History undergraduate modules

Listed on this page are all the modules offered by the Department of History at undergraduate level.

Please note: due to study leave etc not every module is available every year. Please check with the Department to see what is running in a given year

First year

Practising History (A & B)

 

Practising History (A): Skills in History (Autumn semester)
Practising History (B): Approaches to History (Spring semester)

The main aim of this module is to give students a firm grounding in the skills, methods and principles needed for the study of the historical discipline at degree level.

Semester one, Practising History A: Skills in History will offer students the chance to develop their own personal research skills portfolio by giving them supervised practice at note-taking, referencing, group-work, participation in class debate, research and production of a extensive bibliography for their seminar group’s research project. Much of this material will be accessed through a VLE, and the fact that the students will have to collaborate and make research decisions for themselves as a group makes this a valuable introduction to enquiry-based learning techniques they will meet elsewhere in their degree programmes.

Semester two, Practising History B: Approaches to History focuses more on the methodological side of the historical discipline, with lectures on the major schools of historical thought backed up by seminars in which students can see how these schools are represented in their group’s particular project.

Value: 2x 10 credits
Assessment: 2 x 2500 word essay (1 per semester)
Contact: 1 hour per week (mainly small group)

Ancient and Medieval History in Theory and Practice

This module addresses questions to do with the nature of history and historical knowledge, particularly as they relate to the ancient and medieval worlds. Topics covered include issues in the philosophy of history (explanation, causality, objectivity etc.); the characteristics of different kinds of history and major trends in historiography. This is not a standard history module with a definite period/place focus, but a broader reflective module designed to aid independent thinking and reflection by students.

Discovering the Middle Ages

This module aims to introduce students to a broad range of topics from the earlier part of the Middle Ages understood as part of global history, with a focus on staff areas of particular expertise in political, social-economic, religious, cultural history and material culture. The module will include introductions to topics taught as modules in Year 2 and 3, each framed as a question about some person or concept with which students may be familiar. Students will examine these topics through lectures and analysis of relevant primary and secondary source material, including material culture, online resources and accessible locations, to gain first-hand experience of some of the issues involved in the scholarly study of this period.

Assessment: 2,500 word assessed essay and two hour exam
Value: 20 credits

War and Society

This module provides a critical introduction to the historical study of warfare and its consequences. It considers a range of issues which cut across the pre-modern and modern worlds to explore significant issues for anyone interested in large-scale conflicts and their wider impacts. It typically considers ethics, varied forms of warfare and strategic thought, the economics of war, and the interactions of conflict with issues of race, religion and gender, as well as forms of opposition to conflict, and conflict resolution.

The Making of the Modern World 1500-1815

This module aims to introduce students to all aspects of the early-modern world, including its social, economic, military, political, intellectual, religious and cultural history. The module will cover of the period from around 1500 with the discoveries of the new world and invention of printing, up to the late eighteenth century with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Though the focus will be primarily European (including the British Isles), the wider world will also be explored (eg interaction with the New World; American Revolution). Students will examine the above developments through analysis of a broad range of relevant primary and secondary sources; material such as contemporary letters, diaries, treatises, woodcuts, music and material culture will be given particular emphasis as a means of giving students first-hand experience ofthe key issues involved in the scholarly study of the early-modern period.

Value: 20 credits
Assessment: 2500 word essay; 2 hr exam
Contact: 3 hours per week (inc. one small group)

Living in the Middle Ages

This module aims to introduce students to a broad range of topics from the later part of the Middle Ages understood as part of global history, with a focus on staff areas of particular expertise in social-economic, religious, cultural history and material culture. The module will include introductions to topics taught as modules in Year 2 and 3, each framed as a question about some person or concept with which students may be familiar. Students will examine these topics through lectures and analysis of relevant primary and secondary source material, including material culture, online resources and accessible locations, to gain first-hand experience of some of the issues involved in the scholarly study of this period.

Value: 20 credits
Assessment: 2,500 word essay and one two-hour exam

The Making of the Contemporary World 1815-2000 

This module aims to introduce students to all aspects of the late-modern world, including its social, economic, military, political, intellectual, religious and cultural history. The module will cover of the period from around 1800 with the onset of industrialisation up to the turn of the twenty-first century with the end of the Cold War and increasing concern with ‘globalisation’.

Though the focus will be weighted somewhat towards Europe (including the British Isles), the wider world will also be explored (eg empire, decolonisation, modern nationalism). Students will examine the above developments through analysis of a broad range of relevant primary and secondary sources; material such as contemporary treatises, state documents, art and material culture will be given particular emphasis as a means of giving students first-hand experience of the key issues involved in the scholarly study of the late-modern period.

Value: 20 credits
Assessment: 2500 word essay and one two-hour exam

Themes and Areas 1

Students are offered the opportunity to study 20 credits outside their main discipline in the first year. We encourage you to use this opportunity to develop a language skill, or to broaden your access to modules within the University subject provision. The full list of modules available is too extensive to list here, but to give you a sense of the kinds of modules students take, below are some examples from the options which have been available in previous years.

  • Archaeology, Theory and Practice
  • Art and Contexts
  • British Central Government
  • Classical Political Thought
  • Contemporary Human Geography
  • Early Civilisation of America
  • Economy, Space and Policy
  • Environmental Economics
  • Foundations of Politics
  • European Economic Issues
  • Greece and Rome
  • Good Brain, Bad Brain (Pharmacology)
  • History of Birmingham
  • History of the Earth
  • History and Contemporary Images of 20th century Europe
  • Human Societies and Cultural Change
  • Impact of Mathematics
  • Individual and Society
  • International Economy
  • Introduction to Christian History
  • Introduction to Christian Theology
  • Introduction to Economics
  • Introduction to European Ethics
  • Introduction to European Political Philosophy
  • Introduction to Film Studies
  • Introduction to Gender Studies
  • Introduction to International Relations
  • Introduction to Media, Culture and Society
  • Introduction to Multiculturalism
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Social Policy
  • Introduction to Study of the Holocaust
  • Introductory History to Scientific Ideas in Western Culture
  • Languages: e.g. French, German, Latin, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish
  • Nineteenth century Russia
  • Old English
  • Russian Politics
  • Society, Space and Policy
  • The Age of Common Practice (music)
  • The Age of Extremes (music)
  • The Emergence of Modern Germany: its History and Images
  • Weather, Climate and Human History

 




Second year

Group Research

This module provides students with an exciting opportunity to work in groups to design and execute a collaborative research project. The aim is for students to gain experience in the process of historical inquiry and develop their research skills in a supportive environment in advance of individual work for dissertations. Students also benefit greatly from the opportunity to work in teams and coordinate their own projects effectively. The summer term begins with a second year conference in which all groups present their findings to the rest of the year group and to staff. Students enthusiastically pursue a range of presentational methods and styles to convey their ideas and research. In many cases students choose to learn and utilise IT presentational packages to support their work. There is also a requirement for each student to submit an individual essay on their research. By the end of the module all students will have enhanced their presentational skills, their skills as historians, developed their interest in a particular field of history, and be able to demonstrate to future employers that they have experience of working collaboratively and making professionally acceptable oral presentations.

Students are permitted to choose a project from a wide range of choices. They work in teams of approximately 4-6 students under the supervision of a member of academic staff. The tutor helps the students to embark on the project by providing initial ideas and reading, but the students are then free to design their own projects according to the enthusiasms and capacities of the group. All groups make extensive use of primary source evidence as well as reviewing the secondary literature on their topic.

Value: Each of the following modules are worth 20 credits at second-year level and run in the Autumn and Spring terms.
Assessment: A group presentation (worth 50%) and an individual essay (worth 50%), both due at the start of the summer term.

Race, Ethnicity and Identity in the Medieval World
Dr Chris Callow

This option asks you to think about what it means to have ethnic, religious, class and regional identities. Why do we give ourselves these labels and why do others give them to us? How do such identities change over time? Given the gaps in some of the medieval evidence, it will also encourage you to think about how such gaps affects what we know about different social groups in the past. And how do modern historians think about, for example, the ‘Germanic’ past or how past identities relate to modern ideas of the nation? How easy is it to determine why particular forms of identity matter to different people at different times? You might also consider the nature of identity within the post-Roman world (of various ‘barbarian’ groups) or consider how conquering or minority groups are portrayed at different times within the medieval world.

Conversion and Mission in Early Medieval Europe
Dr Simon Yarrow

The late antique world’s fundamental cultural legacy to early medieval Europe was the Christian church. A consistent feature of Europe’s subsequent geographical expansion was the spread of Christianity to peoples and regions previously unacquainted with it. Research groups will be invited to examine the conditions under which Christian institutional structures, beliefs and practices came into use at the boundaries of the early medieval kingdoms, in places like Ireland, the Anglo- Saxon kingdoms, Scandinavia and Germany (East Francia) and beyond from the fifth to the eleventh centuries.

China in Transformation: the Tang-Song Transition C. 750-1150
Professor Naomi Standen

We tend to see China as a rice-eating economic powerhouse rooted in Confucian ideas, with its centre of gravity in the southeastern seaboard and no credible rivals in the eastern Eurasian region. But it was not always so. In the year 750 the Tang dynasty (618-907) was a wheat-eating political powerhouse rooted in Buddhist and Daoist ideas, with its centre of gravity in the northern borderlands and numerous highly credible rivals in the region. Over the next 400 years monumental changes took place that laid the groundwork for China to enter the early modern period. The population moved south and the northern capitals were abandoned. Paddy rice took over as the staple food. Bulk trade by sea challenged overland trade along the Silk Roads. Printing was invented and became an industry. Literate elites created a backlash against Buddhism and conceived the new ideology of neo-Confucianism. China’s dynasties fought for survival against rebels and neighbouring states, and made a whole range of different deals to survive in a multi-state system. There are numerous histories, biographies, treatises, travel accounts, advice books and manuals, datasets and collections of material-culture evidence, and even poetry and religious texts, with which to explore questions relating to topics such as trade routes and political relations, changing ideas about gender and family roles, religion and ideology, military matters and warfare, rebels and rebellions, population movements, commerce, China’s neighbours, and many more.

Kings and Propaganda: Power in the Islamic World
Dr Arezou Azad

From the earliest days of Islam until today, political power, most notably its relationship to religious power, is one of the most contentious issues in Islamic history. The early Abbasid rulers of the 9th century, for example, carried out an inquisition against Islamic scholars who limited the powers of the caliph. Muslim kings, caliphs and sultans of the 10th to the 16th centuries built or transformed some of the world’s greatest cities of their time – Samarqand, Bukhara, Isfahan, Constantinople, and Shahjahanabad, to name a few. More recently, in the 1970s, the Shah of Iran was toppled in an Islamic revolution that paved the way for an Islamic Republic led by Islamic scholars.

Some of the topics that have received considerable discussion in the secondary literature of the past decades include:

  • doctrines of power: Sasanian, Islamic and Turco-Mongol notions of power, and their influence on kingship and rule
  • education and ‘Mirrors for Princes’ texts, and how they prepare future rulers
  • female rulers – queens, princesses and attendants at the Islamic courts, and the extent of their political power
  • tensions between religious and political leaders: the ‘Abbasid mihna (inquisition), scholars fighting corruption, judicial power of the qadi (Islamic judge) and mazalim (royal) courts, etc
  • legitimisation devices for Islamic rulers: genealogical constructions, the acquisition of religious powers, declaring festivals, constructing visual environments of power (arts and architecture), etc
  • limits of power: bureaucratic-legal limitations on power, limits of the impact of high-level decisions on the provinces and villages in the wider domains, etc
  • caliphs and sultans – the representation of kings as secular leaders or moral guides?
  • the Prophet Muhammad – religious and political leader?
  • cities and kingship – cities as show cases of power
  • Saladin – Muslim saint or pragmatic state-builder?
  • Shah Abbas I of Safavid Iran, Akbar the Great of Mughal India, Mehmet the
  • Conqueror of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century– what made them so successful?
  • courts of the Mongols in 13th-14th-century Iran
  • financial sources of power – trade, taxes and the treasury
  • external sources of power – foreign trade, and diplomacy

We could consider any of the topics listed above, a comparison between any two of the topics; or more specific issues, such as, how and why were sacred sites, such as, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, or the city of Balkh (Afghanistan), altered over time? Or, How did Shah Abbas I create a visual environment in Isfahan (Iran) that enhanced his power? You can also suggest any other topic that is not listed here.

Primary sources will vary according to the time and place on which you focus. In all cases, however, you will have both written (translated) and visual primary material to study. These include chronicles, geographical treatises, ‘Mirrors for Princes’, biographies and memoires, administrative manuals, travel accounts, legal documents and letters, coins, ceramics, wall and miniature paintings, and buildings.

Magna Carta
Dr Jens Röhrkasten

The events leading up to Magna Carta represented a serious challenge to royal authority. The fact that a king had to make concessions of this nature and in this form was indicative of a serious political crisis. The document itself contains a programme of political reform. It is often forgotten that this reform extended to the royal forests and led to a separate document, the Charter of the Forest. Students opting for this class will have a wide range of choices for their projects. Why was King John forced to make these concessions? Who were the rebel barons and what were their aims? Was Magna Carta a unique English phenomenon or was it part of a wider European development? Why were there different versions of Magna Carta? Why did the charters become such important documents in the thirteenth century and beyond? Students will be expected to study relevant source material in order to address these themes.

The Many Headed Monster: Popular Unrest in Medieval Europe
Dr Miriam Muller

The later medieval period in general and the 14th century in particular was a time of economic stress and social strain. Peasants and Labourers rebelled against their conditions locally and periodically before they revolted openly and on a much wider and dramatic scale in 1381. The later medieval period in general and the 14th century in particular was a time of economic stress and social strain. Peasants and Labourers rebelled against their conditions locally and periodically before they revolted openly and on a much wider and dramatic scale in 1381. Rebelling against authority was an extremely dangerous affair, participants would risk their lives and rebel leaders could face execution if they were caught. Various sources give us some vivid insights into peasant and other popular risings in the medieval period. Most of the contemporary sources were very unsympathetic to peasants and their grievances.

Topics and themes to consider may include: How can we get through the contemporary negative propaganda to the real peasant and labourer? Why did peasants risk like and limb to rebel against government and established authority? What were the aims of the rebels, what were they rebelling against and how did their society view them? By looking at the representation of the rebel in medieval society, can we also perhaps learn something about the representation of dissent, authority and official propaganda across the ages?

Labour Migration to Britain in Past and Present
Dr Jelle Van Lottum

Labour migration is a hotly debated topic in both the political and the public arena. In particular the recent influx of Eastern European migrant workers and the potential efect this may have on the UK economy, is a subject that ranks highly on the political agenda, and is also an issue that generates strong opinions in the media and among the wider public. While some emphasise the positive effects of these labour migrations for the UK economy, others stress its potential negative economic consequences or even the destabilising effect it may have on the society at large. Interestingly, in the current public or political debate, for instance in the debates about the effect of the European Union’s freedom of movement policy, there is little awareness that the current state of affairs, as well as the public discourse surrounding it, has historical precedents. Whether it concerns German labourers migrating to nineteenth century London, French Huguenot merchants arriving in various places in the country during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, or Lowcountry weavers in the 15th and 16th century, the recent influx of Eastern European migrants is certainly not the first time Britain witnessed a substantial migrant influx from Europe. Like today, these historical migrations have been accompanied by fierce debates, with some parties pointing out the positive effect of immigration on the local or national economy and others stressing the potential detrimental effects.

In this module students will undertake a comparative research with the purpose of identifying the key differences and similarities of present and past migrations. We will aim to answer among others the following questions: Is it possible to make generalization between migrant groups now and in the past? What determines the economic success of immigrant groups? What criteria are applied to measure their success, are the same criteria applied to different groups, and what differences can be identified over time and place? Can we see major differences in the debates surrounding labour migration? Does the public, media or political parties apply the same standards now as they did in the past?

Life in the Tudor and Stuart Country House
Dr Tara Hamling

Imagine what it might have been like to live in a country house in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. How did these buildings function to support patterns of life? This group research topic allows students to focus on any aspect of life in the Tudor country house, such as family life, socialising, leisure pursuits, decoration and display, religious life, food and dining, scandal and gossip, intrigues and plots. Projects could like the form of a case study relating to a particular house (such as Aston Hall, Charlecote, Coughton Court, Chastleton House, Blakesley Hall) or could choose a theme to explore in relation to several properties.

Lost in the Artic: the English search for a Northwest Passage
Dr Margaret Small

Students taking this module, will make the decision, as a group, to focus on some aspect of the English search for the Northwest passage. In 1577 Sir Martin Frobisher effectively began English overseas expansion with the first of a series of searches for the Northwest passage. It was the start of an obsession that was to consume lives, capital and interest for a further four centuries before the Norwegian, Raold Amundsen finally sailed through it in 1906. It was not until 2006, that Global Warming finally made the passage a year-round open route through the arctic. In the years between Frobisher and Amundsen, however, many of the most famous explorers became engaged in the search for the Northwest passage. They left a legacy of reports and tales, fact and fantasy which helped to build up the myth of the northwest passage but also helped to further navigational techniques and expand the bounds of knowledge. There have been famous deaths and disappearances such as those of Hudson and Franklin, and discoveries such as those of Vancouver and Amundsen. The long quest for the sea-route raises obvious questions, such as why it became such an obsession, what were the results expected from the search, how did people prepare for it, why did they think it might exist, what were the scientific gains? There are other more specific questions, however, such as what was the role of Lady Franklin in promoting arctic exploration, how did captain-crew relations play out in the searches eg. Cook, Hudson, Frobisher, Franklin? What was the role of the Admiralty? There are even questions as to who can really lay claim to having discovered the Northwest passage since though Amundsen was the first to survive the venture by sea, McClure had already completed the voyage by land. There are a wealth of sources from the 16th- 20th century. For his time, Frobisher's voyages are among the better documented with travellers reports, analyses, equipment lists and lists of contributors all available. The later voyages are even better documented. There are extant sources of every description from newspaper and admiralty reports to letters and accounts.

Exploring Eighteenth-Century Birmingham: Perspectives on the 'workshop of the World'
Dr Malcolm Dick

Birmingham was a dynamic town between 1700 and 1815. Not only did it grow rapidly as an urban centre dedicated to industry and trade, but it also became the hub of Britain’s canals and a location for the Enlightenment. Here, the Lunar Society, which included Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestley and James Watt, hosted a network of scholars and industrialists who were innovators in educational practice, science and technology. Birmingham’s reputation as a city of diversity began in this period. It was a home to Protestant religious nonconformists, Jews and Catholics as well as members of the Church of England. Birmingham people also participated in the slave trade and, paradoxically, in the abolition campaign as well. This group research project provides an opportunity to explore aspects of Birmingham’s history, by focussing on landscape and buildings, museum artefacts and archival, printed and visual primary sources. Not only does it offer an insight into the city where we work and live, but also the ways in which historians make sense of the past and approaches to the academic study of local history. Student activities can include exploring the canal network, examining the history of an eighteenth-century building, evaluating the importance of an individual, tracing the experiences of women or children or charting the growth of an industry. There are many possibilities.

Domestic Servants at Work in Georgian England
Dr Kate Smith

Conflict, revolution and resistance marked the Georgian period, shaping its political, economic and social landscapes. While conflict played out in national and international contexts, it also featured in much more localized contexts – Georgian homes. Small armies of servants worked away in British households lighting candles, making and mending textiles, nursing children, preparing meals and foodstuffs and endlessly cleaning numerous surfaces. Domestic servants (the majority of whom were women) made up one of the most significant and influential sections of the Georgian workforce. Rather than endure their work silently, domestic servants often grew tired and restless, voicing concerns and grievances in different ways. It was in homes that many individuals came to experience changing social and economic relationships at close quarters. By looking at the home, the work performed there and the arguments had, this project will allow you to explore the role domestic service played in the making of modern Britain. It will also introduce you to working with a range of different sources from court records and diaries to poetry and from objects and visual representations to correspondence. Alongside examining domestic service in historical contexts, students will also be encouraged to engage with contemporary debates on the global politics and economics of waged domestic work.

Empire, Identity and Difference: the Colonial Encounter in India
Dr Manu Sehgal

At the beginning of the twentieth century, ‘British-India’ constituted nearly three quarters of the Empire in terms of its population. Colonial rule in South Asia rested upon a complex web of unequal relationships which changed significantly over the course of this period (1757-1947). The eighteenth century witnessed the collapse of the Mughal imperium and the emergence of the East India Company as the territorial hegemon across the subcontinent. The project of creating this empire and imposing dominion across it required the exercise of physical coercion and the movement of Britons (Irish, Scottish, English and Welsh) as soldiers, administrators, missionaries and members of imperial families, clerks, Orientalists, travellers peddling narratives of the East Indies, freebooters, cartographers and commercial agents. Once territorial conquest was accomplished, the civilizing mission drove missionaries to raise funds in Britain for their activities in the empire. Medicine and education brought together both the colonizers and the colonized in encounters that have been the subject of recent imperial histories. Colonial soldiers who fought in global conflicts and the movement of labour within the empire created diasporas of Indians across the world. This empire attracted a picturesque gaze, literary interest, scientific curiosity and popular attention. The collections of the Cadbury Research Library provide abundant sources for the exploration of this history. Your research project will involve any one of these themes in the history of the British Empire and its intersection with ideas of race, gender and identity.

Big-City Street Life in Victorian England
Professor Carl Chinn

Streets were as vital a part of the Victorian city, as were people and buildings. Not only thoroughfares, they were also places of residence, work and leisure. Quickened through those who lived and worked in them, they ranged from Paris-style boulevards to long upper working-class terraces, and from bastions of middle-class respectability to short and narrow back streets in and around the city centre where they became an embodiment of local kinship networks and matriarchal influence. We shall study Victorian street life using appropriate Birmingham case studies.

From Science to Extermination. Anti-Semitism in Europe 1879-1953
Dr Klaus Richter

The term “anti-Semitism” emerged in the late 1879 in Germany to lend scientific credibility to a hitherto religiously defined phenomenon. This coincided with a fundamental change of Jew hatred in the context of political expansion, the rise of nationalism, and the emergence of mass media in Europe. In this seminar, we will look at anti-Semitism not only in the form of ideas and stereotypes, but also as a social and political practice. This requires looking at different national and regional contexts and at events and developments of European relevance, e.g. the Dreyfus affair in France, media scandals such as the blood libels in Central Europe, pogroms in the Russian Empire, and assassinations of politicians who were Jewish or merely associated with Jewry. Moreover, we will examine how anti-Semitism changed after the First World War by including anti-Bolshevism and the emergence of a new political order. Finally, this seminar will include a close look at more recent studies on the Holocaust, where we will try to find out what motivated perpetrators to kill Jews.

The British Infantry Officer on the Western Front 1914-1918

When the Great War broke out in August 1914 there were fewer than 10,000 Regular infantry officers serving with the British Army. By the end of the war the Army had 67,000 infantry officers, composed of Regulars, Territorials, and the famous ‘Temporary Gentlemen’ who responded to Kitchener’s call to arms in 1914 and 1915. The experience of the infantry officer on the Western Front has been obscured, rather than illuminated, by the disproportionate influence of a handful of famous memoirs, most importantly perhaps Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That (1929) and Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930).

In truth little is known about the majority of infantry officers. Numerous questions offer themselves for research and analysis. What happened to the cadre of Regular infantry officers with which the British Army began the war? How was the officer corps expanded? How were officers selected, trained and promoted? What sort of men became ‘wartime’ officers? What were their casualty rates? What did infantry officers actually do (other than writing sonnets in some waterlogged shell hole in No Man’s Land)? Were they any good (as soldiers, that is, not poets)? What were the long-term effects of the survivors’ war experience? Answers to these questions may be found in a much wider search of the memoir literature, in the Army List for the war period and in officers’ personal files in the National Archives: Public Record Office at Kew. The project will lend itself to the study of the officers of a particular battalion (with c.1,000 to choose from!).

‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!': Fascists and Fascism in Britain
Dr Matthew Francis

In May 1930 Oswald Mosley resigned as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and abandoned mainstream politics (he had previously served as an MP for both the Conservative and Labour parties) to launch the New Party. This new organisation survived for barely eighteen months, and after suffering a political humiliation in the 1931 general election Mosley wound up the New Party and – inspired by the example of Benito Mussolini – relaunched it as the British Union of Fascists. Never able to attract the mass membership of fascist movements in Europe, and often written off as a historical sideshow, the British Union of Fascists could nevertheless claim pockets of extremely vigorous support. At its peak the organisation claimed to have a membership in excess of fifty thousand, and had a number of high-profile supporters in the aristocracy and the media – most famously the proprietor of the Daily Mail, the 1st Viscount Rothermere, whose infamous editorial gives this module its title. This module will examine the history of British fascism from a number of different angles, exploring its origins and its links with its continental counterparts, its ideology and political economy, and its legacies for postwar British politics. As well as drawing on a substantial secondary literature and a range of biographical studies, this module will make use of the Oswald Mosley papers held in Special Collections at the University of Birmingham to provide a direct insight into the world of British fascism.

The Creation of a Myth: The 'Dunkirk Spirit'
Dr Steffen Prauser

The year 1940 and the evacuation of the British Expeditionary force from the beaches of Dunkirk in particular have a crucial place in British collective memory. The defeat was transformed very successfully and very fast into the „victorious” disaster of Dunkirk. How was this transformation possible and who is responsible for it? What was the political purpose of this myth during the war, in the postwar period and why does it persist until today? After analysing the historical concept of “myth” in general, the group will study the creation of the myth of Dunkirk by analysing primary sources such as newspaper articles, memoirs, feature as well as documentary films and last but not least speeches of politicians, that forged this myth over the last 50 years. The aim is to understand the complex relationship between realty and myth, the political use of past events and the longevity of the Dunkirk myth in particular.

The Desert War in North Africa 1940-1942
Dr Steven Morewood

The aim of the course is for students to study an aspect of the Desert War and to look at it in a variety of ways that may include some of the following:

  • Military command – the strengths and weaknesses of commanders on either side
  • Specific campaigns
  • The nature of desert warfare – how it was fought, the differences with other theatres and the limitations/advantages this wrought
  • Controversies generated such as the Greek diversion, the loss of Crete and disastrous defeats – was it more a case of British incompetence or superior
  • German fighting abilities
  • Strategy – generally the British are seen to have surpassed the Axis here
  • Tactics – until the battles of El Alamein Rommel is regarded as the supreme Tactician
  • The war in a wider setting – why Britain threw increasing resources into the struggle but the German High Command always regarded this as a secondary theatre and the impact this had – the what ifs of the Desert War
  • The higher direction of the Desert War especially from Winston Churchill: did he do more to facilitate than hinder ultimate victory?
  • The final phase of the Desert War: Operation Torch and the battles for Tunisia culminating in the surrender of the Axis forces in May 1943
  • The Intelligence dimension: the role of Intelligence in deciding particular campaigns and the war including the use of Ultra to sink Axis supply ships
  • The importance of logistics: in this dimension the British proved superior – the Desert War has been called ‘a tactician’s paradise and a quartermaster’s nightmare’
  • The role of Malta (‘the thorn in Rommel’s side’): how it survived, how it contributed to victory
  • The role of the British Army (Western Desert Force – Eighth Army)
  • The role of RAF Middle East (Western Desert Air Force)
  • The role of the Royal Navy (Mediterranean Fleet)
  • The Axis perspective
  • The role of Britain’s allies (Australia, New Zealand, United States etc.)

Building a Better Birmingham: the City and its Development c.1940-80
Dr Julian Greaves

The period during and just after the 2nd world war saw the City of Birmingham grow to its maximum extent in terms of population (1.1 million). These years also offered enormous opportunities to redevelop the city as the Town and Country Planning Acts gave local authorities enhanced powers to reshape and reorder their local environments in terms of housing, transport, shopping and other activities. Moreover, Birmingham’s place within the wider West Midland region came under growing scrutiny. First, problems of expansion led to attempts to disperse population into the surrounding shire counties and then later, as the inner-city area began to lose population and de-industrialize, urban decay had to be confronted. This Group research project will give students the opportunity to consider how the City of Birmingham faced these various challenges and why some were met more successfully than others. Certain decisions taken during and after the war on town planning and greenbelts helped to shape Birmingham’s development down to the present day. Other decisions are now felt to be seriously misguided and have either been modified or completely reversed (something reflected in the ongoing redevelopment of the City Centre). There is a wealth of material available on the post-war redevelopment of Birmingham particularly in the Central Library which houses the records of the City Council and many other local organisations and individuals (e.g. the papers of Sir Herbert Manzoni, the Civil Engineer most associated with the post-war redevelopment of the City). The University of Birmingham Special Collections holds the papers of the West Midland Group on Post-War Reconstruction. There is also a large volume of secondary material at both repositories that provides a basis for developing particular themes. E.g. newspapers like the Birmingham Post and Mail are always useful. The Times might come in handy too to give a national perspective on the City.

Fakes and Forgeries in Modern Britain
Dr Matt Houlbrook

How do you know when to trust someone or something? This is a question that we confront throughout our daily lives. Whether meeting someone for the first time, looking at a photograph or film online, reading an autobiography or watching a documentary, or buying branded consumer goods, confidence is the essential currency of social relations, economic exchange, and cultural life. Yet individuals are not always who they seem, and photographs, films, and products can be deceptive. Fakes and forgeries cause trouble for how we understand and participate in everyday life.

This group research project encourages you to explore histories of fakes and forgeries in modern Britain. If knowing who or what to trust is a recurrent ethical question, it is also a historical question, shaped by social relations and cultural forms that are time and place-specific. It reoccurs across very different aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political life. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the smooth-talking confidence trickster, the advertising agent, and the cynical politician all relied on front and facade. Impostors like the Emir of Kurdistan or the crossdressing Colonel Barker crossed boundaries of class, gender, and race in pretending to be something they were not. Literary and artistic forgeries, knockoff antiques, archeological hoaxes, and counterfeit goods delighted and unnerved contemporaries, and questioned the possibility of distinguishing “true” from “false.”  Published life-stories, scientific research, and historical scholarship have been revealed as hoaxes - and undermined confidence in an emerging mass media and professional expertise alike. Fakes and forgeries can be spectacular, but they are also very ordinary. In tracing their histories we can explore changing historical constructions of confidence and authenticity, and the disreputable people and practices through which those values were questioned.

The Writing on the Wall: Graffiti and Street Art in the Contemporary World
Dr Lucie Ryzova

Graffiti broadly means any writing or drawing on a wall or other surface in a public place, which, some say, should not be there. While most cultures knew some form of graffiti or another, in the modern world it came to mean a specific expressive practice used as social commentary, a form of protest, or to express particular group identity. In this modern sense, urban graffiti writing sometimes marks a territory and/or belonging to a particular urban subculture, at other times expresses a particular grievance, contesting the status quo in society. Conventionally considered a form of vandalism, graffiti has been recently revalued as a form of art. In this sense, some forms of graffiti are labelled “street art” and used to advance the very forces of neoliberal capitalism it may have once opposed. All of these perspectives betray an arresting range of tensions over an expressive activity that this module seeks to explore.

Students will build their own archive around a particular project of their choice. This “archive” includes the web, digital archives, and social media; published books; or the urban space around them, in Birmingham or elsewhere in Britain. They may chose to focus on graffiti cultures in a particular place or period, or they may take a comparative approach. They will be given diverse disciplinary tools (articles on graffiti from sociology, anthropology, art history, and urban studies) to approach their material from a range of angles. They will be encouraged to explore graffiti writing not as a static form (or visual text) but rather as a constantly evolving practice subject to competing forces, and to pay attention to historical time, transnational cultural flows and processes, and other forms of expression including music or the social media.

Teaching History
Dr Elaine Fulton

This group research project is aimed at- though not exclusively for- students who may wish to go to have a career in Education after graduation. It is an exploration of whatever aspect of Teaching History your group are most interested in: you could focus on classroom techniques for teaching History primary or secondary school level, or even at university; you could look at the content of what is taught in History curricula at any level and consider why this is at it is; you may wish to explore government educational policies as far as they affect the teaching of History, including the recent controversy about the use of History to teach ‘Britishness’ (whatever that means). You could look at attempts to interest young children in History and develop early historical knowledge (eg Horrible Histories), or you could look at how the teaching of History has changed over the years. Depending on the angle you choose, your primary sources could be classroom observations, interviews with teachers and students, and analyses of curricula, textbooks and children’s History tv programming.

History in Theory and Practice

This module addresses questions to do with the nature of history and historical knowledge. Topics covered include issues in the philosophy of history (explanation, causality, objectivity etc.); the characteristics of different kinds of history and major trends in historiography. This is not a standard history module with a definite period/place focus, but a broader reflective module designed to aid independent thinking and reflection by students.

Value: 20 credits
Assessment: 2500 word essay; 2 hour exam 50% each
Contact: 2 hours per week (inc. one small group)

Professional Skills Module

This is a work placement module involving a minimum of 20 days in a work environment in the type of organisation or business sector to which history students might apply after graduation. It would provide an opportunity for a student to develop transferable skills such as team work, problem solving, and presentational skills and give them an opportunity to develop skills of self-reflection.

Research Methods (Dissertation Preparation)

This module is designed to support students as they develop a topic on which to write their dissertation in your final year. It not only marks a crucial stage in their degree as a whole, but is also an important module in its own right. The Research Methods module will give students firsthand experience of the work of a historian as they learn to identify and frame a valid, intellectually coherent research question; identify, find and consider what primary sources they will use and how they will use them; consult with a specialist historian in whatever area it is they wish to work on; present their planned project to their peers; write a literature review that analyses what historians have made of the same subject, and start preliminary work on their dissertation proper by conducting two weeks’ worth of research.

Value: 20 credits
Contact: 2 hours per week (inc. one small group)

History Option A (Autumn semester)

History autumn options are assessed by 2 equally-weighted essays of 2500 words each, one due in around the middle of the Autumn term and the other at the start of the Spring term. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.

The Silk Roads
Professor Naomi Standen

The Silk Roads were the main artery of global communication and exchange for at least a millennium: wealthy Romans wore Chinese silk and Chinese Buddhists used glass vessels made on the eastern edges of the Roman Empire. To reach these destinations required journeys through environments both welcoming and hostile, and encounters with a bewildering variety of peoples and languages, cultures and religions, friends and foes. The empires at the terminal points of these routes rarely communicated directly with each other. The Silk Roads consisted of many stages, each starting and finishing at an urban settlement wherein took place intensive interaction of all kinds, whether religious or commercial, military or personal. Such exchanges could result in the transmission – slowly and with many interruptions and modifications – of not just trade consignments, but also, for example, ideas and practices, religions and artistic motifs, from one end of Eurasia to the other. The module will draw on textual, archaeological and art historical evidence to examine cultural diversity and change in selected societies that participated in interactions along the Central Asian trade routes. We will evaluate different approaches to interpreting the Silk Roads by examining political units and their interactions, trade in material objects and the transmission of religious ideas and practices. We will consider the relationships between trade, religion and politics. By the end of the module you will have had the chance to develop an understanding that globalisation is not just a modern phenomenon.

Before Globalisation? Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800
Dr Simon Yarrow

This module puts European history in its place. An abiding theme of European world histories written between the eighteenth and the late twentieth century has been the West’s unique rise to global pre-eminence through a range of diverse but interlinked processes that might collectively be called modernization. The world’s assumption of a peculiarly ‘European’ modernity, and the dominant concepts and frameworks within which historians have traced this development, has left two significant areas of human history – medieval Europe and the non-West - out in the cold, the former seen as backward and contributing little to the story, the latter in terms of passive subjection to Western political and economic dynamism or as the exoticized ‘Other’.

The ‘globalization’ of the world over the last few decades, has exposed the brittleness of ‘European modernity’ as an overarching theme in world history. Complex global trends are happening more quickly than historians can invent new frameworks and models to comprehend them. This module contributes to these new interpretive conditions by inviting you to consider the dynamics of human interaction across the Afro-Eurasian world system from 500 to 1800, before ‘European modernity’. An important aim of this module is critically to confront Eurocentric grand narratives that have inhibited the understanding of our own European past and prevented our better appreciation of historical agency in other parts of the world. It offers a comparative synchronic study of religious and political cultures and formations, economic and technological developments, and cross-cultural contacts and trends from West-Africa and Ireland on the East Atlantic seaboard, to Japan in the Far East.

Prophets, Rulers and Rebels of Early Islam
Dr Arezou Azad

Islam is the newest of the great monotheistic religions. Its Prophet Muhammad died in 632, and within just 100 years the Islamic caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula across thousands of kilometres to the frontiers with China. How do we explain this success of Islam, known to some as the ‘second big bang’? How did Islamic rule impact the medieval societies that were subjected to it? How and why did people convert to Islam, and what was their relationship with Christians, Jews or Buddhists? Who were the caliphs and sultans of specific regions in the Islamic world? This course explores the early origins and development of Islam within the context of istorical, social and cultural change in the Near East and Central Asia from late antiquity to the 15th century. Students will draw on a range of textual, archaeological and art historical evidence to examine the history of Islam in selected societies, and will gain an appreciation for the variety in experiences and strategies of those who joined and participated in the ‘House of Islam’ in the medieval period.

Crusading and Crusader Kingdoms
Dr William Purkis

Few aspects of medieval history appear to have more contemporary resonance than the crusades, the so-called ‘wars of the cross’ that were fought by western Christians against a range of adversaries, including Muslims, pagans, heretics and Mongols. In this module we will examine the origins and development of the crusading ideal in the central Middle Ages, from its formation in the late eleventh century through to its evolution and diversification in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Where appropriate, we will also study the nature of the frontier societies that were created by crusaders in the eastern Mediterranean, the Iberian peninsula and north-eastern Europe, and assess the impact that crusading had on the lives and mentalities of western Europeans in general. 

Nuns, monks and Friars: The History of Monastries and Religious Orders in the Middle Ages
Dr Jens Rohrkasten

The course will provide a survey of the forms of life and the institutions developed by women and men who decided to leave the world and devote their lives to divine service in the middle ages. It will offer a survey of the early forms of medieval monasticism, phases of monastic decline and attempts of reform, contrasting ideal and reality. The focus will be on important features like Carolingian monasticism, Cluny and the revival in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the role of the eremitical life, the religious orders of the twelfth century and the mendicant orders. This chronological survey will be followed by an analytical part which will deal with structural issues like the foundation of religious houses, rules, the monastic economy, the cultural significance of monasteries and religious orders, the monastic economy and the secular environment.

Toleration and Persecution in Early Modern Europe
Dr Nikolas Funke

In the early modern period being tolerant it was ‘a loser’s creed’. Why should we put up with something we hate when we have the power to persecute and eradicate it? The tension between the urge to persecute and the necessity to tolerate affected early modern Europe at all levels of society and in many different guises. Discourses about toleration and persecution centered on the treatment of religious dissenters such as heretics of various kinds or non-Christians. Equally, the question of what to do with other undesirables (the poor, unwed mothers or drunks) demanded a decision between the Christian imperatives of love and charity and the desire to purge the Christian community of sin. In this seminar, we are going to explore these tensions in a variety of contexts and explore the development of a modern value.

Fashion and Fighting: Status and Social Conflict in Tudor and Stuart England
Dr Tara Hamling

In this course we will explore how people in Tudor and Stuart England wanted to be seen by others, examining the various ways in which visual and material display, and what we might consider rude, quarrelsome or excessive behaviour, could help individuals to show off and compete for status in social situations. In 1638 at the mayor’s feast in Taunton, Somerset, one George Searle, who was a merchant and then mayor of the town, insulted Robert Browne, a gentleman, by saying that he “was an unworthy man and that the Brownes his ancestors were but shepheards”. This glimpse into the social rivalry between the newly elevated and the gentry is provided via a court case – Searle was made to pay damages to Browne and to apologise publicly at the next mayor’s feast, where he promised “to behave myself ever after towards all the gentry of this kingdome, and in particular to Mr Browne, with all due observance and respect.” This is just one example of how social competition between people of different degrees of status in Tudor and Stuart England sometimes bubbled to the surface, but attempts to achieve rank, reputation and recognition took many forms, which we will examine through this course.

Social change is one of the major themes in studies of early modern England, but we will focus on evidence about how this was actually experienced by people in their daily lives. We will explore the various ways in which people within the lesser gentryand middling ranks of society attempted to construct identity and gain status in theirlocal communities through, for example, investment in land, domestic building, church monuments, clothing and other material possessions, education, profession, marrying well, but also through the everyday pulling of rank recorded in fights over seating in churches or the insults shouted in the street or tavern. We will engage with a wide range of sources including the material evidence of early modern buildings and artefacts (including surviving portraits, funeral monuments, clothing, crafted objects), studied alongsideprimary texts such as conduct literature, court records, inventories, wills, diaries, letters, pamphlets and drama.

Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe
Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

This course aims to give students an understanding of the causes and courses of witch-hunting in early modern Europe. It will consider the intellectual background of the witch-hunt; the relationship of witchcraft to the Protestant and Catholic reformations; the diverse and changing legal and judicial arrangements; literary and feminist theories are compared with readings inspired by anthropology and psychoanalysis. We will also focus upon the cultural and social context of the witchhunts: issues such as the high proportion of women who were accused and executed will be addressed. The literature of witchcraft is diverse and methodologically sophisticated. There are many conflicting interpretations, and many different approaches. Students will be introduced to these approaches, and encouraged to engage with them critically. Students will also be introduced to primary source material from a wide geographical area, and a variety of genres, and encouraged to analyse these carefully.

Powerful Stuff: Timber, Teacups, Tombs and the Making of a Modern Empire
Dr Kate Smith

This course explores the changing nature of the English East India Company as it shifted from trading company to imperial force. It will employ frameworks emerging from ‘new’ imperial history to closely examine the role played by material culture (such as timber, teacups and tombs) in the development of Britain’s imperial relationship with India from the late seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century. The first weeks of the course will examine how the journeys that British men and women embarked on, the homes they established, the clothes they wore, the buildings they constructed and the memorials they erected while in India, constructed and marked notions of difference in the subcontinent. Later weeks will focus on those who returned to Britain from India and question how the material worlds they constructed once home shaped their contemporaries’ understandings of empire. This course will provide you with an understanding of the English East India Company and its transformation into an imperial force in India during the long eighteenth century. More particularly, by exploring imperial material cultures, this course will encourage you to think critically about the power relations that people embedded within and inscribed onto the physical world. At the same time it will challenge you to question the place of material culture studies within histories of empire and historical practice more broadly.

Foundations of Modern Britain
Dr Julian Greaves

This survey course that examines the foundations of modern British economic and social relations in the period from c1714-c1815, a period that sees the beginnings of the so-called 'First Industrial Revolution'. This module focuses upon the nature and impact of “industrialisation” and the responses to economic and social transformation at all levels of society. It will introduce the student to the key features of the economy and social relations and why this period of British history is regarded as watershed globally as well as nationally. Consideration will be given to what is meant by the term ‘industrial revolution’ and the very usefulness of such a concept. There is a focus on elements of continuity as well as change for Britain in the period concerned. The use of primary historical sources within seminars is standard and this is built into a part of the module assessment.

Command and Leadership in War

This module will invite students to consider the evolution of Command, Control and Comunications (C3) from the late 18th Century to the present day. The module will be concerned with several key themes: the context of warfare; national military culture and its effect on command; the mechanics of command and staff work; the search by commanders and politicians for the ‘Holy Grail’ of decisive victory; and why, as war became more ‘total’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, such success became more difficult to achieve.

In Search of Wealth and Power: China in the Twentieth Century
Dr Shirley Ye

For China, the twentieth century was one of unprecedented political upheaval. A two thousand year old monarchical system ended without any consensus about what would replace it. What followed were successive revolutions, which fundamentally transformed culture, experience and thought. In this module we will examine the visual and intellectual cultures of 20th century China.

Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany: Comparisons, Contrasts and Common Ground
Dr Steffen Prauser 

No regimes seem to invite more historical comparison than the two fascist dictatorships. They had a similar nationalist rhetoric, were extremely hostile to everything considered left-wing and to parliamentary democracy as such and glorified violence and war. Both undertook projects of social engineering to create a warrior race in order to conquer living space, were outspokenly racist and both copied in parts each other’s policies, rhetoric and symbols. This course does not only compare, but also contrasts Nazi Germany to Fascist Italy, highlighting their common features as well as underlining their differences. The aim of this module will be to engage critically in a comparative social, political, cultural and military history of the two regimes. Students will encounter a series of passionately argued historical debates and learn how to think critically about them.  

From Division to Unification: a History of (West) Germany 1945-2000
Dr Armin Grunbacher

This course examines the development of post war (West) Germany and the changes which happened in economic, political and social relations in the period. Events such as the Marshall Plan and the Korean War and their impact on the German economy; the social changes during the “long 1950s”, and the myth of the social market economy are investigated in the first part of the module. In the second part, the post Adenauer era is examined as a period perceived of crisis and change. Here some of the key issues are the impact of the economic crises of 1966/7 and 1973-75, the changes in politics and political culture under Chancellors Brandt and Schmidt as well as the era Kohl. Besides political questions, economic aspects (Stagflation, constant high unemployment), the social consequences will be considered. Finally the module aims to scrutinise Germany, from an economic and political perspective, during the final years of the Kohl chancellorship and the aftermath of the unification of 1990.

The Apocalypse in Green: Envoronmentalism and Environmental Alarmism in PerspectiveHE
Dr Frank Uekotter

The environmental movement emerged as a global force in the second half of the twentieth century. It changed, among many things, popular understandings of our common future: far more than other social movements, it used horror scenarios to change public opinion. The module will start with discussions on different ways to write histories of environmentalism in a global context: was it a new social movement, or a new enlightenment, or simply an ephemeral fashion among affluent whites? The second part of the module focuses more specifically on the roots of apocalyptic thinking: books and events that galvanized attention, transnational contexts such as the Cold War, national traditions and sub-cultures. A key theme is the exploration of different methodological approaches and how they shape different narratives. At the same time, the module will reflect on what these findings mean for ongoing discussions, particularly over climate change. Apocalyptic tropes will likely stay with us on a warming planet, and historical expertise can help us to understand what they mean.

Totalitatian Europe: Nazi Germany, Fascits Itlay and Stalinist Russia
Dr Afron Rees

Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia from the 1930s onwards attracted study, as regimes which though deeply divided on ideology seemed to share strikingly  similar characteristics. These features were seen as embodying an entirely new form of political rule defined as totalitarian. Totalitarianism as a concept experienced a huge growth in the period after 1945. In the 1970s the concept came under attack. The module examines the development of this concept, its strengths and weaknesses, and seeks to determine how far the concept remains valid and how far it may need to be revised if not rejected completely. It introduces students to the history of National Socialism, Fascism and Stalinism. Themes to be considered include the factors which facilitated the rise of these regimes to power; their method of governance; ideology; their economic system; charismatic leadership; institutions of terror; foreign expansion and the role of war; class, gender and race, social exclusion and the treatment of the ‘other’. The course looks at alternative ways of examining these states; the management of discourse, identity formation and the aestheticisation of power; the nature of the ‘public sphere’, popular opinion, and issues of regime legitimacy. It explores alternative ways of conceptualising these systems; as regimes of authoritarian modernization and as political religions.

Why we Hate Politics: Social Activism and Engagement in Contemporary Britain

This module explores the history of activism and politics in contemporary Britain. There is now a widespread view that the British public has become apathetic about politics and democracy since the Second World War, as indicated by falling voter turnout at elections, and declining membership numbers of the main political parties. However, in the same period, British citizens have also increasingly supported, joined and engaged in a wide variety of new social movements and single-issue nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), which campaign on issues as diverse as the environment, sexuality, human rights, and homelessness. This module explores why this has happened; how the engagement of British citizens in social issues has evolved over time; and the broader historical forces this all reflects. In the process, this module offers a fresh interpretation of activism, politics and political engagement in post-war Britain, by focusing upon many different case studies of activism. These include: efforts to tackle domestic poverty and homelessness; international aid and humanitarianism; women's liberation and feminism; the peace and anti-war movement; human rights and civil liberties; environmentalism; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender campaigning; and race and lifestyle politics.

The People Want: Arab Spring Revolutions Reloaded
Dr Lucie Ryzova

Revolutions are inherent to the modern world: indeed, they stand at the very origin of it. Generations of historians and social theorist have long debated the nature of revolutions: why they happen (their conditions, roots, or causes), how they happen (their stages and ways of unfolding), and their outcomes. But before the recent past (2011), rarely have “Revolutions” and the “Middle East” been brought together. The region was not conventionally associated with open democratic processes, and even less so with progressive politics. It was much better known as a site of conflict and violence, or else of acquiescence, entrenched dictators, and the “Pax Americana”. The Arab Spring came as a surprise: to some, it brought shock and fear, to others hope and inspiration.

This course will examine the recent revolutionary wave in the region (with particular attention to Egypt) in view of both local historical legacies and global connections and parallels. Why did the Arab Spring happen when it did? What global, regional and local forces were at play? What kinds of actors were involved? What was the role played by regional alliances, global interests, local elites, changing modes of governance and related social and economic factors? What role did class, gender, geography, and urban space come to play? What did protests mean to those involved: what were their particular demands and grievances? Do these Revolutions continue or have they “failed”? We will consider the region’s rich legacy of anticolonial struggle, social movements and political dissent over the past century, and we will assess contentious politics (revolutionary action) in relation with “everyday politics.” The course will draw on a wide range of primary sources (in translation), including films (both documentary and fiction), TV programs, essays, novels, memoirs, blogs, eyewitness testimonies and expressive culture (music, graffiti, cartoons, social media, memes).

 

History Option B (Spring semester)

History spring optional units are assessed by a three hour exam held during the Summer term. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.

Prophets, Rulers and Rebels of Early Islam
Dr Arezou Azad

Islam is the newest of the great monotheistic religions. Its Prophet Muhammad died in 632, and within just 100 years the Islamic caliphate extended from the Arabian Peninsula across thousands of kilometres to the frontiers with China. How do we explain this success of Islam, known to some as the ‘second big bang’? How did Islamic rule impact the medieval societies that were subjected to it? How and why did people convert to Islam, and what was their relationship with Christians, Jews or Buddhists? Who were the caliphs and sultans of specific regions in the Islamic world? This course explores the early origins and development of Islam within the context of historical, social and cultural change in the Near East and Central Asia from late antiquity to the 15th century. Students will draw on a range of textual, archaeological and art historical evidence to examine the history of Islam in selected societies, and will gain an appreciation for the variety in experiences and strategies of those who joined and participated in the ‘House of Islam’ in the medieval period.

Before Globalisation? Afro-eurasian World History 500-1800
Dr Simon Yarrow

This module puts European history in its place. An abiding theme of European world histories written between the eighteenth and the late twentieth century has been the West’s unique rise to global pre-eminence through a range of diverse but interlinked processes that might collectively be called modernization. The world’s assumption of a peculiarly ‘European’ modernity, and the dominant concepts and frameworks within which historians have traced this development, has left two significant areas of human history – medieval Europe and the non-West - out in the cold, the former seen as backward and contributing little to the story, the latter in terms of passive subjection to Western political and economic dynamism or as the exoticized ‘Other’. The ‘globalization’ of the world over the last few decades, has exposed the brittleness of ‘European modernity’ as an overarching theme in world history. Complex global trends are happening more quickly than historians can invent new frameworks and models to comprehend them. This module contributes to these new interpretive conditions by inviting you to consider the dynamics of human interaction across the Afro-Eurasian world system from 500 to 1800, before ‘European modernity’. An important aim of this module is critically to confront Eurocentric grand narratives that have inhibited the understanding of our own European past and prevented our better appreciation of historical agency in other parts of the world. It offers a comparative synchronic study of religious and political cultures and formations, economic and technological developments, and cross-cultural contacts and trends from West-Africa and Ireland on the East Atlantic seaboard, to Japan in the Far East.

Childhood and Adolescence in Medieval Europe
Dr Mirriam Muller 

This course will explore the lives of young people in Medieval Society from ca. 1100 to 1500 focusing on western Europe with a special emphasis on England. A society’s culture and a myriad of attitudes are revealed in the way it deals with its children and adolescents. In this course we will look at the way historians have examined childhood and explore and test the argument made by some that there was no real concept of childhood in medieval Europe. In individual seminars we will explore various aspects of the lives of children, starting with pregnancy and birth over early childhood and infancy to adolescence and family formation, which usually occurred in the later teenage years. What was it like to grow up in a medieval city like London? How would the experiences of boys and girls growing up in noble households have differed from those growing up in villages or towns? What did young people learn and how were they viewed by adults? We will also look at questions of socialisation and gender roles, so in what ways did experiences of girls and boys differ, what kind of schooling did children receive, if any? The period covered saw some important and sweeping social and economic changes, so how did the Black Death impact on families? We will look at a whole range of primary sources, from poems to legal records to archaeological finds.

Crime and Public Order in Medieval Europe
Dr Jens Rohrkasten 

Every society has to cope with internal conflict as well as with external threats. Such conflicts take different forms, individual criminal activity caused by poverty or an unwillingness to respect norms, mass violence which can arise from a dissolution of social structures as social protest or legally legitimate and organised violence in the context of external threats: war. These phenomena will be studied in their different contexts. There will also be an analysis of the mechanisms produced by medieval societies to deal with conflict and to combat crime and disorder. This will include a study of different types of norms (“laws”) and a survey of different legal mechanisms to preserve the peace.

A great variety of late medieval sources offer information on crime and disorder, on events, on their causes and on attempts to preserve peace. They include records from criminal trials which reveal bits of the medieval underworld and describe the procedures followed by the courts, normative sources like laws and statutes, records from towns with descriptions of unrest and spectacular criminal cases, books written by contemporary legal scholars trying to discuss legal and to define procedure as well as narrative sources giving accounts of popular rebellions and warfare. Apart from the extensive literature on the subject, extracts from such sources will also be consulted.

Military Revolutions and the Conduct of War, c.1300-1650
Professor Richard Cust

This module provides an opportunity to study the military, political, social and cultural history of warfare in Europe from the Hundred Years War to the Thirty Years War and the English Civil War. The main questions explored will relate to the way in which technical developments, such as the introduction of gunpowder weapons and new style fortifications, affected the conduct of battles and warfare, and whether these changes constituted a series of ‘Military Revolutions’. But it will also investigate the social and economic effects of warfare, particularly for civilian populations, the political implications of larger and more complex armies, and the impact of chivalry and ideals of masculinity on the psychology and sociology of combat, Students will analyse and study these themes using primary source accounts of combat and military ideals as well as a rich literature of secondary works.

Fashion and Fighting: Status and Social Conflict in Tudor and Stuart England
Dr Tara Hamling 

In this course we will explore how people in Tudor and Stuart England wanted to be seen by others, examining the various ways in which visual and material display, and what we might consider rude, quarrelsome or excessive behaviour, could help individuals to show off and compete for status in social situations.

In 1638 at the mayor’s feast in Taunton, Somerset, one George Searle, who was a merchant and then mayor of the town, insulted Robert Browne, a gentleman, by saying that he “was an unworthy man and that the Brownes his ancestors were but shepheards”. This glimpse into the social rivalry between the newly elevated and the gentry is provided via a court case – Searle was made to pay damages to Browne and to apologise publicly at the next mayor’s feast, where he promised “to behave myself ever after towards all the gentry of this kingdome, and in particular to Mr Browne, with all due observance and respect.” This is just one example of how social competition between people of different degrees of status in Tudor and Stuart England  sometimes bubbled to the surface, but attempts to achieve rank, reputation and recognition took many forms, which we will examine through this course.

Social change is one of the major themes in studies of early modern England, but we will focus on evidence about how this was actually experienced by people in their daily lives. We will explore the various ways in which people within the lesser gentry and middling ranks of society attempted to construct identity and gain status in their local communities through, for example, investment in land, domestic building, church monuments, clothing and other material possessions, education, profession, marrying well, but also through the everyday pulling of rank recorded in fights over seating in churches or the insults shouted in the street or tavern. We will engage with a wide range of sources including the material evidence of early modern buildings and artefacts (including surviving portraits, funeral monuments, clothing, crafted objects),  studied alongside primary texts such as conduct literature, court records, inventories, wills, diaries, letters, pamphlets and drama.

Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe
Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

This course aims to give students an understanding of the causes and courses of witch-hunting in early modern Europe. It will consider the intellectual background of the witch-hunt; the relationship of witchcraft to the Protestant and Catholic reformations; the diverse and changing legal and judicial arrangements; literary and feminist theories are compared with readings inspired by anthropology and psychoanalysis. We will also focus upon the cultural and social context of the witchhunts: issues such as the high proportion of women who were accused and executed will be addressed. The literature of witchcraft is diverse and methodologically sophisticated. There are many conflicting interpretations, and many different approaches. Students will be introduced to these approaches, and encouraged to engage with them critically. Students will also be introduced to primary source material from a wide geographical area, and a variety of genres, and encouraged to analyse these carefully.

Powerful Stuff: Timber, Teacups, Tombs and the Making of a Modern Empire Dr Kate Smith

This course explores the changing nature of the English East India Company as it shifted from trading company to imperial force. It will employ frameworks emerging from ‘new’ imperial history to closely examine the role played by material culture (such as timber, teacups and tombs) in the development of Britain’s imperial relationship with India from the late seventeenth century until the mid-nineteenth century. The first weeks of the course will examine how the journeys that British men and women embarked on, the homes they established, the clothes they wore, the buildings they constructed and the memorials they erected while in India, constructed and marked notions of difference in the subcontinent. Later weeks will focus on those who returned to Britain from India and question how the material worlds they constructed once home shaped their contemporaries’ understandings of empire. This course will provide you with an understanding of the English East India Company and its transformation into an imperial force in India during the long eighteenth century. More particularly, by exploring imperial material cultures, this course will encourage you to think critically about the power relations that people embedded within and inscribed onto the physical world. At the same time it will challenge you to question the place of material culture studies within histories of empire and historical practice more broadly.

Reformation and Rebellion in Tudor England, c.1485-1560
Dr Jonathan Willis

The reformation of the sixteenth century was a defining period in English history. Over the successive reigns of the Tudor monarchs, England was transformed from one of the most Catholic countries in Europe into a fully-fledged Protestant nation; from a remote Catholic backwater into Europe’s premier Protestant superpower. But even for the Tudors, the process of reformation was a difficult one, wracked by covert dissent, outright rebellion, and threats from overseas. This module will chart the turbulent course of religious change in sixteenth century England, from the settled rhythms of late-medieval religious life in the pre-reformation Church to Henry VIII’s intensely personal and idiosyncratic religious reforms, and from the revolutionary new practices introduced by the boy-king Edward VI to his elder sister ‘bloody’ Mary I’s burning of almost 300 Protestant men and women, ending with the Accession of Elizabeth I. Key moments of resistance will feature against a backdrop of political and religious turmoil, and the module will also explore the local impact of religious change in the parishes, as well as its personal dimension; its impact on the hopes, fears, beliefs and practices of ordinary lay men and women. We will explore a wide range of primary sources together, including liturgical texts, ballads, contemporary histories, plays, works of propaganda, state papers, woodcuts, and other printed and manuscript documents.

Embarrassing Bodies: Medicine, Madness and Mortality in Early Modern Europe
Dr Elaine Fulton 

In the early-modern world, understanding of the workings of the human body was not based on the findings of science, as it is today, but on a very different worldview that still drew on the beliefs of the ancient world and which often placed the morality of the patient at the heart of the explanation of sickness. What we today would call mental illness, for example, was in early-modern Europe often interpreted as an attack of Satan on a Christian or even a sign of demonic possession. Birth defects in newborn infants were seen as a sign from God or even a judgement on the parents as a result of the child having been conceived in what the Church regarded as any one of a large number of ‘incorrect’ sexual positions. The Church too was at the heart of the provision of medical care, with treatment still largely in the hands of monastic and convent communities, while local ‘wise women’ could be drawn in to provide affordable cures: these same women were often those first to be accused of witchcraft when the cures failed to have the desired effect. Yet the early-modern period was also one of change: the Reformation  led to the establishment of the first secular, ‘non-church’ hospitals more closely akin to what we might recognise today, and medical knowledge slowly began to focus more on observation and experimentation, as seen in the works of the great anatomist Vesalius (1514-64) and radical physician Paracelsus (1493-1541).

This module will look at early-modern conceptions of the human body and human mind; it will look at particularly common illnesses, conditions and dangers of the day, including plague; and it will look at the wide range of cures and curers available in the context of changing approaches to medical knowledge and treatment. You will develop insights into an aspect of history that is not commonly-taught but which is both fascinating in its own right and casts light on broader topics such as the Reformation, witchcraft and gender history. A class trip to the Wellcome Museum of the History of Medicine is envisaged as part of this module, as is lots of interactive work in class including medical moulage where we will try to reconstruct some of the physical symptoms of diseases now thankfully long-gone. Willingness to get involved and possession of a strong (ish!) stomach are pre-requisites for this module!

Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploration: English Exploration in the Tudor Period
Dr Margaret Small

In 1497 only five years after Christopher Columbus reached the New World, Henry VII sponsored John Cabot on a voyage of exploration which led to Newfoundland being claimed for England. The rewards of fish and rocks, rather than gold and plantations helped to dampen the English enthusiasm for investing in overseas exploration yet despite the early lack of interest, by the end of the Tudor period, the English had become important players in the European search for overseas wealth, territory and peoples. This course will look at English exploration over the whole Tudor period, examining the early efforts at westward expansion and culminating with the proto-colonies developed in the New World. It will examine why the English were so slow to participate in voyages of exploration and expansion and discuss how after nearly a century of negligible or non-existent participation in voyages of expansion, England became an active participant to the extent that the origins of the British Empire could be said to be traceable to this era.

Terrorism in the USA: a History
Dr Steve Hewitt

Although associated with the 21st century, acts of terrorism in the United States of America date from at least the 19th century. These have come in a variety of forms, including racist terrorism, right-wing terrorism, anarchist terrorism, left-wing terrorism, ethno-nationalist terrorism, environmentally motivated terrorism, and religiously motivated terrorism. This module provides an in-depth examination of various types of terrorism that have occurred in the United States, including through specific acts and by studying the groups and individuals who have carried out the acts, and how the American state has responded. It will do so through a theoretical, thematic, and chronological approach from the 19th century to the 21st century that will include a weekly detailed examination of relevant primary sources.

Nationalism and Conflict int eh Balkans and the Middle East
Dr Steve Morewood and Profesor Dimitris Tziovas 

The Balkans and Middle East, covering the period from 1800 to the present, are regions which have had a geostrategic significance that, aligned with nationalism, produced conflicts, generated internally or externally. Many of these wars had a profound impact both within the East Mediterranean region and farther afield. The Balkans and the Middle East have been treated as unstable and enigmatic regions, with both of them never being quite clear whether they were Western or Eastern, European or non-European, rational or irrational, civilized or barbaric. The involvement of the western powers in both creating and resolving regional conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East has taken different forms in different periods, but remains a constant over time. Students will learn to assess power politics, the internationalisation of regional conflicts in the 19th and 20th centuries and evaluate changing methods of conflict resolution in the colonial and post-colonial periods. The module will focus on the following themes: the transition from empire to nation states; the role of international diplomacy; nationalism, colonialism and regional conflicts; conflicts, identities and uses of the past; modernisation and peace efforts.

In Search of Wealth and Power: China in the Twentieth Century Dr Shirley Ye

For China, the twentieth century was one of unprecedented political upheaval. A two thousand year old monarchical system ended without any consensus about what would replace it. What followed were successive revolutions, which fundamentally transformed culture, experience and thought. In this module we will examine the visual and intellectual cultures of 20th century China.

Russian Political and Intellectual Though
Dr Afron Rees 

The module traces the main lines of Russian political thought from the 1830s to the 1930s. It examines both the main political ideas of the period, and examines the way in which political and social ideas were reflected in the literature of the age. It is concerned with the rise of revolutionary ideas in the nineteenth century and the counter reaction which they provoked. It examines the nature of Russian conservatism, liberalism, and the different strands of  revolutionary thought (Nihilism, Populism, Anarchism, and Marxism). It explores the strategies of revolutionary change advocated by these groups. It also explores the discussion on individual liberty and the framework in which this can be realized. It also examines the debate on revolutionary violence and terror. The module explores the close links between Russian political thought with developments in Europe and the wider world. It provides a background to the rise of Bolshevism and the ideas of the Stalin era.

The Making of Modern India 1885-1990
Dr Manu Sehgal

This course will introduce students to the breadth and complexity of modern Indian history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Students will engage with how colonial domination and Indian responses to it in this period (c.1857-1991) created a mass based anti-colonial movement which depended upon the participation of subaltern groups like women, tribals and peasants. The aim is to familiarize students with the social and political history of the nationalist movement, which is essential for understanding the emergence of a post-colonial polity after 1947. Students will be introduced to a range of scholarly approaches with a particular focus on the construction of communities based on religious, caste and gender normative identities. This course should serve as the basis for engaging with the debates and significant themes which define the pluralistic experiment that is ‘Modern India’.

The First World War and the Eastern Front 1914-1920
Dr Klaus Richter

The Eastern Front of the Great War has often been termed a “forgotten war”. While the First World War has been indelibly associated with the trench warfare in the West, warfare between Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand and the Russian Empire on the other was marked by sweeping campaigns across vast spaces. At the same time, the Eastern Front was in many respects a laboratory for new developments in warfare that were later implemented in the West. The destruction of the Polish town of Kalisz became synonymous with a war of annihilation, poison gas was used for the first time near Warsaw, and shock troops and infiltration tactics were introduced at the Russo-German front before they were used in an effort to break the stalemate in the West. The war in the East was specific for other reasons, too, as military occupation became a tool for Germany to fundamentally alter the political landscape and break the Russian Empire apart. The Russian Revolution and independence movements in East Central Europe made sure that the map of Europe changed nowhere as much as where the Eastern Front had been. In this option, we will look at the war in the East from the perspectives of military, social and political history. We will move from what essentially started out as a war between empires to the confusing entanglement of civil wars, ethnic conflicts and revolutionary wars that continued for two further years after the armistice of November 1918.

Britain and the Second World War: A Military History 

The aim of the module is to analyse British performance in the Second World War: at sea, on land and in the air in all the major theatres of war. The module will focus on three major themes: the quality of British military leadership; the pervasive mythology of the war created by contemporary propaganda; and the experience of war for front line soldiers.

Seminar subjects may include: British military preparedness, British and Allied grand strategy, the Phoney war, the Norwegian campaign, the Fall of France, the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, the Desert War, the Malaya and Burma campaigns, the war in Italy, the bomber offensive against Germany, D-Day and the campaign in North West Europe, SOE, the intelligence war, the military contribution of the wider British Empire, and the experience of aerial, naval and ground warfare.

America in conflict from the Civil War to the War on Terror
Dr Steve Morewood

America has been embroiled in conflicts from its inception in the War of Independence through the civil war, the world wars, the Cold War and the War on Terror. This was inevitable given its emergence as a leading world power and eventual superpower which took upon itself the role of protecting the Free World against tyranny and aggression. More controversially, it has sought to project its idealism and values through conflict which critics have seen as masking underlying motives to serve its self-interest. Abraham Lincoln called the Union ‘the last best hope on Earth’ and the War between the States was critical in forging a united nation, north and south, which had the resources to take to the world stage. The Spanish-American War was the occasion. Thereafter America entered the two world wars belatedly but with decisive results. It took the lead in the Cold War, confronting its ideological rival, the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent, Red China, across the globe in financial, economic, military and cultural terms. At its end, the United States sought to establish a New World Order with mixed success, ousting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the Golf War but then controversially invading Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Apocalypse in Green: Envoronmentalism and Environmental alarmism in PerspectiveHE Dr Frank Uekotter

The environmental movement emerged as a global force in the second half of the twentieth century. It changed, among many things, popular understandings of our common future: far more than other social movements, it used horror scenarios to change public opinion. The module will start with discussions on different ways to write histories of environmentalism in a global context: was it a new social movement, or a new enlightenment, or simply an ephemeral fashion among affluent whites? The second part of the module focuses more specifically on the roots of apocalyptic thinking: books and events that galvanized attention, transnational contexts such as the Cold War, national traditions and sub-cultures. A key theme is the exploration of different methodological approaches and how they shape different narratives. At the same time, the module will reflect on what these findings mean for ongoing discussions, particularly over climate change. Apocalyptic tropes will likely stay with us on a warming planet, and historical expertise can help us to understand what they mean.

America and the Automobile
Dr Julian Greaves

The emergence of the motor vehicle was one of the most transformative experiences of the twentieth century but their legacy has always been deeply ambiguous. Cars are seen as exemplifiers of mobility, freedom and consumer choice on the one hand and dangerous polluting machines on the other that have encouraged urban sprawl and exacerbated social divides. Nowhere has this legacy been contested more fiercely than in the United States, the world’s first automotive society. Until the 1970s levels of car ownership in America were far in excess of those elsewhere. To many the arrival of the automobile provided the perfect platform to fulfil notions of individual freedom and upward mobility: the American dream on wheels. Henry Ford was widely regarded as a technological genius and the motor industry as the exemplifier par excellence of industrial capitalism in general and big business in particular. The subsequent struggles between Ford and General motors for automotive supremacy fascinated contemporaries around the globe. By the 1950s an auto executive could famously remark that what was good for general motors was good for America.

However from the outset there was also a darker legacy. To its critics the industry encapsulated the exploitative power of big business, manipulated consumers through cosmetic restyling of older models, and left a path of death and destruction in the form of 10s of 1000s of accident fatalities every year. It also highlighted racial and gender divides as women and ethnic minorities struggled to gain a foothold in the automotive world. Manufacturers found themselves torn between the desire to maximise consumer opportunity and a perceived need to follow the social norms of the day.

These ambiguities have continued throughout the post war era. The continued spread of vehicle ownership with the rise of the multi-car family, coupled with a huge road building programme (the US interstate highway system remains the largest and most expensive civil engineering project in human history), propelled a vast growth in suburban living which became increasingly perceived as the American ideal. But at the same the US auto industry stood accused of ignoring safety issues and deliberately undermining public transport to boost sales, destroying inner city living (and in the process exacerbating racial and class divides). Later it was castigated for its record on pollution the environment. More recently the problems of the “big three” American car makers Detroit car makes (culminating in the bankruptcy of General Motors) became a potent symbol of American industrial decline in the face of Foreign competition. Yet the American love affair with the automobile shows no signs of abating. In 2012 there were 249 million vehicles registered in the US. The changing face of the automobile and its place in American society, culture politics and economy during the twentieth century forms the basis of this course.

Why we Hate Politics: Social Activism and Engagement in Contemporary Britain

This module explores the history of activism and politics in contemporary Britain. There is now a widespread view that the British public has become apathetic about politics and democracy since the Second World War, as indicated by falling voter turnout at elections, and declining membership numbers of the main political parties. However, in the same period, British citizens have also increasingly supported, joined and engaged in a wide variety of new social movements and single-issue nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), which campaign on issues as diverse as the environment, sexuality, human rights, and homelessness. This module explores why this has happened; how the engagement of British citizens in social issues has evolved over time; and the broader historical forces this all reflects. In the process, this module offers a fresh interpretation of activism, politics and political engagement in post-war Britain, by focusing upon many different case studies of activism. These include: efforts to tackle domestic poverty and homelessness; international aid and humanitarianism; women's liberation and feminism; the peace and anti-war movement; human rights and civil liberties; environmentalism; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender campaigning; and race and lifestyle politics.

Speaking to the People: Political Communication in c.20th Britain

The fundamental paradox of politics in modern Britain’, according to Jon Lawrence,is that ‘as the polity has become more formally democratic, so face-to-face public politics, the actual interaction between politicians and people, became less democratic’. After the extension of the franchise in 1918 and 1928 the electorate became so large that it was no longer possible for politicians to engage with voters using the relatively direct methods that had characterised electioneering during the nineteenth century, while the advent of new electorates (women and the working class) and new technologies (radio and television) rendered many traditional campaigning techniques obsolete. The twentieth century thus witnessed a revolution in political communications, as political actors sought to come to terms with new electorates and new technologies. This shift in communications techniques also drove wider changes in British political culture, changing the ways in which ordinary people engaged in politics and interacted with their elected representatives.  This module will explore the ways in which politicians and political parties responded to these challenges – the advent of new technologies, the changing character of the electorate – and will consider the interactions between political culture and political communication.

Themes and Areas 2

 

A further 20 credits comprises study of a Theme and Areas 2 module which enables students to extend the range of their conceptual training and their discipline knowledge. The choice of this module is a free one outside of the History discipline, but students are particularly encouraged either to study a language module which enhances their opportunities to study documentary evidence in languages other than English, or to pursue a module from the wide range offered within the University. 

Value 20 credits

 

Final year

History Advanced Option A

History autumn advanced options are assessed by 2 equally-weighted essays of 2500 words each, one due in around the middle of the autumn term and the other at the start of the spring term. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.

Before Globalisation? Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800
Dr Simon Yarrow

This module puts European history in its place. An abiding theme of European world histories written between the eighteenth and the late twentieth century has been the West’s unique rise to global pre-eminence through a range of diverse but interlinked processes that might collectively be called modernization. The world’s assumption of a peculiarly ‘European’ modernity, and the dominant concepts and frameworks within which historians have traced this development, has left two significant areas of human history – medieval Europe and the non-West - out in the cold, the former seen as backward and contributing little to the story, the latter in terms of passive subjection to Western political and economic dynamism or as the exotic ‘Other’. The ‘globalization’ of the world associated with the history of recent decades, has exposed the brittleness of ‘European modernity’ as an overarching theme in world history. Complex global trends are happening more quickly than historians can invent new frameworks and models to comprehend them. This module contributes to these new interpretive conditions by inviting you to consider the dynamics of human interaction across the Afro-Eurasian world system from 500 to 1800, before ‘European modernity’. An important aim of this module is critically to confront Eurocentric grand narratives that have inhibited the understanding of our own European past and prevented our better appreciation of historical agency in other parts of the world. It offers a comparative synchronic study of religious and political cultures and formations, economic and technological developments, and crosscultural contacts and trends from West-Africa and Ireland on the East Atlantic seaboard, to Japan in the Far East.

A central problem we will have to ponder is whether we can talk of a global history prior to the rise of the West, and how such a history might be characterized. In its geographical and chronological scope this module has been designed to appeal to anyone who would like to find out more about non-European ‘pre-modern’ Afro-Eurasian civilizations (which regrettably but for practical reasons omits ‘New World’ civilizations, for which you must consult Dr Small). Some of the episodes that will be studied include the rise of Islam, imperial formations in India, Europe, China and on the nomadic steppe, religious mission, aggression, and the development of a world economy, and cycles of political centralization and fragmentation in south-east Asia, Japan and Europe.

Cities of Paradise and Empire in the Islamic World: from the 15th Century to the Present Day
Dr Arezou Azad 

Cities have served Muslim rulers well as splendid architectural projects, buzzing economies, social melting pots and political powerhouses. In the ‘Gunpowder Empires’ from the 15th to the 18th centuries, cities like Constantinople, Delhi and Isfahan, became almost synonymous with authority and wealth. They saw the arrival of Europeans to the Islamic world, first as traders and missionaries, then as conquerors such as Napoleon Bonaparte I who invaded Ottoman Egypt in 1798. The ‘Islamic city’ received considerable European scholarly attention in the early 20th century, when the notion of a naively homogeneous, functional pattern of Islamic cities as ‘chaotic agglomerations of winding streets’ became axiomatic. In more recent years, the debate has diversified to include a broader sample of cities, while applying an interdisciplinary approach. Jayyusi et al.’s The City in the Islamic World (2008) is one of the most comprehensive attempts to write histories of Islamic cities that move far beyond the traditional approach.  

This course will be an interdisciplinary introduction to the Islamic world from the fifteenth century to the present day, being primarily structured around historical case studies of cities. In particular, our aim will be to answer the following key questions: 

What are the conceptual issues concerned with the Islamic city, and how does this relate with different regions and cities of the Islamic world? 

What is the relationship between kingship, legitimate rule and the Islamic city? When and why are new cities built, or old ones face-lifted? What is the importance of shrines and sacred buildings in the city?

To what extent does the city reflect social differentiation? What languages are spoken, religions practiced? What is the role of women? What can we learn of the social underground of the city, such as the prostitutes and the destitute? What is the importance of trade in the city, and who really runs the city?

The Black Death in Medieval Europe: Disatsre, Change and Recovery
Dr Miriam Muller

What happened when the Black Death arrived in Europe? How did people react to the disease, and what impact did the Black Death have on society? We will explore the arrival of the Black Death, the manifestation of the disease, death rates and the resultant population decline. We will also explore how people in the 14th century tried to explain and make sense of the disease, so we will look at religious responses, including the movement of the flagellants, as well as scientific explanations. These include medieval ideas about how the disease spread, and how some authorities tried to enact regulations in attempts to halt the spread of the plague. We will then move on to exploring the various and multifaceted consequences of the plague on the men and women of the 14th century, including rising wages and changes in land values and resultant regulations of wages and labour contracts. We will explore whether women and men were affected differently by the post plague economic climate and we will also ask if later medieval revolts can be linked to the effects of the Black Death. These issues will be examined in the wider context of how historians have studied the Black Death and its effects. We will explore how medieval people felt about the plague and its effects through a variety of primary sources, including letters, chronicles and court records.

Toleration and Persecution in Early Modern Europe
Dr Nikolas Funke

In the early modern period being tolerant it was ‘a loser’s creed’. Why should we put up with something we hate when we have the power to persecute and eradicate it? The tension between the urge to persecute and the necessity to tolerate affected early modern Europe at all levels of society and in many different guises. Discourses about toleration and persecution centered on the treatment of religious dissenters such as heretics of various kinds or non-Christians. Equally, the question of what to do with other undesirables (the poor, unwed mothers or drunks) demanded a decision between the Christian imperatives of love and charity and the desire to purge the Christian community of sin. In this seminar, we are going to explore these tensions in a variety of contexts and explore the development of a modern value. 

Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period
Dr Margaret Small  

In 1497 only five years after Christopher Columbus reached the New World, Henry VII sponsored John Cabot on a voyage of exploration which led to Newfoundland being claimed for England. The rewards of fish and rocks, rather than gold and plantations helped to dampen the English enthusiasm for investing in overseas exploration yet despite the early lack of interest, by the end of the Tudor period, the English had become important players in the European search for overseas wealth, territory and peoples. This course will look at English exploration over the whole Tudor period, examining the early efforts at westward expansion and culminating with the proto-colonies developed in the New World. It will examine why the English were so slow to participate in voyages of exploration and expansion and discuss how after nearly a century of negligible or non-existent participation in voyages of expansion, England became an active participant to the extent that the origins of the British Empire could be said to be traceable to this era.

Fashion and Fighting: Status and Social Conflict in Tudor and Stuart England
Dr Tara Hamling

In this course we will explore how people in Tudor and Stuart England wanted to be seen by others, examining the various ways in which visual and material display, and what we might consider rude, quarrelsome or excessive behaviour, could help individuals to show off and compete for status in social situations.

In 1638 at the mayor’s feast in Taunton, Somerset, one George Searle, who was a merchant and then mayor of the town, insulted Robert Browne, a gentleman, by saying that he “was an unworthy man and that the Brownes his ancestors were but shepheards”. This glimpse into the social rivalry between the newly elevated and the gentry is provided via a court case – Searle was made to pay damages to Browne and to apologise publicly at the next mayor’s feast, where he promised “to behave myself ever after towards all the gentry of this kingdome, and in particular to Mr Browne, with all due observance and respect.” This is just one example of how social competition between people of different degrees of status in Tudor and Stuart England sometimes bubbled to the surface, but attempts to achieve rank, reputation and recognition took many forms, which we will examine through this course.

Social change is one of the major themes in studies of early modern England, but we will focus on evidence about how this was actually experienced by people in their daily lives. We will explore the various ways in which people within the lesser gentry and middling ranks of society attempted to construct identity and gain status in their local communities through, for example, investment in land, domestic building, church monuments, clothing and other material possessions, education, profession, marrying well, but also through the everyday pulling of rank recorded in fights over seating in churches or the insults shouted in the street or tavern. We will engage with a wide range of sources including the material evidence of early modern buildings and artefacts (including surviving portraits, funeral monuments, clothing, crafted objects), studied alongside primary texts such as conduct literature, court records, inventories, wills, diaries, letters, pamphlets and drama.

Reason anf Romance: the Cultural History of Nineteenth-Century Britain
Dr David Gange

Simultaneously one of the most vibrantly radical periods in British history and an era of prudish conservatism, the nineteenth century is best characterised by its contradictions. This module explores these paradoxes, investigating the cultural history of the new urban streets and the ideas of literary and scientific thinkers from Dickens to Darwin. The emphasis in this module will be on discovering how nineteenth-century Britons saw themselves, and investigating how their ideas on themes such as the arts, gender, empire, religion, crime and class were part of lived experience. Seminars follow a broadly chronological structure, beginning in the eighteenth-century ‘age of revolutions’ and ending with the outbreak of the first world war, introducing the most important themes in this period’s history along the way. For each seminar there will be focused ‘essential reading’ (all available electronically) as well as more expansive ‘further reading’ that will allow you to explore these themes in greater depth.

Cities in Chinese History
Dr Shirley Ye

This course examines imperial and modern Chinese history through an examination of China’s cities. By way of an exploration of the history of cities, the module will explore broader topics in Chinese political, economic, social and cultural history beginning at the apex of China’s cosmopolitan empire, the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and ending in 20th century Hong Kong under British colonial rule. Cities, which were crucial nodes in the operation of the trade and administration of a predominately agrarian economy, offer a unique vantage point to analyze the continuities and discontinuities of political regime change between dynastic empires, as well as the radical transformation into a modern, industrial nation state.  

The readings have been selected to introduce the work of major historians and to cover a range of fundamental concepts and problems in the field of urban history. An important focus in our module will be how scholarly debate and understanding about the city have changed over time, especially as a result of the opening of government and local archives for research and the discovery of local records.  

Background in Chinese history is not required. However, if this is your first course in Chinese history, I suggest that you read Patricia Buckley Ebrey’s The Cambridge  Illustrated History of China (2010).

Russia in Revolution 1900-1939
Dr Afron Rees

The module examines the relationship between the economic modernisation of Russia and political revolution, as demonstrated by the upheavals of 1905, 1917, the civil war, the ‘revolution from above’ and the terror of the Stalin era. The module examines two seemingly very different models of development and seeks to evaluate their relative effectiveness. The first might be characterised as a capitalist model of development, which was applied in the late tsarist era, and was embodied in the industrialisation policies of Sergei Witte and the agrarian reforms of Pyotr Stolypin. The second is the Soviet state model of socialist modernisation, reflected in the different policies pursued by Lenin and Stalin, War Communism, the New Economic Policy, and the Command – Administrative Economy which saw the drive to industrialise the country during the First and Second Five Year Plan and the effort to transform agriculture through Collectivisation. The module looks at these different strategies of economic modernisation, their achievements and costs, their social impact and their consequences for the political order in terms of the resort to methods of coercion and repression.

Everyday Life and Survival under Nazi and Soviet Occupation 1939-1953
Dr Klaus Richter

The new rich are adventurers who act as if in a jungle and each grabs what he can.” What sounds like a sour commentary on contemporary capitalism is a novelist’s statement about black-market profiteers in Nazi-occupied Greece. While 20th century historiography has focused mostly on the extreme behaviour of active collaboration and political resistance, the scope of action in everyday life under occupation during the Second World War was for the majority of Europeans defined by survival and economic necessities and opportunities. Occupation brought about massive social changes, as new (coerced) communities were formed, new borders drawn, and social hierarchies turned upside down. At the same time, everyday behaviour remained to a large extent defined by pre-war contexts and conflicts. The ensuing Soviet occupation of East Central Europe built on the social and economic dislocations brought about by Nazi rule.

In this module, we will have a close look at everyday life under Nazi and Soviet occupation in Europe, moving from more general changes brought about by the establishment of occupation regimes to national contexts and (individual) contacts. Subjects of discussion will range from concepts of criminality in Jewish ghettos across large-scale economic cooperation in France to the appropriation of abandoned (or not) property in the post-war period. Another focus of this module will be on how the discussed cases were represented in post-war memory, culture and historiography, in order to interpret their politicisation and nationalisation in post-1945 Western and post-1991 Eastern Europe.

All in this Together? A Brief History of Austerity
Dr Matthew Francis

Since the financial crisis of 2008 one word more than any other has dominated contemporary political discourse: ‘austerity’. Despite its contemporary resonances, however, austerity is an idea with a long and (eg) noble heritage. Austerity policies were a recurrent feature of twentieth century politics, in both Britain and the wider world, and the concept itself has a history that dates back hundreds of years. All In This Together will explore the history of ‘austerity’ as both policy and as philosophy. While the module will of course explore the economic logic and legacies of austerity, we will also examine the social and political consequences of austerity policies, considering their effects on the distribution of wealth and the health of societies. We will also consider the intellectual history of austerity from the eighteenth century to the present, exploring the way in which the concept has evolved from Bernard Mandeville and Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, an attempt to understand the endurance of the idea of austerity.

The Age of Energy: Global Histories of Hopes, Needs and Carbon
Dr Frank Uekoetter

The twentieth century is, among other things, the century of energy. Never has energy been more abundant – but at the same time, the quest for energy has stoked a wide array of conflicts all over the world. Striking coal miners have rocked Western societies, the quest for oil has fuelled both trade and real wars, and fears of depletion run through the twentieth century. And yet the history of energy is a strangely ambivalent one: burning needs and suffering stand next to neglect and ignorance; times of scarcity gave way to abundance and heedless waste. It is  a story of dreams about nuclear utopias and realities of pollution and disasters – a success story with an obscene toll. Energy is also a great opportunity to learn about global history: few things unite the world more firmly, for better or worse, than our hunger for energy. The course offers a broad overview and makes a point of looking into the social, cultural, economic, political and environmental dimensions of energy issues. In short, the module provides insights into a key part of modern industrial civilization that we are often inclined to forget. It may also help to understand an arena of conflicts that is poised to become ever more relevant as we advance in the twenty-first century.

 

Special Subject

Each of the following modules are 20 + 20 credits at final-year level and run in the Autumn and Spring terms.

History Special Subjects are assessed in the summer term by 2 equally-weighted examinations of 3 hours each; one will be essay-based and the other primary-source (or ‘gobbet’) based. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.

Islam Along the Silk Roads: Tracing the Developement of Islam in Afghanistan and other Eastern Islamic Lands
Dr Arezou Azad

“How can we build our future when we don’t even know our own history?” With these words the Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan emphasized the urgency of a historical study of Afghanistan some years ago. Mr Massoudi single-handedly rescued thousands of shattered remains of third-century Buddhist statues that were bombed by the Taliban in 2002. He was referring to the “history vacuum” that resulted from the massive brain drain of Afghan historians and cultural heritage workers. Attaining a historical narrative that is evidence-based is, to Mr Massoudi and his colleagues, a matter of peace and development. This module aims to fill this gap through a comprehensive, diachronic, multilingual and interdisciplinary study of the evolution of Islam in Afghanistan, Central Asia, northern India and Iran. It examines the administrative, socioeconomic, and cultural and religious impact of Islamic rule from the Arab conquests of 709 A.D. to the beginning of the modern nation-state of Afghanistan in 1747 A.D. We will draw on newly accessible historical evidence, such as a set of translated early Islamic documents from northern Afghanistan, local histories and archaeological material. We will study the way in which scholarship in Islamic history is researching questions on the origin and transmission of ideas that led to the formation and development of Islam as a political, socio-economic, religious and cultural force. Situated at crossroads of the “silk routes,” Afghanistan was a melting pot of religions. Afghanistan holds a key to understanding the spread of Islam, and this module intends to probe its mysteries.

Game Without Thrones: Saga Age Iceland c.900-c.50
Chris Callow

How would you organise a brand-new society set up by people drawn from diverse geographical and social backgrounds? How would that society function if it were remote from other places and where material conditions were poor? What would you make of this society if the major written sources it produced were soap-opera-like epic stories dominated by tales of bloodfeuds, zombies, and where when people were not fighting with weapons they fought with sexual insults? Questions like these are ones historians consider for early society in Iceland, one of the world’s most distinctive societies in one of the world’s most unusual physical landscapes. The ‘viking’ colonisation of Iceland is one of the most unusual events in world: in the late ninth century a completely new society was established from scratch in a country which had never been inhabited before. Why people went to Iceland and how this new society of migrants evolved forms the first part of this module. Equally intriguing is how this society functioned in later centuries. Iceland had no king, just a series of public assemblies where legal and social business was carried out. It was materially poor and political power was weak. The most important figures were often regional leaders (chieftains) whose charisma and personal qualities mattered as much as their wealth and military muscle. While Christianity arrived in Iceland in c.1000 it was slow to take hold.

1066: Epic Tales of Saints, Swordsmen and Scribes
Dr Simon Yarrow

This Special Subject offers a chance to explore one of the most colourful and formative periods of English history both as a subject of historical enquiry and a product of historiographical invention. The century after Duke William’s famous conquest of England saw an explosion of historical writing - largely in the cultural context of monastic-centred religious reform - aimed at interpreting and inventing new accounts of the past to make sense of the startlingly dramatic developments of the present. Warriors and warfare, sex and marriage, saints and miracles, honour and humiliation, violence, insurgency and subjection were all themes in the narration of a new Anglo-Norman history of England that grappled with the consequences of a small alien force of Normans and French that completely subdued and supplanted the English ruling elite. Such a wholesale regime change was rare even in medieval history, and seems to have shocked the native culture into stunned silence for at least a generation. When English and mixed birth scribes finally broke that silence, they unleashed a torrent of narrative designed to make sense of events set in train by 1066. As we shall see, their answers to questions of continuity and change have shaped the way subsequent English history has been written and read to this day.

Bearers of the Cross: Violence and Devotion in the Crusading World
Dr William Purkis

From its origins in 1095, through its zenith in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, crusading was an act of devotional violence that was defined by a central concern with the recovery, possession and transformation of sacred spaces and objects that were believed to be threatened or polluted by religious ‘others’, whether Muslims, pagans, or heretics. In this module we will examine the religious beliefs and devotional practices associated with crusading and Latin frontier settlement in the central Middle Ages through a wide-ranging study of texts, images and objects. We will ask: Why were medieval Catholics so obsessed with the idea of bringing the Holy Land under Latin Christian rule? What religious objects and images were prized and venerated by crusaders, and why? How were non-Latins affected by these dramatic expressions of Catholic piety? In what ways were the religious sensibilities of medieval Christendom reshaped by victories, defeats and disasters in the East? What was the ongoing appeal of crusading as an act of Christian piety? To what extent was crusading an ‘extreme’ display of medieval Catholic devotion?

Village Life in Medieval England c.1100-1500
Dr Miriam Muller

We will explore in depth aspects of daily life in later medieval English village society, using both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the  historiography of village life and be able to critically analyse primary sources, which will be practiced in gobbet exercises.

Peasants made up the vast majority of the population and very much defined later medieval society. Therefore the roots of the great social and economic changes which occurred in the later medieval period are to be found in village communities. Peasants therefore matter, and this course will examine a number of aspects of peasant life from ca. 1200 to 1500.

How did peasants live, what did their villages look like and what were their typical daily trials and tribulations? How did rural society cope with famines and harvest failure? What was the impact of the Black Death in village communities, and how important was lordship to the daily peasant experience?

Peasants were not simply victims of either the vagaries of the weather or lordship. They were on the whole competent, skilled and intelligent people, who planned ahead, and who had a very high level of understanding of various legal matters, which meant that they spend quite a lot of time suing each other. Some had experience of warfare as soldiers and archers, and some used this knowledge and experience in fighting back against lordship. So we will explore themes such as peasant revolts, including the rising of 1381, daily struggles against lordship as well as conflict within peasant communities. Peasants were not all the same, some were free, some unfree, and some were well off and others were extremely poor, so we will look at such divisions within peasant societies, including the division arising from gender. What was it like to be a peasant woman? Can we define concepts of masculinity or femininity in peasant society?

We have a wealth of primary sources available which shed a lot of light on these questions. Local court records (manorial records), can tell us a great deal about the daily experiences of peasants in this period, from how much land they held, over whom they got into arguments and fights with at the local ale house. We also have poems and chronicles which can help us explore contemporary perceptions of peasants as well as their actions and aims in peasant revolts. We also have archaeological sources, which can help us to explore the material culture of rural society.

The Mongols and China
Professor Naomi Standen

The Mongols ran the largest land-based empire ever known in history. The drama of the initial conquests by Chinggis Qan (whom you may know better as Genghis Khan) is matched by the ambitions of his successors, not least Qubilai Qa’an (Khubilai Khan), who completed the conquest of China and founded the Yuan (1260-1368) dynasty there. Although the Mongol empire extended out from Inner Asia to the limits of Persia in the west and to China in the east, the attention of Europeans was riveted by the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe in 1240-2, and subsequently by the extraordinary travelogue recounting Marco Polo’s twenty-year sojourn (1271-92) at Qubilai’s court in China and journeys to neighbouring countries. Thanks to Marco Polo, the Mongols in China have remained on Europeans’ radar ever since. We will work with some of the many primary materials accessible to those with no knowledge of the original languages, including Marco Polo, Rashid al-Din and the Secret History of the Mongols. We will investigate where the Mongols came from and the different ways in which their expansion was received: were they embraced, tolerated, resisted, and who sought their support? We will examine relations between the Mongols and the conquered peoples, and address issues such as collaboration and assimilation. The module gives you the opportunity to develop a deep appreciation of what many regard as the first truly global empire.

Law and Society in Medieval Europe
Dr Jens Rohrkasten

Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries England developed a legal system that was independent of the previous Anglo-Saxon principles and of other legal traditions. Initially mainly dealing with disputes of land and thus concerning the aristocracy and those immediately subordinate to them, it gradually widened its scope to include many other types of legal conflict such as trespass or debt, disputes which could affect many other social groups as well. As the scope of the law widened it affected an ever wider social sphere, extending also to the unfree. Their legal actions were heard in royal law courts, based on the king’s court, which emerged from the last quarter of the twelfth century. The courts were staffed by expert personnel, responsible only to the king and formed part of a sophisticated system of government.

This special subject will trace the development of the English Common Law as a part of the development of English society and royal administration, beginning with the state of the law after the Norman Conquest. It will address the legal changes under king Henry II, and look at the mechanisms of the main royal courts, including the Eyre, the Court of Common Pleas and the King’s Bench. Major documents like Magna Carta will be analysed as to their legal and political significance. It will also include aspects of the law which were relevant to large sections of society: Forest law, the workings of manorial courts and the legal status of people – freedom and villeinage. Students will deal with extracts from the rich documentation which survives in the form of legal records, statutes as well as legal treatises. These will be available in modern English translation.

Age of Discovery
Dr Margaret Small

The focus of this module is the period of European discovery and encounter with the wider world beyond the confines of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Between c. 1400 and c. 1600 Europeans passed the tropic of Cancer, hitherto seen as a complete barrier to expansion, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, sailed through the Straits of Magellan, circumnavigated the world and founded the first large international trading monopolies. In this period, the Atlantic seaboard ceased to be a periphery region and became a key region of European power. This module examines the politically-laden term of discovery, and debates its suitability. We shall discuss and evaluate some the technological and intellectual developments that needed to occur to bring about an age of discovery, and examine both some of the practicalities involved in exploration and encounter, and the implications for the political, social and intellectual history in Europe. We shall examine the role of individual explorer, nations and the Catholic church in this period of European expansion, and will look at how, and to what extent the newly encountered regions of the world, which include not only the New world, but also regions of Africa and Asia were assimilated into European thought by the end of the century. We will focus on the countries directly involved in expansion, particularly England, France, Spain and Portugal. A wide range of historical sources will be analysed, including ships papers, official and personal papers, memoirs, journals, letters, maps, navigational instruments and cosmographical treatises.

A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects
Dr Tara Hamling

In this course we will examine a rich body of surviving objects from the Tudor period to explore how key themes in the study of early modern history were experienced by people in everyday life. Each week we will discuss the ways in which a particular object-including the legendary ‘Round Table’ of King Arthur, a nit-comb from the shipwrecked Mary Rose, a defaced religious icon, a witch-bottle and a codpiece-might inform our understanding of, for example, dynastic and religious change; social mobility; superstition and popular belief; domestic and family life; gender; health and hygiene. We will investigate and vote for additional objects each week to arrive collectively by the end of the course at our own version of a history of the Tudors in 100 objects.

In the last two decades there has been a popular turn towards the study of ‘material culture’ in historical studies. The sixteenth century in England is often identified with the start of a commodity culture and a pronounced increase in the production and consumption of a wide range of material goods. Yet the artefactual evidence presented by the objects themselves and the micro-histories they open up is often neglected or buried within broader narratives. This course will engage with a range of primary texts and secondary readings to identify the material, economic and symbolic values of ‘things’ for early modern people, as well as the different approaches to the study of material culture offered by disciplines such as art history, archaeology, anthropology and literary studies. We will also ask questions about the ways in which historic objects are presented in museum and heritage contexts.

Big City, Small Worlds: the Maing of Early Modern Cities
Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

In this course we will trace the growing fascination of early modern Europeans with city-life and urban culture by exploring some of the great cities of the period ourselves: Venice, Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, London, Nuremberg, Barcelona and Madrid. Though only 15% of the population of Europe lived in towns and cities in the early modern period, urban centres had an enormous impact on popular imagination and discourse at the time. Political, social, economic and cultural developments, such as the Renaissance and the Reformation, were shaped by and in cities. The course will be structured thematically around topics such as politics and power, popular culture, community and diversity, space, and art. This will be done by focussing on two or more cities in each seminar and working comparatively. The objective of this method is simple: to work out the complexity of urban development by identifying common issues and differences.

Histories of Hate: Fear and Loathing in Early Modern Europe
Dr Elaine Fulton

The early-modern period was marked by ferocious persecution of many groups perceived to be in some way threatening, deviant or simply different from the established social order. Islamophobia was rife, as was anti-semitism, with the Jews of Europe being subject to inquisition, expulsion, ghettoisation, exploitation and execution. Within Christianity, the tumult of the reformation led to religious division and difference that resulted in outbreaks of vicious sectarian mob violence bolstered by unbending state persecution of confessional minorities, while those who were seen as racially or physically different, deformed or simply female (!) could also be subject to harsh treatment. Sexual behaviour was also a matter of public concern rather than private predilection, with the criminalisation of acts seen as immoral, such as adultery and sodomy. Lastly, this was an age in which the devil was believed to walk the earth; as a result, prosecutions for witchcraft soared in the period, with tens of thousands of women and sometimes men tried and executed for their suspected diabolism.

The religious changes of the period acted to a large extent accelerant, intensifier and legitimiser of all of these manifestations of persecution. Scholars have, however, suggested other reasons too, including apocalypticism, confessionalization (the development of the early modern state), class tensions (the view of Marxist historians), the dissemination of propaganda thanks to the spread of print, environmental and climactic concerns (the sixteenth century saw the peak of the so called Little Ice Age), and valuable insights drawn from the fields of anthropology and psychology on how people behave in groups against perceived enemies or 'pollutants'. You will be invited to consider the value of all of these explanations, allowing you to come to your own conclusions about the origins of persecution, not only in early-modern Europe but in the broader past and indeed present.

Stray Dogs: Confrontimg Loss in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain
Dr Kate Smith 

‘Stray Dogs’ will encourage you to question the strategies Modern Britons developed to confront instances of loss and decay. Using newspaper articles, parliamentary reports, minute books, pamphlets and advertisements, the course will begin by examining the establishment of institutions such as foundling hospitals, animal homes, lost property offices, archives and museums. It will consider how and why these institutions came to be and will interrogate their role in redirecting the social lives of people, animals and objects. Alongside institutions, ‘Stray Dogs’ will also explore practices, which emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that sought to stem loss by capturing and conserving. It will look to museum and archive conservation and photography, as well as life writing, taxidermy and food preservation techniques to consider how Britons increasingly worked to resist decay. Finally, the module will also explore how people living in eighteenth- and nineteenth century Britain came to confront the emotional impact of loss by examining the processes of memorialisation found in funerary rites, epitaphs and monuments. In studying these themes, this module will challenge you to consider the place of loss and failure within broader projects of progress and modernity, which have tended to characterise eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-slavery in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
Dr Malcolm Dick

Britain’s emergence as the dominant slave trading nation and involvement in the slave-based economies of the Americas at the end of the eighteenth century were linked, paradoxically, with the development of campaigns to end the slave trade and slavery. The module will consider connections between the country’s industrial and commercial development, religious beliefs, secular ideologies and social and political protest. It will also explore the relationship of the slave trade and anti-slavery to the growth of the British Empire, the rise of evangelicalism and  Liberalism, the emergence of racial stereotyping and the role of black people and women, as well as white males, in shaping Britain’s past. There is a considerable amount of secondary and primary literature on this subject, including parliamentary papers, autobiographies, slave narratives, pro-slavery and anti-slavery texts, visual material, artifacts and records of abolitionist societies. The Cadbury Research Library and new Library of Birmingham also hold many records. At the end of the course, we will visit the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and see how the displays and objects illuminate our studies.

Building Nations in the "Bloodlands." a History of Conflict, Occupation and Independence in East Central Europe c. 1880-1953
Dr Klaus Richter

Some historians argue that East Central Europe is the quintessential region of mass violence in the 20th century: “The victims’ homelands lay between Berlin and Moscow” (Timothy Snyder). With the rise of nationalism at the peripheries of the Russian, Austrian, and German Empires, East Central Europe became a region of ethnic conflict. The First World War led to the emergence of national states with clear-cut territories in a region where ethnographic borders between Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Jews, etc. were at best fuzzy. Moreover, the region became the main focus of revionist policies and violence of its neigbouring states, first being occupied by Nazi Germany and then included into the Soviet sphere of influence. In this seminar, we will look at how different ethnic, social, and religious groups interacted on a social and political level, how both conflicts and cooperation were carried out. This will involve looking at issues such as nationalism, economic networks, political visions, and violence in the consecutive but very different contexts of imperial rule, the First World War, the interwar nation states, Nazi occupation and the Holocaust, and Soviet social engineering. A second focus of this seminar will be on conflicting national narratives and their implications for contemporary policies of remembrance. Sources used will include edited documents in English translation, historical maps, audio sources (such as interviews), diaries, and visual materials (such as historical footage and photography).

The Lure of the Modern: Defining China from New Culture Movement to Cultural Revolution 1910's - 1970's
Dr Shirley Ye

China’s search for modernity in the 20th century was shaped by violence: from its violent encounters with western imperialism to the violence of a series of civil conflict that followed the collapse of the last imperial dynasty in 1911. From the New Culture Movement of the 1910s through to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, traditional Chinese culture was under attack by an array of political and social actors. How did Chinese people and politics define “China” through the tumultuous events of the 20th century? This special subject will open with an examination of culture and politics during the Warlord period (1916-1925), a period during which power was decentralized and located in the hands of regional territorial power holders. Next, we will explore the eclectic cultural production by artists and intellectuals of the New Culture and May Fourth Movements. As the Nationalist government attempted to unify and modernize China during the Nanjing Decade (1927-1937), new institutions and organizations of academic and scientific knowledge attempted to quantify and define China and Chinese life through indigenized western social, economic and population surveys. Those state-building efforts by the Nationalist government took place against the backdrop of intense violence, from both civil conflict and foreign intrusion. We will explore the lasting legacies of China’s long war – both the Civil War (1927-1949) and War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) – on the traumatic state-inflicted violence that lasted through the 1970s in both China and Taiwan. It was during the years of World War Two that Mao Zedong consolidated his own power in the Communist Party. We will assess ‘Civil War’ as an analytic category, and discuss the role of Civil War in catalyzing changes in Chinese society.

After 1949, when the People’s Republic was declared on the mainland, the Communist Party undertook a number of large state-building projects, which involved the displacement of people and forced labour: we consider the origins and implications of this sort of violence, and the way that it fit into, or deviated from, broader patterns of violence in twentieth century China. In Taiwan, where the Nationalist Government fled to after it lost the Civil War in 1949, the ruling political party was intent on suppressing political voices that dared to show any sympathy to the Communist Party on the mainland: to what extent did the political terror on Taiwan reflect those on the Mainland? The module ends with Mao Zedong’s last great Cultural Revolution: young Chinese Red Guards shared – along with ’68-ers in other parts of the world – a generational identity of being born during the years of World War Two. Background in Chinese history is not required. However, if this is your first course in Chinese history I suggest that you read Jonathan Spence’s textbook The Search for Modern China, 3rd edition before the start of the course.

The British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918

'Mud, blood and endless poetry': is that all there was to the First World War? This most controversial of wars has become surrounded by stereotypes and myths. The aim of this module will be to analyse the British Expeditionary Force’s response to the challenge of the Western Front. Was it just an army of ‘lions led by donkeys’, endlessly blundering through the mud in a sterile and senseless conflict? Or a highly effective institution which faced and eventually overcame extreme difficulties and created modern warfare as we know it today?

In the Autumn Term, students will study the chronology of the war on the Western Front from the British perspective. In the second term, students will engage with some of the important themes relating to Britain’s conduct of the war. The module will allow students to engage with the key debates about the conduct of the war: debates which will be very much in public focus in this, the centenary year.  

The Russian Revolution 1917
Dr Arfon Rees

The module examines the events in Russia from the February Revolution to the October Revolution of 1917. It analyses the factors shaping the political crisis that gripped the country in this period, the dynamics in the development of the popular responses to the crises, and the way in which different political forces sought to control and lead events. These events are studied against the background of the collapse of the tsarist regime, the problems created by the Great War, and by the international situation and Russia’s relations with its allies. The seminars will focus on the chronological sequences of events, from February to October 1917, based on a close reading of primary documents. This will be complemented by a thematic exploration of developments and an exploration of the historiography of the revolution.

People of the Aftermath: British Culture in the 1920's and 1930's
Dr Matt Houlbrook

This is a module about British culture in the 1920s and 1930s. In these two decades Britain was transformed as the Great War’s disruptive legacies intersected with the accelerating pace of peacetime change. Just as writers, poets, artists, sculptors, and ordinary men and women tried to make sense of the war, so at least some Britons found new opportunities for leisure and pleasure for at least some Britons. The popularity of the cinema, dancehall, and cheap novel represented a reinvigorated consumer culture that prompted excitement, anxiety, and the disdain of ‘highbrow’ intellectuals. The wireless programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the films of the documentary movement, and Penguin’s paperback revolution all sought to educate and inform. Many of the cultural forms we take for granted today emerged in the decades after the Great War.

Rather than focus just on the work of modernist writers, poets and artists, we will treat culture as something ordinary and everyday. Culture encompasses attitudes or ways of seeing the world - how we think about class or gender or the ways in which ideas of Britishness are defined. Culture also encompasses the objects and practices that give those ideas material form. Films, novels, songs or buildings all reflect something of the mood of the age, though, as we will see, not necessarily in immediately obvious ways. Britons were divided by profound differences of class, wealth, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and geography. Acknowledging these differences, we will explore how new cultural forms both brought Britons together and drove them apart. Finally, we will explore the explosive politics of culture in the 1920s and 1930s. The demands of fighting a total war, the expansion of the franchise to all adult men and women, and the commercial imperatives of the market made the idea of the ‘people’ increasingly important. Politicians and advertisers alike sought to identify their needs and provide for their desires. Part of the story of the 1920s and 1930s is about the nature of that process, and the question of who was – and was not – to be included among the people of the aftermath. Over the course of the year our discussions will take us to war memorials and art deco buildings, romantic fiction and modernist poems, trashy films and highbrow ‘art’, social surveys and sensationalist newspapers. From the confidence trickster to the abdicating monarch, from the unemployed ex-servicemen to the ‘scantily dressed jazzing flapper’, from the crofters of St Kilda to the long-dead Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen we will meet the people of the aftermath and use their lives to explore the world they inhabited. To explore how ordinary Britons made and made sense of their culture we will read their love letters and diaries, watch them dancing, and listen to their memories. Taking Peaky Blinders and Downtown Abbey as a starting point, we will use these primary sources to think critically about the mythologies of ‘The Long Week-End’ and the historical significance of the 1920s and 1930s in the making of modern British culture.

Facing the Fuhrer and the Duce: British Foreign and Defence Policies 1935-1940
Dr Steve Morewood 

The overall aim of the course is to analyse the development of British foreign and defence policy towards the European dictators during the late 1930s. The aim of the two linked modules is to enable you to display a good understanding of the changing character of British foreign policy during the 1930s. To understand the rationale under which British defence policy was framed; and to have a good understanding of the political, economic and social conditions under which British policy makers operated. The final part considers the opening part of the Second World War to the end of 1940.

The Nazis at War
Dr Steffen Prauser

War was the essence of National Socialism. The movement was born out of war, it created a warlike society, it saw its fulfillment in war and it ultimately went down in war. It is not surprising that most of the research on Nazi Germany of the last two decades revolved around war.

The aim of this module will be to familiarise the student with this recent research and engage them with the key debates as well as with the key primary sources on National Socialism and its peculiar relationship to war. Arguably, nothing is more crucial to understanding its ideology and the reality of the Third Reich than this relationship.

Of Rice and Men: NGOS and Humanitarianism since 1945

The long and complex history of humanitarianism is attracting growing interest from historians. Many of the key actors in this history have been international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Although many of these NGOs are instantly recognisable, such as Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), they are a relatively recent historical phenomenon. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, these NGOs have collectively developed from small, amateur groups into large, professionalised aid agencies with significant influence at the national and transnational level. This course assesses the complex and shifting history of humanitarianism since 1945, with a particular emphasis on the importance of NGOs, examining the cultural, social and political phenomena that inspired the rapid expansion of the sector in both Britain and abroad.

After Hitler: Politics and society in West Germany During the Adenauer Era 1945-1965
Dr Armin Grunbacher

The aim of the module is to examine the development of post-war Germany, from the collapse of the Nazi dictatorship to the stepping down of Chancellor Adenauer in 1963. Many, if not most, of the events in Germany during this period have to be seen against or are linked to the background of the Cold War, the emerging European integration and the Nazi past. The module will be based on extracts from contemporary documents and visual images.

Planes, Trains, Boats and Autos: Transporting People (and other things) in Twentieth-Centurty Britain
Dr Julian Greaves

Travelling is something we all do virtually every day. Society depends on ourselves and our goods being able to move around, whether it is the mundane pleasures of the School run or Christmas arriving on a container ship from China. Mobility has always been central to the economy and to society and so it is easy to take for granted. But it is not something that simply “happens”. The methods of transport we possess today have been shaped by a complex mix of social political and economic forces, and have had wide ranging consequences for business organisation, the urban and rural environment, culture, international relations even gender relations (yes women drivers have always been a better insurance risk than men!). These forces change over time Before the First World War railways were the lifeblood of the inland transport. By the 1960s some regarded them as a quaint anachronism. But attempts to slash the rail network by Dr Beeching provoked bitter controversy. Rail nationalisation and privatisation have likewise prompted huge debates since 1945. Road building, the motor car airports were all seen in the 1950s as a key element of national renewal. But the 1980s many questioned their economic and environmental cost (prompting both peaceful and violent protest). Ships (cargo and passenger) were once integral to the British self-image (and indeed national survival) but have gradually morphed into an anonymous global milieu, largely bereft of national identity entity but still integral to our everyday lives. Travel by air has gone from being a project of imperial renewal and technological nationalism, to a largely consumer driven product supporting business and leisure tourism. Not everything changes of course. London traffic moves no quicker than it did 100 years ago. Aircraft cross the Atlantic no quicker than they did fifty years ago. But continuity like change can tell us something important about our economy and society.

These issues (and others) will be explored on this module by examining the evolution of transportation in twentieth-century Britain, on land, sea and air. Central to the analytical framework will be the role of the state and its interaction with other social and economic actors. Primary source will include Government reports, newspapers, pamphlets certain forms of imagery and advertising.

The Revolting Right: Conservative Activism in Post-war Britain
Dr Chris Moores

How have citizens been political in the post-war and to what extent have activists brought about political, economic, cultural and social change? This module assesses such questions by examining various forms of non-party mobilization from the political right. What happens to the history of political activism if we look to voices which might often be dismissed as ‘cranky’, ‘backwards-looking’, ‘marginal’ and ‘peripheral’? The module largely focuses on British movements and NGOs, but places these in transnational and comparative contexts.

The module grapples with the histories of conservatism, neo-liberalism and neoconservatism.  It takes a broad conceptualization of the political, considering elite think tanks (such as the Mont Pelerin Society), social movements (including Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers and Listeners Association), campaigning organizations (like the National Association for Freedom) while also assessing the individual life-stories of some less conventional political activists such as Theresa Gorman, Rhodes Bhoyson, & Norris McWhirter. It considers different non-party political spaces where mobilization occurred: the English countryside, the university campus, the suburban neighbourhood watch, the planned Enterprise zone. It seeks to understand the networks which connected Cold War and security NGOs with the not-in-my-back-yard activists supporting British nuclear policy and opposing lesbianism from a shed in Newbury, Berkshire. Did the late twentieth century see a new world order created along neo-liberal or neo-conservative lines, how did this play out within the British state, and what forms of activism articulated and drove such shifts?

Where There is Discord: Making Thatcher's Britain
Dr Matthew Francis

Drawn from remarks made on the steps on 10 Downing Street on her first morning as Prime Minister, the title of this module, ‘Where There Is Discord’, reflects the way in which Margaret Thatcher polarised opinion in Britain during the 1980s. As anyone who observed the reaction to her death in April 2013 cannot help but have noticed, Thatcher provoked enormously strong reactions among both her supporters and her critics, and her personality and her policies played the dominant role in forming the febrile political atmosphere of the 1980s. More than two decades after her departure from 10 Downing Street, Thatcher remains an enormously divisive and controversial political figure.

This module seeks to explore the nature of Thatcherism and the impact that it had on Britain during the 1980s (and subsequently). Though primarily a political history of the period, the module will also encourage students to consider the way in which ‘ordinary people’ responded to Thatcherism and the imprints that her ideology has left on British culture. After a brief introduction to the political history of post-war Britain – and in particular the idea of the ‘post-war consensus’ – in the Autumn Term the module will focus on two of the areas in which Thatcher made the sharpest breaks from her predecessors: economic policy and social policy. In economic policy, though the enthusiasm for monetarism would prove to be short-lived, attempts to reduce inflation through control of the money supply would be one of the hallmarks of the early Thatcher period; privatisation, by contrast, was little-heralded in 1979 but now looks to be one of the abiding legacies of the Thatcher governments, and has had a profound economic and cultural effect on contemporary Britain. Meanwhile, Thatcher’s assertion that there was ‘no such thing as society’ is seen by many to have marked a new emphasis on individualism and self-reliance rather than collective provision. There remains a suspicion, however, that Thatcher’s approach to the welfare state was ultimately a story of restraint rather than radicalism.

In the Spring Term the focus will shift onto foreign policy, and onto the wider politics of the 1980s and 1990s. For many the recapture of the Falkland Islands in 1982 remains the defining moment of Thatcher’s premiership, while her steadfast opposition to the USSR earned her a reputation for being an ardent Cold Warrior and the moniker ‘the Iron Lady’. On the issue of Europe, however, Thatcher’s initial enthusiasm for EEC membership was rapidly eroded by fears over the loss of sovereignty, and her hostility to the European project would eventually lead to her downfall as Prime Minister. For the Labour Party the 1980s was marked by a journey into the political wilderness – the defections to the SDP, the ‘longest suicide note in history’ – and a slow and difficult march back towards the centre ground. Finally, the module will consider the legacies of Thatcherism for both major political parties in the 1990s and beyond. For many historians the election of Tony Blair in 1994, and with it the advent of New Labour, marked the moment at which socialism ‘capitulated’ to Thatcherism and to the demands of the Right. For the Conservative Party, meanwhile, it remains an open question whether the legacies of Thatcherism are an asset or a liability. Though her immediate successor, John Major, did win the 1992 general election, the Conservative Party has failed to win a parliamentary major since, and David Cameron’s attempts to ‘detoxify’ the Conservative brand have only been partially successful.

 

Advance Option B

Each of the following modules are worth 20 credits at final-year level and run in the Spring term.

History Spring options are assessed by a three hour exam held during the Summer term. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.

Hidden from History: Homosexuality through History, from the Ancient World to the Present Day
Dr Elaine Fulton

Once described as ‘the love that dare not speak its name’, homosexuality has since been more recently described as ‘the love that won’t shut its mouth’. Such a comment is in large part a reflection of the fact that today, homosexuality is at last finding fuller acceptance in many quarters, and as a result is now much more visible in culture and society. This effect has spilled over into the historical discipline, and the last thirty years have finally seen histories of homosexuality hit the bookshelves. Writing the history of this particular section of society has evidently not been an easy task however, and this module will invite you to explore how effectively historians have tackled this fascinating yet methodologically complex subject. The module will explore in particular how historians have examined the following themes: homosexuality in the ancient and early-modern worlds; nineteenth century developments; and homosexuality in the twentieth century, with emphasis on homosexuality and the State, the Church, the military, medical science and the media, as well as the development of modern gay communities, gay pride, and the campaign for gay marriage.

Art and Society in the Medieval Mediterranean
Professor Leslie Brubaker

This module examines the role of visual imagery and public building in the formation of medieval Mediterranean culture from the foundation of Constantinople as a new ‘Christian’ capital of the Roman Empire in 324, through the shifting fortunes and allegiances of the great cities of the Mediterranean world (among them Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Venice), to the fall of Constantinople to Venetian soldiers of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. As in many pre-industrial societies where access to the written word was restricted and often tightly controlled, images and the arrangements of public space affected individuals’ lives in ways more profound than ‘art’ does now, and in ways the written word could not. The course will enable you to compare the use of public space and imagery by the three major cultural forces of the medieval  Mediterranean – the Arabs, the Byzantines, and the various components of the Latin West – and to examine how buildings and images were used to shape the dialogue between them. We will also examine objects of daily life, used by ‘ordinary’ people, to evaluate the role of the visual in the day-to-day life of the Late Antique and medieval Mediterranean world.

Society in the Viking World
Dr Chris Callow

We will look at society across Scandinavia, western Europe and the British Isles as well as colonies of the North Atlantic to analyse the society that produced the Viking phenomenon and consider its wider impacts. What was Scandinavian society like in the early middle ages? How powerful were the kings or lords who might have led or encouraged ‘viking’ activity and what did their power depend on? What was life like for the remainder of the population? How and why did people commemorate raiding and conquering overseas? What roles did women play in colonisation? How significant was slavery in Viking Age society? What different forms of religious activity (pagan or Christian) existed in the Viking Age? In considering the impacts of the Viking movement we will investigate different forms of evidence for colonisation and conquest, from runes to DNA, to burial and settlement archaeology, to Icelandic sagas and the more conventional written sources. The Viking Age is often thought of in terms of men’s activities, of trading, raiding and military conflict between invading groups of Vikings against hapless victims in the British Isles and beyond. This module aims to consider the stories behind the ‘headlines’ provided by the chroniclers of Viking activity. Our aim will be to assess the shared and distinctive elements of the societies shaped by Viking activity.

Medieval Monasticism
Dr Jens Rohrkasten

The course will provide a survey of the forms of life and the institutions developed by women and men who decided to leave the world and devote their lives to divine service in the middle ages. It will offer a survey of key developments, beginning with the early forms of medieval monasticism, phases of monastic decline and attempts of reform. The focus will be on important features like Carolingian monasticism, Cluny and the revival in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the role of the eremitical life, the religious orders of the twelfth century and the mendicant orders. This chronological survey will be followed by an analytical part which will deal with structural issues like the foundation of religious houses, rules, the monastic economy, the cultural significance of monasteries and religious orders, the monastic economy and the secular environment.

Religion and Religious Change in England During the Reign of Elizabeth I
Dr Jonathan Willis

As recently as fifty years ago, historians believed that the English reformation stopped dead with the accession of Elizabeth I in 1559. What we know now is that by 1559 the process by which England was becoming a Protestant nation had really only just begun. Looking back at the long and prosperous Elizabethan ‘golden age’, it is easy to forget that the last Tudor inherited a kingdom wracked with religious tensions, and a people struggling to come to terms with the traumatic events of the previous half century. The age of Shakespeare was also an age of bitter division, simmering religious hatreds and titanic battles over the heart and soul of the English Church. This module will look at the reformation during the reign of Elizabeth I, from two main perspectives. It will adopt a broadly chronological approach, looking at key moments and events in the reign, such as the vestiarian controversy, the northern rising, the admonition controversy, the Spanish armada, etc., and considering their relevance in terms of religious identity and change. It will also look at key themes, such as popular religion, puritanism, and Catholicism, in order to highlight some of the main areas of historiographical interest in this period. We will explore a wide variety of primary sources together in depth, from official publications such as homilies, sermons, liturgies and religious articles, to descriptions of martyrdom, educational and devotional texts, works of propaganda and persuasion, musical compositions, court records, parochial accounts, diaries, and other printed and manuscript materials.

Warfare at Sea from the Armada to D-Day

This module provides an opportunity to study the history of warfare at sea from 1588 to 1944-5. It explores three major themes. First, it traces the influence of sea power upon history and how the sea shaped both European and world history. Secondly, throughout this period, preparing for and waging war at sea was the most complex and expensive challenge states faced. Exploring how and why they built, maintained and used navies, and adapted to rapid technological change while keeping sight of enduring strategic truths, teaches us much about their societies and cultures. Thirdly, it studies the influence of history upon sea power, analysing the long tradition of the use (and abuse) of naval history to address present-day concerns.

Witchcraft, Magic and Power in Early Modern Europe
Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell

This course is designed to familiarize students with the main contours of witch belief, magical practice, and the prosecution of malefice as they evolved on the European continent from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. It is organized around a series of debates over the origins, causes, and characteristics of witch-persecution. Another focus will be on the place of magic in early modern society. By looking at the place of witchcraft and magic in early modern society, we will reflect on a series of changes in European society, culture, and politics.

From Empire to Colony: Indian Society, Politics and Economy c.1757-1885
Dr Manu Sehgal

The early colonial period (c.1757-1857) is an important and widely debated chapter in modern South Asian history. Beginning in the twilight of Mughal sovereignty across early eighteenth century India this module will chart the emergence of the East India Company as the territorial hegemon across much of the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth century. Students will be encouraged to critically engage with significant themes that have attracted scholarly attention with a special emphasis on new research on gender, science, geographical knowledge, orientalism, law and mercantile networks of exchange. The exercise of coercive force which enabled the creation of an increasingly unequal relationship of power was at the heart of the early colonial encounter. Yet this apparatus of control was not maintained by brute force alone. Forms of knowledge production, ideologies of rule and increasingly efficient technologies of governance sustained the creation of an early colonial order. Conflict and conquest was accompanied by sophisticated and ambitious projects to survey, settle, control, classify and tax colonial subjects. The Indian response to this imposition of alien rule included laments of displaced elites and the emergence of a colonial modernity as exemplified by a new, urbane elite engaged in projects of male reformism. The role of religion, status, changing forms of wealth, ethnicity and conceptions of racial difference – will form an important part of this module. The Revolt of 1857 and its aftermath are understood as a cataclysmic break with racial categories and an increasing distance between the rulers and the ruled characterizing the exercise of authority of the Victorian Raj.

What's Yours is Mine: Understanding Property in Georgian Britain
Dr Kate Smith

This module will teach you about the legal, cultural and social frameworks that defined conceptions of property in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain. During the Georgian period, property ownership acted as a key marker of social status and power. Yet conceptions of property rarely remained stable and changed significantly as the eighteenth century wore on. This module will study the changes that took place in conceptions of property by focusing on three important areas: intellectual property and the development of copyright laws, people as property and the impact of the slave trade and changing labour laws and finally, land and the impact of enclosure and urbanization. During the module we will use these three different case studies to consider how contemporaries developed the legal and cultural frameworks that supported particular conceptions of possession. In the course we will also consider how groups and individuals challenged these concepts through campaigns such as the abolition movement, criminal cases and new practices. ‘What’s Yours is Mine’ will prompt you to consider the different ways in which the boundaries of ownership have been negotiated historically and why understanding legal history is central to understanding the making of modern Britain.

Britain's Wars of Colonisation and Decolonisation 1815-1960
Dr Daniel Whittingham

The British army is often called a ‘small wars army’. This module will examine Britain’s conduct of its wars of colonisation and decolonisation from 1815 onwards. Britain emerged from its ‘second Hundred Years’ War’ with France (1688 – 1815) as a world power. Between 1815 and 1914, Britain fought only one war against a European enemy (Russia, in the Crimean War) but conducted a whole host of colonial campaigns across the globe. The twentieth century saw the British Empire reach its greatest territorial extent, in the aftermath of the First World War; but in the years that followed, challenges emerged which saw the British fight a series of bitter colonial counter-insurgency campaigns. This module will consider Britain’s imperial wars from the expansion of the empire in India in the first half of the nineteenth century, to the campaigns in Malaya and Kenya in the 1940s and 1950s. It will consider these conflicts within the broader context of scholarly debates on the character of British imperialism, as well as within the wider framework of developments in the conduct of war. The module will consider a series of British imperial wars from within the date range, from the perspectives of both the British and their various opponents.

Conflict in the Modern Middle East
Dr Steve Morewood 

The course considers the origins and outcomes of conflict in the Modern Middle East (1914 to the present). It does so against the background of the international setting and the intervention in the region of outside Powers. The internal causes of particular conflicts are married with external factors bearing on events leading up to the outbreak of war. The internal dynamics of a war, the reasons for victory or defeat and the ramifications are considered in the light of changing  interpretations emerging from the continued historical debates.

France and the Second World War
Dr Steffen Prauser

This option deals with the most exciting and controversial period in contemporary French history: France under German occupation. First, France suffered a calamitous collapse in the so-called “Blitzkrieg”, which stunned the whole world. Afterwards it was occupied by Nazi Germany, its Republic collapsed and the authoritarian Vichy Regime under First World War hero Marshal Pétain was established. A Resistance movement against the occupiers and Vichy took shape that ultimately took power once the country was liberated in 1944. The subject has recently been radically revised by developments in French and German historiography after the declassification of substantial archival material. The aim of the module is to understand these recent debates, analyse French domestic politics under occupation, its society, the nature of the Vichy regime and its the place in French history, as well as German and Italian occupation policy in France during WWII. Consideration will be also given to the Resistance and to de Gaulle’s Free French.

Everyday Life and Survival Under Nazi and Soviet Occupation 1939-1953
Dr Klaus Richter

The new rich are adventurers who act as if in a jungle and each grabs what he can.” What sounds like a sour commentary on contemporary capitalism is a novelist’s statement about black-market profiteers in Nazi-occupied Greece. While 20th century historiography has focused mostly on the extreme behaviour of active collaboration and political resistance, the scope of action in everyday life under occupation during the Second World War was for the majority of Europeans defined by survival and economic necessities and opportunities. Occupation brought about massive social changes, as new (coerced) communities were formed, new borders drawn, and social hierarchies turned upside down. At the same time, everyday behaviour remained to a large extent defined by pre-war contexts and conflicts. The ensuing Soviet occupation of East Central Europe built on the social and economic dislocations brought about by Nazi rule.

In this module, we will have a close look at everyday life under Nazi and Soviet occupation in Europe, moving from more general changes brought about by the establishment of occupation regimes to national contexts and (individual) contacts. Subjects of discussion will range from concepts of criminality in Jewish ghettos across large-scale economic cooperation in France to the appropriation of abandoned (or not) property in the post-war period. Another focus of this module will be on how the discussed cases were represented in post-war memory, culture and historiography, in order to interpret their politicisation and nationalisation in post-1945 Western and post-1991 Eastern Europe.

The Costs of War
Dr Armin Grunbacher

As events in the last two centuries have shown, the outcome of conventional wars is very much dependent on the economic strength of the belligerents; and in case of asymmetrical warfare on the question if the economical ‘superior power’ is willing to make the economic sacrifices necessary to winning a war. The module will introduce students to the economic problems of warfare since the Napoleonic era; issues investigated will include war finance; (industrial) production of war materials; organisation of wartime economies, including raw material provision, interruption of enemies’ economic systems; the ‘military-industrial complex’ and its influence; the impact political decisions do have on the effectiveness and efficiency of armed forces; the impact of spiralling procurement costs.

George Orwell, England and the Modern World
Dr Laura Beers

Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, has proved one of the most enduring English authors of the early twentieth century. Few students enter university without having read at least one of his two anti-totalitarian novels, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1948). The term “Orwellian” has entered common usage as a synonym for dystopic totalitarianism, and in the years since the terror attacks of 9/11 has become a commonplace in discussions of the modern “security state”. Yet, Orwell did not begin his career as an anti-totalitarian polemicist. Born in British India and educated at Eton, Eric Blair first followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Indian Civil Service as a police officer in Burma, before returning to England to begin a career as a writer. Over the next two decades his essays, novels, literary criticism and reportage took on nearly every major social and political topic of the day, including urban poverty, consumer culture, the future of the British empire, unemployment, the appeal (or lack thereof) of the British communist party, the threat of fascism, the future of social democracy, the meaning of “Englishness”, and role of politics in modern life. During the Second World War, he was employed by the Ministry of Information as a state propagandist. By the end of his career, he was viewed by many as a defender of individual integrity against state tyranny, and condemned by others as an apostate to socialism. This course will take a historical approach to both Orwell and to the myriad subjects to which he turned his pen. We’ll begin and end with an analysis of Orwell’s role as a chronicler and shaper of British society, while the intervening weeks will use Orwell’s writings as a launch pad to explore key issues in interwar British and European history. Each week will consist of a one-hour source-based seminar in which we will analyze one of Orwell’s works followed by a two-hour class in which we will discuss relevant secondary literature.

Joint Honours Dissertation

This module is a  sustained investigation of an historical problem on a subject relevant to the programme of study in the light of current knowledge and current interpretations. This may include the use of primary source material. The findings of this investigation are then presented in an extended form with full argumentation and scholarly apparatus, so that the identity and value of the sources on one hand and the quality and structure of the argument on the other can be clearly understood by the reader.

Value: 20 credits

History Dissertation

This module develops from work undertaken in second year Research Methods (Dissertation Preparation). Students work to complete research undertaken and focus their energies on preparing drafts of chapters for their dissertations. Students undertake a wide range of research activities enabling them to engage directly with contemporary debates in history and examine and interpret diverse sources such as letters, diaries, newspapers, government, business, church and parish records, statistical sources and media representations of varying kinds etc...

Students studying this module are required to prepare a 12,000 word dissertation within the broad field of History and students choose to study diverse regions and periods. Some students elect to research an area to which they have already been introduced via a taught module, others develop themes initiated in Group Research Projects, and some students seize the opportunity to pursue a research interest that they have been unable to develop elsewhere in the curriculum.

Some examples of topics recently researched by students on this programme include:

  • Representations of Ireland and Irish communities in British media, 1960
  • Alehouses in early 17thC Society
  • Anglo-American relations and the Korean war
  • RAF Bomber command: the debate about targeting
  • The social context of sport in 20thC Northamptonshire
  • The experience of the British soldier in South Africa 1899-1902
  • Enoch Powell: the Northern Irish years
  • Attitudes of local Conservative associations to the Edwardian tariff reform debate
  • The impact of religious aspects of Charles I personal rule on Worcester
  • Exploring the BBC and its relationship with government, 1939-42
  • The Cecils and Elizabethan Court politics in the 1590s
  • The writings of Christopher Columbus
  • English anti-popery and responses to Catholic rebellion in Ireland, 1641.
  • Views of magic in post-reformation England
  • Infant mortality: trends and explanations, 1850-1914
  • The legitimacy of female monarchy in 16thC Britain
  • Anglo-American perceptions of the Soviet war effort, 1941-45
  • Defence preparations in Kent during the Napoleonic wars
  • English radical societies and the French revolution
  • British diplomacy in the American War of independence
  • Capital punishment in Britain after 1945
  • An assessment of the impact of America's musical revolution upon British music and society in the period 1955 to the Beatles
  • A contrast of working class and middle class women in the Suffragette movement
  • The administration of the poor law in Britain, with special reference to the position of women, 1870-1910
  • Conflict and cooperation in the peasant community of Wakefield
  • A comparison of the pipe rolls of the bishopric of Winchester, 1301-1409
  • Victorian sexual morality
  • Middle class spinster-hood in 19thC Britain
  • Economic forgery in medieval England
  • The incorporation of the medical profession into the NHS with particular reference to Birmingham
  • How was the devil represented through 16thC drama and literature?
  • Assisted passage to Australia in post-war Britain
  • Factional politics at the Court of Mary Queen of Scots
  • The road to Salvation: the spiritual journeys of Wesley's preachers
  • The campaign against outdoor relief and its impact on workhouse populations
  • American popular and commercial culture in interwar Britain

Value: 40 credits
Assessment: 100% 12000 word dissertation due in late springContact: total of up to 6 hours one-to-one supervision available