History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

3. Was Leonardo Bruni right about the ‘ignorant and barbaric’ Middle Ages?

This lesson offers an overview of the medieval period. It serves  to introduce the unit – ‘What was the big story of the medieval period?’ AND, the year 7 scheme of work as a whole.

Students are  introduced to the arguments put forward by Renaissance historian Leonardo Bruni, who influentially suggested that history could be divided into three ‘ages’: Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Modern period.

Bruni also argued that the ‘middle’ years  were characterised by ignorance and barbarism.  In a nutshell he stated everything had stagnated following the collapse of ancient Rome.

Students are then invited to consider the evidence.

Using a card sort, they first categorise information according to the aspect of life described, before ranking this information according to how far it supports Bruni’s arguments about the ‘ignorant’ and ‘barbaric’ Middle Ages.

Once students have been guided towards reaching their own conclusions and determining the accuracy of Bruni’s claims, they are challenged to create a new cover for a ‘Horrible Histories’ book.

The aim here is to reflect the realities of life during this period of history. Having completed this introduction, students should be set up to delve further into the medieval period in the remaining lessons of the unit and year 7 scheme of work.

Download lesson

  • Lesson presentation: PowerPoint
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • Worksheets 1 & 2: PDF

History Resource Cupboard


Receive details of our latest courses, new lesson downloads, exclusive discounts and the latest articles with ideas to help you enliven your classroom teaching.