HST2028: Tenochtitlan, City of Blood and Flowers: Aztec Society in the Early Sixteenth Century
20 credits (semester 1)
Module Leader: Dr Caroline Pennock
Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.
Since the devastating arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519, the history of the Aztecs has been haunted by the spectre of human sacrifice. But their unique island-capital was not only a centre for spectacular religious bloodshed, but also a sophisticated metropolis, and home to a very civilized and familiar society of educated individuals and loving families. Attempting to recover the history of this complex indigenous culture, this document option examines life in Tenochtitlan at the time of the Spanish arrival through the records of the remarkable encounter between the Aztecs and Spanish, along with pre-conquest archaeological and visual sources.
This module aims to introduce you to life in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in the early sixteenth century and to the complexities of accessing indigenous Amerindian histories, through an examination of primary historical documents and sources.
The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce you to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime you on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding students' private study. Some of these sessions will take a straight-forward lecture format, but several will expect students to contribute by engaging with source extracts or key questions. Seminars will provide opportunities for you to present your ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving you in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism. All teaching will utilise primary sources and documents which can help in understanding Aztec culture and mentalities.
The module is assessed by:
- Three gobbets of up to 500 words (33%), which will allow students to develop and demonstrate their skills of independent source criticism.
- An unseen written examination (50%) will require candidates to demonstrate that they have absorbed and understood the material and that they are able to compose a structured argument and analyse primary sources in clear prose under pressure of time.
- Oral presentations and participation in seminars (17%), in which students will demonstrate their team-working and analytical skills and their ability to analyse different types of primary source material in their historical context.
- Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: an interpretation (Cambridge, 1991).
- Caroline Dodds Pennock, Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle and Sacrifice in Aztec Culture (Basingstoke, 2008; paperback 2011).
- Richard F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, 2000).
Intended Learning Outcomes