone should be informed/authoritative, much as an encyclopedia article. You are the expert.
  • Papers should be submitted on the day of your class presentation.
Guidelines -- presentations
  • Students should present a brief summary of their research report findings to the class. The absolute time limit will be 6 minutes. In their presentations, students should briefly indicate their reasons for choosing the city they did; offer an overview of the city's Roman, late antique, and/or medieval history, and indicate its significance in the Middle Ages; note important or significant milestones or setbacks in urban development, including the destruction/construction of noteworthy buildings (churches, town halls, wall circuits, royal or private residences, and perhaps other features) and division of urban space, indicating places like markets, neighborhoods, and geographic features such as rivers or other watercourses, bridges, topography, and the like. Commerical/economic significance, political or religious significance, etc., should be noted where suitable.
  • Presentations ideally will make use of powerpoint or other visual aids; slide presentations should be limited. 


(1) Pick a town located somewhere in western Eurasia. Obviously, larger towns will, as a rule, have more written on them, but if you are interested in a smaller provincial city or town, this may be worth exploring. I am fine with reports on any urban settlement essentially west of a line running north-south from Moscow to Baghdad.
(2) Identify at least five sources (one tertiary) describing the city's history and development. You may cover the period from c. 300-1500. You do NOT have to cover the entire period in your paper, but you may if you wish. In some cases, cities only emerge at later dates or become significant later; this is perfectly acceptable.
(3) Following the guidelines above, indicate the importance or significance of the city historically (why/when/how was it established? why did it last?); some milestones in its historical development (highs and lows), principal features, both topographical and geographical; its place in politics, the economy, religious life, or cultural/material production. Questions you may consider: What was produced there and by whom? What laws bound the citizens to one another? What political institutions did it possess?
(4) Produce a research summary/write-up; rationalize what you are covering or giving attention to, and why.