History (HIST) 201

Western Thought and Culture I: Before the Reformation (Revision 6)

HIST 201 course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: This course is intended as a foundation course for BA and BGS students and is designed for learners with little or no previous university experience. It provides a good starting place for new students intending to study history, literature, philosophy, or other aspects of the humanities.

Precluded Course: HIST 201 is a cross-listed course. HIST 201 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for HUMN 201.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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HIST 201 has a Challenge for Credit option

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Here are some of the questions examined in HIST 201:

  • When, where, and how did human beings first develop cultures worthy of being called civilizations?
  • How did the classical world of Greece and Rome come into existence, and what were its finest cultural achievements?
  • Which were the first Christian societies, and what were their intellectual and cultural legacies?
  • What were the main features of the Romanesque and Gothic phases of medieval European civilizations?
  • Why did the Renaissance happen, and what fundamental cultural and intellectual changes did it bring about?

HIST 201 is the first of two three-credit courses that together survey the development of Western civilization from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the complicated and sophisticated post-industrial world. Although the course employs a historical framework, its overall approach is interdisciplinary, drawing upon the findings of archaeologists, classical scholars, theologians, art historians, literary critics, philosophers, and historians of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


  • Unit 1: Prehistory and Ancient Mesopotamia
  • Unit 2: Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean
  • Unit 3: Ancient Greece
  • Unit 4: Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World
  • Unit 5: The Roman World
  • Unit 6: The Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire
  • Unit 7: The Decline and Fall of the Roman World
  • Unit 8: The Civilization of Byzantium
  • Unit 9: Early Middle Ages and Charlemagne
  • Unit 10: Medieval Synthesis, 1000-1300
  • Unit 11: From Medieval to Renaissance
  • Unit 12: The Renaissance


To receive credit for HIST 201, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Essay 1 25%
Essay 2 35%
Final Exam 40%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


McKay, John P., Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Joe Perry. A History of Western Society: Volume A. 12th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press—Macmillan Learning, 2017.

Other Materials

The course materials also include an online student manual and study guide. The course assigns videos which can be streamed online or borrowed as DVDs from the AU Library.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the HIST 201 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the entire challenge examination.

Part I: Exam Part II: Exam Total
50% 50% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 6, June 26, 2019.

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