Some of our most lasting modern ideas, institutions, and technologies have their points of origin in medieval cultures: the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, Islam, Korean and Japanese Buddhism, religious war, religious orders, extended fictional narrative, gunpowder, printing, eyeglasses, the chromatic keyboard, craft gilds, long-distance credit, paper money, double-entry bookkeeping, natural law, common law, autonomous universities, waqfs, parliaments, vernaculars as literary languages, linguistic theory, literary romantic love, and Gothic architecture. Such figures as Mohammed, Murasaki Shikibu, Al-Ghazali, Maimonides, Averroes, Aquinas, Dante, Ibn Battuta, Giotto, and Joan of Arc all have made their mark on modern thought and cultural practice. The program encourages the study of medieval cultures across disciplinary boundaries.


  1. Students will engage the fundamental building blocks of civilization and cultural development found in the study of things medieval, such as studying and examining the roles of so-called “barbarians” as the Vikings and the Mongols, the continuation of Mediterranean trade, banking, and production after Rome’s collapse, the Silk Road, China’s breakthroughs in practical technology and money economy, the transmission of Hindu numbers and mathematics to the Islamic and Christian worlds, the medieval European university and its non-European equivalents, and the questioning gender relations first constructed and contested in “courtly love” from Japan to France
  2. Students will learn the practice of interdisciplinary approaches and how the nature of the evidence for Global Medieval Studies necessitates genuine interdisciplinarity, not just the accretion of separate disciplines
  3. Students will deepen their understanding of the roots and branches of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism in all their diversity, mutual influences, conflicts, and coexistence.


  1. As culturally literate global citizens, students engage with the living influence of the Middle Ages in modern cultures through such institutions as the state, gender roles, law, banking, vernacular literatures, and the university itself. Students can serve a world beyond themselves equipped with a deepened awareness of how much of the medieval survives in current institutions and why it matters.
  2. From their academic specialization, students can develop the ability to observe, describe, analyze, and interpret medieval art, artifacts, documents, and literatures both as individual fields of study and as interrelated evidence of past thought, aesthetics, production, and attitudes.
  3. Students can deepen their abilities to understand, question, and appreciate societies removed in space and time from the students’ own cultures: the alterity of the Middle Ages equips us to better understand the long history of modern issues of tolerance and difference.

Students in the College may choose either of two tracks.

Global Medieval Studies

Majors are required to take a total of 11 courses, planned in consultation with the Program Director. Nine of these are electives designated as MVST courses or cross-listed as MVST courses; for a full list, see the program website. Of the nine electives, at least one must focus on Europe and at least one must focus on a geographical area outside Europe. 

In their senior year, majors take a two-semester Advanced Research Seminar that introduces more advanced methodologies of doing research in Global Medieval Studies and results in a required Senior Thesis (MVST-348 and 349). 

Honors in Global Medieval Studies

For the Honors track, students must complete the normal requirements for the major. In addition, they must also achieve competence in Latin, Arabic, or another appropriate language of medieval research for a given student. The Senior Thesis must earn an A- or better for the Honors designation to apply.

Students interested in declaring the major should consult with the Program Director during their first or second year.

Writing in the Global Medieval Studies Program

The Global Medieval Studies Program at Georgetown University has always put a special emphasis on writing as an integral part of the critical exploration of society and culture, present as well as past. All of our courses are offered by participating regular university departments and, except for some advanced language study, include writing assignments in accord with the standards of the fields and across the geographic spectrum:  art history, cultural studies, history, literature, philosophy, theology. Further, the program’s commitment to developing our students’ writing skills is most evident in the two-semester senior seminar/thesis seminar, out of which all of our majors are required to produce a senior thesis using primary sources according to the standards of the field involved. 

A minor in Global Medieval Studies is available to students in the College, McDonough School of Business, and School of Foreign Service.

Students are required to take six courses from the list of MVST courses and cross-listed courses that appears in the Schedule of Classes and the program’s website every semester. Of the six courses, at least one must focus on Europe and at least one must focus on a geographical area outside of Europe. At least one of the six courses must be an upper-level course with a significant writing requirement. Students should consult with the director of Medieval Studies about their course of study. 

If you would like to be a Global Medieval Studies major, please submit this major application to Professor Sarah McNamer.

If you would like to be a Global Medieval Studies minor, please submit this interest form to Professor Sarah McNamer ( or the Medieval Studies Program ( 

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the spring semester.