History Second and Third/Final Year Undergraduate module summaries

 

Second year

Group Research

  • 20 credits

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.  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 - see below. 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.  

Group Research example module summaries:

The First Crusade as seen by Contemporaries  

The First Crusade (1095–1099) was a major turning point in medieval history and inspired more contemporary historical writing than any other single event in the Middle Ages. In this group research topic students will have the opportunity to examine the rich and diverse narrative and documentary source material for the First Crusade and to address questions of fundamental importance to our understanding of the expedition’s ‘miraculous’ achievements. What (if anything) was ‘new’ about the First Crusade? Why did so many men and women decide to set out for the Holy Land in 1096? What factors contributed to the crusaders’ military achievements? How did the crusade affect relations between western Europe and the Byzantine Empire? Did contemporary Christians, Muslims and Jews differ in their understandings of the expedition’s origins and impact and, if so, why?

Sex and the City: Women’s lives in Heian-era Japan

Women’s experience in the pre-modern world is rarely seen from women’s own perspectives and nor do their lives get presented in detail. For medieval Japan, however, we have a rich array of works written by elite women who had various roles in the imperial court in the Heian-era capital Kyoto, a world which these accounts portray as both familiar and alien. Texts you might study include autobiographies and works of fiction such as The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, The Tale of Genji, and the text known as The Gossamer Years. These help illuminate the social world in which these women lived, giving insights into how they saw that world and negotiated their way through it. This topic therefore provides groups with a chance to consider particular aspects of the way society worked in and around the complex world of the imperial court.

Rachel Carson and the Making of Environmentalism

Rachel Carson is a founding figure of modern environmentalism. Her book Silent Spring of 1962 put her at the crossroads of multiple strands of post-war history. It was an attack on the chemical industry at the height of the post-war boom years. It was a critique of industrial technology at a time when “better living through chemistry” seemed like a real-world utopia. Her book became controversial against the backdrop of Cold War fears and New Deal politics. But the book and its author are also remarkable in their own right: Silent Spring was a courageous statement from a woman writer when the public sphere was overwhelmingly male, and Rachel Carson is rightly hailed as a feminist icon. Yet her legacy remains controversial: the ban on DDT that grew out of the controversy over Silent Spring is criticized as a drag on the fight against malaria, a crucial issue in many countries of the Global South. All this has made Carson and her legacy a critical issue in history and contemporary politics. Tell me what you think about Rachel Carson, and I will tell you what kind of environmentalist you are – if you are one.

A Carthaginian Peace?: The Treaty of Versailles and its Aftermath

After the Napoleonic War Europe avoided another general conflagration for the best part of a century. Since World War a series of alliances, and international treaties has had a comparable restraining effect. The agreements that formally ended the first World War, of which Versailles was the most famous, were crowned with no such success. Historians continue to debate whether this treaty made further conflict inevitable or whether it was a fair settlement and the problem was in the execution. But in the process they are merely echoing disagreements among contemporaries. A British Treasury official, J.M. Keynes (later a famous economist) wrote a book in 1919 arguing the harsh economic and political terms imposed on Germany would lead to further conflict. This work was hugely influential in Britain and America and arguably encouraged their respective Governments to distance themselves from the Versailles provision. The French critic, Étienne Mantoux, argued that the result was to fatefully weaken allied resolve to impose a harsh peace on Germany and encouraged German nationalism With this topic student groups will be able to choose a theme arising from the post-World War I settlement (taking this on into the 1920s if they so wish) and study it in depth. There are plenty of contemporary writings, official publications, Cabinet papers, newspaper articles, diaries, and speeches that have a bearing on the subject (most materials are readily accessible in the main library). There are also plenty of themes to choose from.

Conversion and Mission in Early Medieval Europe

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.

Lost in the Arctic: the English Search for a 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.

Failed Colonies 

The European Empires which dominated the modern period had their origins in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These empires produced long periods of conquest and colonisation and the history of colonisation has often been written as a story of inevitability yet this is far from the case. Environment, conflict, isolation, poverty and enmity ensured that virtually all countries began with colonial failure.  Research groups will have the opportunity of choosing and studying from a number of different colonies attempted by the French, English, Germans or Spanish during the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to examine the reasons for failure. They can focus on a variety of subjects such as how success and failure can be defined, conflicts between settlers and investors, life in the early colonies and the dangers affecting settlement.

Race, Nation, Economy: French Empire from 1789 to Decolonisation

When news of the French Revolution of 1789 reached the Caribbean sugar plantations controlled by France, some of the slaves working on them escaped their bondage and instead of fleeing, marched into nearby towns to join the revolution and embrace the rights of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity it seemingly offered. The brutal racial hierarchy of colonial empire was fractured for a moment by the promise of universal rights, and the prospect of a new empire of liberty. In this group research project, we ask what colonial empire meant in its French form. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries much of the world lived in empires – polities characterized by cultural distinction and political inequality. But by the end of the 1960s the age of colonial empires was over and extremes of inequality went by new names. With the help of primary and secondary sources, we will discover the political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions of French colonial rule. We’ll look at what exactly rulers did and why, and how colonized people struggled both within and against the institutions of colonial rule. There will be a strong emphasis on the relationship between politics in France and overseas parts of the French empire. Other keystones are: the changing significance of race, sexuality and gender, the political-economy of the empire, the importance of nationalism and other forms of political mobilization, and the politics of history itself – as the current French elections have shown, France and its former colonies remain haunted by the imperial past, and the revolts of the past remain the stuff of battles over what should be learned and forgotten today.

Kings and Propaganda: Power in the Islamic World

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.

Medievalism in Politics and Popular Culture

Modern popular culture is saturated with representations of the ‘medieval’, whether this is in historical drama like Robin Hood, or Kingdom of Heaven; or in fantasy, from The Hobbit to Game of Thrones. This topic invites groups to consider a whole range of questions within medievalism. Does it matter if historical drama is not accurate? How ‘historical’ is historical drama? What role does fantasy – like Game of thrones play in ‘fictionalising the medieval, especially considering the plethora of ‘historical’ observations associated with Game of Thrones in particular, which led one journalist working for the Spectator to declare that ‘Game of Thrones tells the story of Britain better than most Histories’ (E.West, Spectator, 29 March 2014)? How is the view of the past influenced by film? What messages about the ‘medieval’ are being conveyed and why? Alternatively, one might ask why representations of the medieval, or the medieval has such enduring appeal to film makers and is sure to draw large audiences? At the same time Medievalism has always been part of the self - representation of far right political groups, from Nazism to the KKK and more recent expressions of white supremacy. In this case medievalism is actively used to construct mythological origin narratives. In what way is the medieval represented as ‘white’, and why? What – if anything - should medievalists do about the love affair of far right movements?   

History as a Game?

Public understandings of the past and historical processes are shaped not just by education but by entertainment - from films and books to board-games and videogames. In this option, groups will research and analyse the relationship between games and history, in order to understand how interactive media can help shape our ideas about the past, present, and future. Groups may choose to investigate, for example:

  • A particular game and its relationship with a historical setting or process.
  • How games express particular ideas, theories, or concepts within history (e.g. nationalism, religion, or “civilisation”).
  • The historical development of games themselves, and changing presentations of the past.
  • Games’ relationship to “realism” and their ability to offer experiences of the past.

This option will not focus on assessing the “historical accuracy” of games. Instead, the idea is to think about how games contribute to the public understanding of history - and how, in turn, understandings of historical processes are encoded in the games we make and consume.

Domestic Servants at Work in Georgian England  

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. 

The American Occupation of Germany, 1944-1949 

This module will allow you to investigate the post-war occupation of Germany from a (mainly) American perspective and how this occupation changed over the years. Starting up from an initial punitive approach, you will be able to explore how and why American attitudes changed; how Germany was split in two with the creation of the Federal Republic in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East. Other possible topics are the American preparation (or lack thereof) for occupation; Relationships with the other 3 Powers; Aspects of Cold War Policy such as the Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift; the decision by the Western Allies to establish a West German state; re-education policy; economic policies in the American and British zone of Occupation; How and why the Americans initiated the German currency reform; the Marshall Plan and Germany.  Your research will be based mainly on unpublished primary documents held at the University of Birmingham Library (the only site in the country to have these!), as well as printed and online materials. There are also documents in the Public Record Office in London which may be relevant for your research. 

European Encounters with Islam in the Early Modern Period

Whether threatened by Ottoman expansion, enticed by the prospect of commercial gain, or curious about the origins of Christianity, Europeans from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries considered Islam - its history, societies, and geographies - for many different purposes. In the process, they produced understandings and conceptions of Islam that continue to hold sway even in our own day. Such understandings were based upon direct encounters with Muslims - through travel, diplomacy, trade, and captivity - or indirect study through the acquisition of languages and research on religion and history. In this group research module, we examine how European travel to, writing about, and scholarship on Islamic lands shaped European conceptions about Islam in the early modern period. The topic may be taken up through a number of different themes, some of which include:

  • European renegades in Ottoman service
  • Diplomatic missions to the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires
  • European study of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish
  • Study of Islam and Eastern Christianity
  • The Levant Company merchants in the Ottoman Empire
  • Christian missionary activity
  • Literary, musical, and theatrical representations of Islam
  • European women in the Ottoman Empire 

Home Sweet Home? Housing, Squatting and Rent Strikes in 20th Century Britain

During the twentieth century the aspiration of home-ownership in Britain has been promoted by successive Governments; however, not everyone has found this an achievable prospect. Many have been obliged to live in insecure rental properties at the mercy of landlords whilst others have found themselves homeless. This group research project proposes to explore how people have adopted direct action methods, through rent strikes and squatting, to secure or defend their "homes". Whether it was through the rent strikes of Glasgow in 1915 or Weoley Castle, Birmingham in 1939, the squatting of military camps in 1946, or the activities of the Family Squatting Advisory Service in the 1970s, or the Frestonia Squat in London there are plenty of case studies that can be explored.

History in Theory and Practice

  • 20 credits

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.

Research Methods

  • 20 credits

This module is designed to support students as they develop a topic on which to write their dissertation in their 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. 

Public History

  • 20 credits 

This module provides students with the opportunity to reflect on what it has meant (and still means) to do history in public, from the medieval world to the present day. It explores how the process of turning the past into history has been shaped by the competing demands of politics and profit, education and entertainment, nation-building and self-fashioning. Ranging across periods and places, it moves beyond chronicles and academic histories to consider the many ways in which history has been made in public. Films, folk tales, and family trees, music, museum exhibitions, and personal memories, rituals and performance, pedagogy and printing will analysed to this end.

*Professional Skills Module

  • 20 credits

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.

* Please note: places are limited on this module

History Option A

  • 20 credits

History Option A example module summaries:

Rulers and Rebels of Early Islam (20 credits) 

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? 

In this module, we will explore 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 12th 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. 

Nationalism in Modern Europe, 1815-1914 (20 credits) 

Nationalism is a familiar culprit in the bloody upheavals of the twentieth century in Europe, and it increasingly figures in the unstable politics of today. But how and when did it become such a potent force? Why does it elicit such strong emotions? Does it differ fundamentally between eastern and western Europe? This module examines a critical period when nationalism entered the mainstream of European politics: the relatively peaceful century between Napoleon’s defeat and the outbreak of the First World War. Through a number of case studies - including France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Jews - we will explore the various dynamics of continental European nationalism in this era. We will consider how nationalism could undermine some states and legitimize others; how it went from being revolutionary before 1848 to increasingly conservative; and how it mobilized and reshaped identities based on language, religion, and class. Alongside secondary sources, we will read canonical nationalist texts and consider how nationalist ideas were popularized and normalized through stirring music, visual arts, and early film. The module will also shed light on other key themes of modern European history such as empire (nationalism spreading overseas empires and reforming land-based empires), the origins of the discipline of history (the need to tell the story of the nation), and internationalism (often conceived of at this time as the solidarity between nations/nationalisms). 

John Bull against Napoleon: Fighting the French, 1793-1815 (20 credits) 

Between 1793 and 1815, Britain and France were locked together in a struggle for survival, a series of wars of a savagery neither country had known before. In this module we will study how Britain fought these wars: how the country crafted a new sense of nationhood to mobilise her people; how both economy and industry were organised to produce the money, men and ships needed; how strategy was formulated and used skilful diplomacy and military force finally to help defeat and overthrow the genius that was Napoleon. If you're interested in warfare, the Anglo-French relationship, European politics and/or the roots of modern Britain, this module is for you. 

US Political and Social History 1890-1980 (20 credits) 

This module examines the political and social changes that produced the modern United States in the twentieth century. It will survey the internal debates, tensions, and crises that shaped Americans’ relationship with their government. The module begins with the debates and conflicts surrounding labour and capital, as the United States became the world’s industrial powerhouse and ends with the victory of conservatism in the 1980s and 1990s. Using a wide variety of primary and secondary sources this module will inquire into how ordinary Americans - managers and workers, men and women, African Americans, and immigrants from all parts of the world - both shaped and were shaped by these events. Students will leave the module with a better understanding of the ways in which Americans engaged in the conversations and debates over the changing physical, demographic, and economic landscape of the United States. Topics may include Populism, the “Labour Question,” Jim Crow, Progressivism, Women’s Suffrage, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, Second Wave feminism and gay rights, the New Left, the “silent majority,” and the “culture wars.” 

The Sixties: “Years of Hope, Days of Rage” (20 credits) 

The Sixties remains one of the most influential yet contested decades of United States history. From the Cuban Missile Crisis to Vietnam, from the New Frontier to the Great Society, from the Civil Rights Movement to the New Left, from the hippie culture to the New Right, the Sixties set up the parameters of our modern understanding of U.S. politics and society. Historians have struggled to provide stable interpretations of this decade. The Sixties, with its multiple fractures along the lines of class, race, gender and culture, has proved difficult to categorise within one single narrative, as “consensus” historians had done until that moment for earlier periods of U.S. history. This module will provide a fresh discussion of the prominent themes that run through this fundamental decade of the country’s history. During the Sixties, race and culture replaced class and economics as the most contested areas of debate in American politics; the personal became irresistibly political; the imperatives of the Cold War shaped the lives of thousands of Americans; and the country started its transition towards post-industrialism. Using modern historiography and discussing selected groups of primary sources, this module poses important questions such as how did the Vietnam War change the place of the US in the world?  Was the ‘rights revolution’ successful?  Were the Sixties a period of expanding democratisation or increasing social repression? Did the boom and implosion of the New Left in the Sixties pave the way for the rise of the Right in the Seventies? 

“From Slavery to Freedom”: The African American Experience to 1945 (20 credits) 

The African American experience is at the heart of the American social experiment. From slavery to emancipation to the modern struggle for civil rights, the history of African Americans has defined the most important phases of the history of the United States. The module will provide students with an introduction of the African American experience from the history of African peoples before slavery to 1945. The module utilises a mix of secondary literature and primary sources to cover topics such as African cultural and religious traditions, slave communities and resistance to slavery, narratives of formerly enslaved men and women, the rise of Jim Crow, the lives and thoughts of African American leaders (such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells), the Harlem Renaissance and the experience of war. 

Military Revolution and the Conduct of War, c.1300-1650 (20 credits) 

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. 

Finding a Role: Britain and the Global Economy since 1870 (20 credits) 

Brexit has reopened the debate about Britain’s place in the wider world.  But while some aspects of the debate are new, in another sense it is a continuation of a theme that has been running on and off since the late nineteenth century. This was when policy makers first realised that the global dominance that had personified Britain in the Victorian era could not be maintained as other nations industrialised and developed.  Britain, it seemed, needed to be part of something bigger than itself if it was to maintain its global economic influence. At various times subsequently national destiny was held to lie with either a more unified Empire (and then later the Commonwealth); or as a junior partner to the USA in a new global order; or through being part of a European project; or through some combination of all three. These changing perceptions occurred against a backdrop of a rapidly evolving global economy, fuelled in part by war, depression, financial crises and the rise of multinational economic institutions. This course will examine how, within this context, policymakers have tried to redefine Britain’s place in the global economy, focusing particularly on the issues of international trade, currency and finance (with particular reference to the role the City of London has played in Britain’s international story).  It will consider critically the choices made by successive governments and thereby help explain how Britain has arrived at the position it finds itself in today. 

From Division to Unification: A History of (West) Germany 1945-2000 (20 credits) 

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. 

Feeling Politics in Twentieth Century Britain (20 credits) 

In 1984, the American singer and songwriter Tina Turner famously asked: ‘What’s love got do to with it?’ This module expands on Turner’s query by seeking to understand the relationship between politics and emotions in twentieth century Britain as well as the wider societal and cultural impact of feelings and those that felt such things. The module analyses how political history, particularly the history of activism, might be enriched by foregrounding the sentiments of participants as well as assessing how far emotions might also be understood historically as categories constructed in particular and specific contexts. Each week,  the  module  focusses  on  a  specific  emotional  category  as  the  starting  point  for exploring a series of significant debates in British political, cultural and social life, moving through topics including love, friendship, anger, hate, restraint, loss, empathy, pride, pity and apathy. 

America in Conflict: From the Civil War to the War on Terror (20 credits) 

American dominance of the world stage is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Only from its intervention in the Second World War did the United States fully assert its latent potential to act as a world policeman protecting its interests and its allies and projecting its values as it emerged as a political, military and economic superpower to rival the polar opposite Soviet Union in what became known as the Cold War. Before that America had abdicated as a world power following its decisive intervention in the First World War after purifying itself of slavery through the civil war to give itself a moral licence to rise above great power rivalries and become the ‘shining city on the hill’ conceived by the founding Puritans. The course considers the emergence of America as a world power from the civil war to 1914, the consequences of its involvement in two world wars, the Cold War and American military intervention in the Middle East. American identity was forged by war. The civil war, which remains the conflict in which more lives were lost, was an essential preliminary to America asserting itself on the world stage. Subsequently, American political, military, financial and economic might played critical roles in determining the outcomes of the world wars. Although the Cold War never became hot, the Cuban Missile Crisis almost resulted in nuclear war. Soon afterwards, America suffered its first outright military defeat after becoming embroiled in Vietnam. The Gulf War presented an opportunity to expunge the Vietnam syndrome. The 9/11 attacks led on to military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq but despite promising beginnings became controversial as decisive victory proved elusive. 

Childhood and Adolescence in Medieval Europe (20 credits) 

This course will explore the lives of young people in Medieval Society from ca. 1100 to 1500 focusing on 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. 

France from the Popular Front to the Liberation (20 credits) 

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. The latter engaged in what he himself called state collaboration – a term which has since become notorious and is widely used today to stigmatise all non-hostile interaction with the German occupant.  A Resistance movement against the occupant 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 place in French history, as well as German and Italian occupation policy in France during WWII. Consideration will naturally also be given to the Resistance and to de Gaulle’s Free French.  

Crusading and Crusader Kingdoms (20 credits) 

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 movement 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. 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. 

There is Black in the Union Jack’: An Introduction to Black and South Asian British History (20 credits) 

In the 1990s, the historian Gretchen Gerzina went to a London bookstore in search of Peter Fryer’s seminal Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984). Instead of offering help, the saleswoman chided: ‘Madam, there were no black people in England before 1945’.  If the woman had paused to help or read Fryer’s book, she would have learned that black people arrived in Britain before there were self-professed Britons. Recently, the BBC’s landmark series Black and British: A Forgotten History, and the accompanying book by David Olusoga, have brought black history to new audiences and generations. Likewise, Rosina Visram’s Asians in Britain (2002) documents four centuries of migration and settlement to Britain that are often overlooked. This module builds on these works and broader interest to focus on the forgotten histories of black and South Asian Britons. We will explore the individual histories of students, sailors, servants and suffragettes interwoven with broader explorations of British imperial history. 

Crime and Public Order in Late Medieval Europe (20 credits)

Every society has to cope with internal conflict as well as with threats from outside. Such conflicts take different forms. There are different varieties of criminal activity or mass violence which can arise from a dissolution of social structures. External threats also have an impact on the workings of the social fabric. All societies have found ways to respond to crime and unrest. Mechanisms produced by medieval societies to deal with conflict and to combat crime and disorder in the form of legislation, courts and legal procedures will also be studied in this Optional Unit in their different contexts. 

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 procedure and to define criminal activity for the purpose of prosecution 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. 

The Silk Roads (20 credits) 

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. Most things (and people), however, travelled only part of the way, and these shorter journeys were the everyday reality of those who lived and travelled along the Silk Roads. 

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 consider the Silk Roads from a number of different perspectives, including political organisation, trade goods and religion, and we will conclude with student presentations of their research into selected case studies. Alongside study of concepts particular to this topic, such as the transmission of Buddhism and the role of certain commodities, you will also be introduced to some of the methods and frameworks for analysis used in this field, such as interpreting evidence from material culture and an approach that looks outwards from Inner Asia. No prior knowledge is assumed. 

The British Empire: An Introduction (20 credits) 

... this vast empire on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained...” (George Macartney, 1773)

We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.”   (Sir John Seeley, 1883)

Great Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role.” (Dean Acheson, 1962)

Now I don’t suppose many of you think of the British Empire as a subject worth losing sleep over. After all, surely the one thing one can confidently say about that roseate age of England’s precedence, when the map of half the world blushed with pleasure as it squirmed beneath the Pax Britannica, is that it’s over, isn’t it?” (Salman Rushdie, 1982)

This course provides an introduction to the British Empire. We will range chronologically from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries and geographically across the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Australia as well as the British Isles. Linking all these topics together will be a set of deeper questions: 

  • What is empire and what is colonialism?
  • Why did the British build an empire, and how did that empire function?
  • What impact does colonialism have on ‘colonizer’ and ‘colonized’?

We will consider explanatory frameworks for understanding empire, including economics, religion, and social forces. Throughout the course we will be attentive to issues of race, religion, class, and gender. Empire was never a monolith, but rather was experienced differently by different people, and in this course we will sample as broad a range of that experience as possible. 

The Stuff of History: Cotton, Oil, Gold – Towards a Resource History of Global Modernity (20 credits) 

Modern history is about the mobilization of stuff. Never before in history have humans produced and consumed greater amounts of resources – and never have humans been more dependent on faceless material flows that span the globe. Historians have largely ignored this material undercurrent of modern history for a long time, but recent concerns about resource scarcity and commodity prices have stimulated scholarly interest. But how do we write resources into modern history? And do we need to adjust standing narratives of modern history? The module takes a global approach and looks into a broad range of commodities: cotton to gold, from oil to sugar – resources have shaped the modern world in many different ways, and technologies and lifestyles, corporate structures and political regimes bear their imprint. The module will explore a young field of research that holds the potential of triggering the next scholarly revolution: a new, more material history is on the horizon. This module explores what a global history full of stuff may look like. 

Reformation and Rebellion in Tudor England, c.1500-1558(20 credits) 

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 a European Protestant superpower.  But even for the Tudors, the process of reformation was a difficult one, wracked by covert dissent, outright rebellion, and military threats from overseas. 

This module will chart the turbulent course of religious change in sixteenth century England, from the vibrant lay piety of the pre-reformation Church to Henry VIII’s break with Rome, from radical religious change under Edward VI to 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, events which laid the foundations for the cultural and national identity of England and the English for centuries to come. We will also explore a wide range of primary sources, including liturgical texts, ballads, contemporary histories, plays, works of propaganda, Acts of Parliament, woodcuts, and other printed and manuscript documents. 

Before Globalization?: Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800 (20 credits)  

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 preeminence 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 seen 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.  

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. 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.  

In Search of Wealth and Power: China from the Opium War to the Present Day (20 credits) 

This module examines the methods and problems of understanding the history of modern China. We start in the late nineteenth century. In response to the decisive military defeats of the Opium War (1839-1842), the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the last imperial state, sought to improve the empire’s wealth and power through various innovations known as the Self-Strengthening Movement (1861-1886). Nonetheless, the reforms were not enough to save the dynasty from final collapse in 1911. The Republic was declared in 1912, however it was not clear what kind of government would replace two thousand years of imperial rule. Alongside political tumult, Republican China (1912-1949) saw important transformations in society in gender roles, growth of mass media, and intellectual life. Although modern culture flourished and the economy modernized and grew, the young Republic was beset by problems. Several complex and interrelated reasons explain the Communist Party’s ultimate rise to power in 1949, but the War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) was one important factor. Mao Zedong (1893-1976) took the country through massive upheaval on all fronts: culture, economy, society, and politics. Only after Mao’s death in 1976 did the country begin to recover from those upheavals and turn towards an American-led global economy. While China as a whole has become richer with a fast rising GDP, inequality and social discontent have become more visible. Today, Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and of China since 2012, has modelled his leadership style after that of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution style politics that he grew up in. Finally, the seminar will ask: what challenges does the Communist Party face to maintain its rule in the twenty-first century?

History Option B 

  • 20 credits

History Option B example module summaries:

The US in the World, 1890 to 1980 (20 credits)

*This module is based in American and Canadian Studies and as such has a slightly different form of assessment from History modules.

This module explores the United States’ place within and relationship to the wider world across the twentieth century.  It moves beyond facile questions of whether the United States was or was not an empire and instead investigates the role of imperialism - as a discursive space and historical analytic - in shaping U.S. history.  The module does not progress chronologically but moves each week across time and space to examine themes, keywords, and organizing principals in the study of the U.S. in the World. It will push students to think of the differences between empire in a diplomatic sense and the culture of imperialism, and whether one needs the other.  Students will consider U.S. empire less as discrete easily mappable colonies and instead think of empire as a set of asymmetrical relations grounded in notions of race, class, and gender difference and manifested in varying forms of dominion, accommodation, and resistance. Topics may include race and civilization; domestic empire; World’s Fairs; the Spanish-American War; isolationism; the World Wars; the Cold War; and market empires. 

Society in the Viking World c.800-c.1100 (20 credits)

What was the society that produced the Viking expansion like? What kinds of society were produced as a result of the migration of ‘Vikings’? To answer these broad questions we will look at society across Scandinavia, continental western Europe, the British Isles, Iceland and Greenland. We will examine what we know about the kings or lords who might have led or encouraged ‘viking’ activity and what their power depended on. But what was life like for the remainder of the population and can we detect their agency? What roles did women play in colonisation? How and why did people commemorate raiding and conquering overseas? How significant was slavery in Viking Age society and did it motivate ‘viking’ activity? 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. This subject is continuously changing as new archaeological discoveries challenge what we think about the Viking Age. 

‘Beyond Black and White’: The African American Experience since 1945 (20 credits)  

This module offers students the opportunity to study the political, social and cultural experience of African Americans since 1945. It asks students to engage critically with the history of the most famous aspects of African American history, such as the Civil Rights movement and Black Power, to discuss their origins, shortcomings and legacies. After the 1960s, the African American community endured worsening social conditions and a reduction of political rights. Throughout the module, we will discuss these developments, by analysing African American culture in the 1970s and 1980s and the ‘War on drugs’, and concluding with recent trends in African American history, from the rise of new Jim Crow to the legacy of Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter. By investigating a mix of secondary literature and primary sources (including documentaries, interviews, political speeches, songs, movies), this module will allow students to explore the recent history of the second largest racial minority in the United States. 

Mass Culture and the Modern United States, 1877-1939 (20 credits) 

Between 1877 and 1939, the U.S. went through major economic, social and political changes. During the Gilded Age, the country became one of the strongest economies in the world – a position of leadership that was confirmed by the key role the U.S. played during the First World War. This uncontrolled economic growth had severe social costs, with immigrants, racial minorities and working class Americans suffering from poor living conditions and the lack of social and economic protections. Whilst the Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties promised greater qualities of life through reformist movements and an improved economic situation, the financial crash of 1929 threw the country into one of the worst economic and social crises of its history. This module discusses these broad developments in U.S. history focusing on the rise of a national popular culture. Going beyond canonical notions of political and social history, in this module we will use a variety of primary sources (books, ads, images, films, radio broadcasts, newspapers) and a wealth of historiography that has focused on mass culture, fashion, business, music, the arts, and entertainment to explain the social, artistic and cultural dimension of the profound changes of the 1877-1939 period. The focus on mass culture will allow us to explore changes in gender, racial and class relations, the impact of business and advertisement, notions of femininity and masculinity, and ideas of empire. Ultimately, this module will explore how the concept of modern America was radically reinvented by both immigrant and American citizens between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the Second World War.  

Social Activism in Modern Britain (20 credits)  

The module explores the changing nature of political participation in Britain after the Second World War. Students will consider the historical forces which have encouraged citizens to look beyond political parties and trade unions as vehicles for their needs, and towards Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and social movements. Developments in the economy, the class and education system, the provision of welfare and the voluntary sector all have to be understood if students are to arrive at a broader view of political participation in post-war Britain. In order to confront these themes, the module focuses on the following case studies: human rights and civil liberties, international aid and development, the peace and women’s movement, environmentalism, poverty, race and sexuality and lifestyle politics. It concludes by examining the significance of activism and apathy in Britain today, the age of austerity and the so-called ‘big society’. 

The Good War? A Cultural and Military History of Britain and the Second World War (20 credits)  

The Second World War is often called ‘the good war’ – a black and white conflict where good triumphed over evil. But was it? Can a war ever be cast in such simplistic terms? We will consider these questions, along with wider cultural, social, and military considerations in order to understand how British and Commonwealth participants (in the broadest sense of the word) experienced the Second World War and how they made sense of those experiences. While the module will consider some of the key campaigns of the Second World War, such as the Fall of Singapore, the Desert War, the Normandy campaign, this analysis will not be limited to an overview of the military operations. Instead, it will position these campaigns within a broader context, and will include the cultural, ethical, industrial, sexual and social aspects of war. We will explore whether there really was a ‘Blitz Spirit’ on the home front, or whether the war served to exacerbate already existing social tensions. We will also consider whether the British bombing campaign against Germany was justified. By using a  variety  of  primary  sources,  including  memoirs,  propaganda  films  and  official  papers,  we  will explore the experience and impact of the Second World War on Britain at home and overseas.  

A Medical Revolution? Society, Warfare, and Disease from the Crimea to Afghanistan (20 credits) 

This module allows students to examine the development of medical science over the last hundred and fifty years, and the impact that this has had on human health. The module will be built around the experience of the British Army, but this is not a military history per se — examining the Army’s health and medical care is a window into the social, cultural, scientific, and political developments in the United Kingdom over that period. We will examine ideas of cleanliness and sanitation, what disease is and how it is spread, the advance of medical knowledge, and the development of treatments for injury and illness. We will also consider the wide and growing gap, at least in the first half of the period, between what doctors knew about disease and what, if anything, they could actually do to stop it. 

Feeding the World? International Development from Colonial Empire to Neoliberalism (20 credits) 

“Development” has been the watchword of schemes to increase human prosperity for many decades. Today, in a world gripped by political and financial crisis, it remains the dominant recipe for ending poverty and hunger. In this module, we will discover the history of development as an idea and a practice. What are its roots in colonial empire, and how has its meaning and impact shifted over time? Across the twentieth century, we will examine different case studies - focusing notably on projects to feed the world in new ways – and on different theories in order to understand where ideas about development came from. How did such ideas become entrenched in institutions and policies, and what criticism and resistance have they provoked? 

Gender and the Making of the Modern World: Britain, 1650-1832 (20 credits) 

In this module we explore the experiences of men and women, as well as how thinking about gender can provide new perspectives on historical change. The course will encourage you to consider broad questions and theories about gender history through one specific context: Britain between the years 1650-1832. It was during this period that Britain was transformed from an early-modern to a modern nation. We will explore the comparative experiences of men and women during a series of momentous events, such as the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, and new forms of political representation. 

We will follow men and women along the streets of new towns, as they entered their places of work, shops and coffee houses. We will follow men into battle and women into the birthing chamber. We will accompany both men and women as they sat down to dinner in their homes, engaged in polite conversation and sometimes argued with each other. We will examine the intimate relations of men and women and their experience of changing sexual identities. And we will consider how both men and women engaged in politics to change the face of British democracy. The course will thus enable you to assess the part played by gender in the emergence of ‘modern’ British society.  

Kings, Conspirators, and Revolutionaries: Political Thought and Action in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700 (20 credits) 

Early Modern Europe was the world's first revolutionary age. Buffeted by armed conflict, religious upheaval, and rapid economic change, early modern governments came under immense pressure to change or die. Some Princes rose to heights of power never enjoyed before; others met grisly ends at the hands of their subjects. Across Europe and its empire, groups of activists, publicists, conspirators, philosophers, self-proclaimed political experts and desperate revolutionaries reshaped the theory and practice of politics. This module introduces students to several major problems in the history of early modern politics and political thought. Authors range from well-known writers like Niccolò Machiavelli and John Locke to anonymous conspiracy theorists and sinister propagandists.  

Nationalism and Conflict in the Balkans and the Middle East (20 credits) 

The module aims to take students through an examination of: 

  • The transition from the Ottoman Empire to nation states by discussing the role of religion and nationalism in the Balkans.
  • The different forms of involvement of the western powers in both creating and resolving regional conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East.
  • The role of nationalism, colonialism and international diplomacy in the East Mediterranean by focusing on the Greek-Turkish conflict and the Cyprus Question
  • The nationalist use of the past and its connections to issues of identity
  • The causes of conflict in the Modern Middle East and the inter-relationship between wars such as the Arab-Israeli wars
  • The resurrection of nationalism as a state tool in the Balkans during the 1990s  

Towns and Urban Life in the Middle Ages (20 credits) 

Students taking this Option will look at the development of medieval towns between the tenth and sixteenth centuries, the period when the modern network of urban settlements was created. Covering northern and western Europe as well as the Mediterranean, the course will offer a long-term view of central aspects: urban society, the different roles and functions of towns, lordship, politics and government, including the problems of food supply and security, urban law and public order, aspects of urban topography, e.g. fortifications and street layout, the urban economy, the role of the Church in medieval towns and the significance of urban associations. This means that firstly structures have to be studied.  The chronological range of the course will begin at a time when a large majority of people lived in the countryside but this ratio began to shift and town became ever more important.  

The wide geographical coverage will include areas with surviving infrastructure from the Roman Empire as well as areas without pre-medieval urban settlements. Beginning with the early medieval urban landscape, students will study foundations or re- foundations of towns, their layout, the composition of their societies, their internal organisation and their economic roles. Following a survey of the structural features the course will focus on historical change, the evolution of long-distance trade, banking and finance, including state finance, and the links or rivalries between towns and cities, the creation of town leagues and alliances and their wider political importance.  

Making of Modern India, c.1885-1964 (20 credits)  

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.1857-1947) created a mass based anti-colonial movement which depended upon the participation of subaltern groups like women, tribals and peasants. This module aims 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. The transformation of a mass based anti-colonial nationalist movement into a postcolonial polity (1947-64) – a fragile experiment in creating the largest democracy in the world – will provide for a thorough engagement with the complexities of South Asian history. This course should serve as the basis for engaging with the debates and significant themes which define the pluralistic experiment that is ‘Modern India’. 

Blood and Steel: Indigenous Peoples and the Spanish Conquest of the new World (20 credits) 

This module aims to take students through an examination of the indigenous societies of the Taino, Aztecs,  Incas  and  Maya  and  the  Spanish  conquest  of  these  societies  in  the  late  fifteenth  and sixteenth centuries; it also aims to examine military and administrative structure, political, religious and social conditions in both Spain and the New World societies in order to provide an analysis of the  conditions  that  led  to  the  conquest  of  the  New  World.  It  will  explore  the  initial  Spanish encounter with the Taino of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), and the subsequent Spanish experience of conquering the vast Aztec and Inca empires, and their different interaction with more fragmented societies such as the Maya of the Yucatan peninsula. The course will address a wide range of themes, from the Spanish conception of the legality of empire, to the (extraordinary) problems of religious, political and cultural incomprehension that dictated the relationship between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples of their new dominions. The course will also focus on the atrocity of conquest, which has dominated Latin American historiography since the sixteenth century.  

Sex, Money and Fighting: Women and Men in Imperial China (20 credits)

Present-day China is home to a fifth of the world's population, will soon be the world's largest economies, and is increasingly flexing its muscles on the global political stage. Today it is the last survivor of the major communist regimes, but for most of its history - over two thousand years - China was ruled by emperors working within a distinctive set of traditions that continue to resonate and to shape Chinese society to this day. This module considers how this history changes when viewed from the perspective of gender, but it is not an exercise in ‘women's history’. Instead women and their experiences are taken as integral to topics such as imperial rulership, religion, the economy, and the rise of literacy. Doing this alters our perceptions of these topics, but also highlights how little we know about men as men in history (rather than as kings, soldiers, farmers, etc). Major themes of the module will include representation (how people depicted other people) and agency (how much control people had over their own lives), and the tension between the ties of family and the loyalty owed to the imperial state. Studying a number of different dynastic periods, we will tackle topics and controversies that shed light on how a gendered approach to history really makes a difference.  

The British Empire: An Introduction (20 credits)  

“... this vast empire on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained...” (George Macartney, 1773)

“We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.” (Sir John Seeley, 1883)

“Great Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role.” (Dean Acheson, 1962)  

“Now I don’t suppose many of you think of the British Empire as a subject worth losing sleep over. After all, surely the one thing one can confidently say about that roseate age of England’s precedence, when the map of half the world blushed with pleasure as it squirmed beneath the Pax Britannica, is that it’s over, isn’t it?” (Salman Rushdie, 1982)  

This course provides an introduction to the British Empire. We will range chronologically from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries and geographically across the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Australia as well as the British Isles. Linking all these topics together will be a set of deeper questions:  

  • What is empire and what is colonialism?
  • Why did the British build an empire, and how did that empire function?
  • What impact does colonialism have on ‘colonizer’ and ‘colonized’?

We will consider explanatory frameworks for understanding empire, including economics, religion, and social forces. Throughout the course we will be attentive to issues of race, religion, class, and gender. Empire was never a monolith, but rather was experienced differently by different people, and in this course we will sample as broad a range of that experience as possible.  

Before Brexit: Histories of European Integration, 1945-2016 (20 credits)  

In March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. As negotiations over the terms of Brexit are under way, this module takes stock of narratives about European integration and the path that European integration has taken in the post-war years. It looks at the driving forces behind the rise of a united Europe: was it the realization of a centuries-old dream, or a response to the experience of fascism, or an economic necessity? The module then follows the evolution of the united Europe since the Treaty of Rome of 1957. It looks into the gap between ideas and realities, explores selected fields of policy, and traces growing integration and its discontents. With that, this module also offers insights into the power of history for current events. Everything about Europe bears the imprint of the past: its borders, rules for conflict resolution, its identity (to the extent that it has one) and its relationship towards the rest of the world. But does the troublesome past of a divided Europe really matter in the twenty-first century? What is our vision for Europe – or do we need one at all? There are multiple histories of European integration, and the module reflects on which ones we should embrace and what they mean for the continent and for ourselves.  

Auschwitz in History and Memory (20 credits)  

*This module is based in the Department of Theology and as such has a slightly different form of assessment from History modules

The module allows the student to gain an appreciation of the intrinsically interdisciplinary nature of study and representation of the Holocaust. It involves close study of ONE particular theme/aspect from a variety of perspectives, in a range of media, both as events were happening, and in terms of the cultural ‘afterlife’ of the Holocaust. Students will work closely with a range of secondary sources and primary sources where appropriate. The theme is Auschwitz in history and memory. We will explore the evolution and multi-functionality of the camp from 1940-1945, focusing on the differing roles of Auschwitz I (the concentration camp), Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the death camp, originally created to house Soviet POWs) and Auschwitz III-Monowitz (slave labour complex), and the experience of different victim groups in Auschwitz (e.g., Poles, Soviet POWs, Jews, and Sinti and Roma). We will study a range of testimonies by victims, survivors and perpetrators. Particular attention is paid to the nature of survival and resistance in the camp, the distinctive experiences of women (including women prisoner-doctors), and the role of the Sonderkommando (prisoners working in the gas chambers and crematoria). In terms of the cultural afterlife of Auschwitz, we will discuss the emergence of Auschwitz as the symbol of the Holocaust, the evolution of the Auschwitz museum and its exhibitions from 1947 to the present, visual representations of Auschwitz in art, photographs and film, Auschwitz as a site of pilgrimage, and Auschwitz as a site of mass tourism.  

  

Third/Final year

History Dissertation 

  • 40 credits

Students complete research 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:

  • The Kushan military relationship with Han China: A First Analysis
  • Representations of gender and sexuality in the trial of Joan of Arc
  • The Portrayal of Richard III in historical and fictional works, plus his modern perception in popular culture
  • Urban Encounters: economic and social aspects of daily life in York and London in early medieval England
  • Disunity of Islam: the impact of the Assassins on the Crusader States, c. 1090 to c.1190
  • The impact of the First World War on the working lives of Birmingham’s female working-class munitions workers
  • Downton Abbey - Fact, Fiction or Fantasy? An investigation of servant-master relationships in the early 20th century
  • How did British business interests shape imperial maritime policy in the Middle East: 1900-1918?
  • Thoroughly Modern Witches: The Transmutations of Enchantment 1870-1930
  • A journey of division: An analysis into the changing portrayal of the Berlin Wall in the British press
  • The Black Legend of Borgia: Creation of a Myth
  • The Gin Craze and Crime in Eighteenth Century London
  • Change and Continuity: developing discourse on the plague in seventeenth century England
  • The Tudor Sisters: The Role of Religion in the Relationship between Mary and Elizabeth
  • Appropriating Camelot in nineteenth century culture

Special Subject

  • 20 + 20 credits

Special Subject example module summaries:

Cities of Paradise and Empire: Palaces, Shrines and Bandits in the Pre-Modern Islamic World (20 + 20 credits) 

Medina, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Samarqand, Bukhara, Balkh, Isfahan, Istanbul, and Delhi. These were just a few medieval Islamic cities that became the jewels of the Islamic caliphate and its successor states. They served Muslim rulers as splendid architectural projects, buzzing economies, social melting pots and political powerhouses through which Islam spread and flourished. They also provided safe havens and congregation points for social outcasts, bandits and sinners. In this module we will explore the conceptual issues around the “Islamic city” and holy cities, while investigating the relationship between rulers and the city, and the way in which palaces and places of worship transformed cities. The role of the haram and women at court will also be investigated, as well as the lives of people outside court circles, especially of social minorities and outcasts. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the history of Muslim societies and the Islamicate through the case studies of cities, and their imaginings. This module will explore Islamicate cities in the long durée, from late antiquity to the early modern period, and will try to come to grips with questions, like, “Is there such a thing as an Islamic city?” “What made the Islamic city the topic of Oriental lore?” “How different or similar are Islamic cities to one another?” Why are cities so important in Islam?” 

Game without Thrones: Saga Age Iceland c. 900-c.1250 (20 + 20 credits)

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 stories dominated by tales of bloodfeuds, zombies, and where people fought not only with weapons but with sexual insults? Questions like these are key when we consider early 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 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 the course. 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 local or regional leaders (chieftains) whose charisma and personal qualities mattered as much as their wealth and military muscle. While Christianity officially arrived in Iceland in c.1000, the country was arguably slow to become fully Christianised.  

The US in the World, 1890 to 1980 (20 + 20 credits)

*This module is based in American and Canadian Studies and as such has a slightly different form of assessment from History modules.

This module explores the United States’ place within and relationship to the wider world across the twentieth century. It moves beyond facile questions of whether the United States was or was not an empire and instead investigates the role of imperialism - as a discursive space and historical analytic - in shaping U.S. history. The module does not progress chronologically but moves each week across time and space to examine themes, keywords, and organizing principals in the study of the U.S. in the World. It will push students to think of the differences between empire in a diplomatic sense and the culture of imperialism, and whether one needs the other. Students will consider U.S. empire less as discrete easily mappable colonies and instead think of empire as a set of asymmetrical relations grounded in notions of race, class, and gender difference and manifested in varying forms of dominion, accommodation, and resistance. Topics may include race and civilization; domestic empire; World’s Fairs; the Spanish-American War; isolationism; the World Wars; the Cold War; and market empires.  

‘Beyond Black and White’: The African American Experience since 1945 (20 + 20 credits) 

This module offers students the opportunity to study the political, social and cultural experience of African Americans since 1945. It asks students to engage critically with the history of the most famous aspects of African American history, such as the Civil Rights movement and Black Power, to discuss their origins, shortcomings and legacies. After the 1960s, the African American community endured worsening social conditions and a reduction of political rights. Throughout the module, we will discuss these developments, by analysing African American culture in the 1970s and 1980s and the ‘War on drugs’, and concluding with recent trends in African American history, from the rise of new Jim Crow to the legacy of Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter. By investigating a mix of secondary literature and primary sources (including documentaries, interviews, political speeches, songs, movies), this module will allow students to explore the recent history of the second largest racial minority in the United States. 

Mass Culture and the Modern United States, 1877-1939 (20 + 20 credits)

Between 1877 and 1939, the U.S. went through major economic, social and political changes. During the Gilded Age, the country became one of the strongest economies in the world – a position of leadership that was confirmed by the key role the U.S. played during the First World War. This uncontrolled economic growth had severe social costs, with immigrants, racial minorities and working class Americans suffering from poor living conditions and the lack of social and economic protections. Whilst the Progressive Era and the Roaring Twenties promised greater qualities of life through reformist movements and an improved economic situation, the financial crash of 1929 threw the country into one of the worst economic and social crises of its history. This module discusses these broad developments in U.S. history focusing on the rise of a national popular culture. Going beyond canonical notions of political and social history, in this module we will use a variety of primary sources (books, ads, images, films, radio broadcasts, newspapers) and a wealth of historiography that has focused on mass culture, fashion, business, music, the arts, and entertainment to explain the social, artistic and cultural dimension of the profound changes of the 1877-1939 period. The focus on mass culture will allow us to explore changes in gender, racial and class relations, the impact of business and advertisement, notions of femininity and masculinity, and ideas of empire. Ultimately, this module will explore how the concept of modern America was radically reinvented by both immigrant and American citizens between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the Second World War. 

Social Activism in Modern Britain(20 + 20 credits)

The module explores the changing nature of political participation in Britain after the Second World War. Students will consider the historical forces which have encouraged citizens to look beyond political parties and trade unions as vehicles for their needs, and towards Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and social movements. Developments in the economy, the class and education system, the provision of welfare and the voluntary sector all have to be understood if students are to arrive at a broader view of political participation in post-war Britain. In order to confront these themes, the module focuses on the following case studies: human rights and civil liberties, international aid and development, the peace and women’s movement, environmentalism, poverty, race and sexuality and lifestyle politics. It concludes by examining the significance of activism and apathy in Britain today, the age of austerity and the so-called ‘big society’. 

The English Civil War (20 + 20 credits)

The civil war that ripped England apart in the 1640s was one of the most devastating conflicts in its history. It destroyed families and towns, ravaged the population and led to the execution of King Charles I and the establishment of the only republican regime in English history. Its causes can be traced back to the social, cultural and political upheavals of the previous 50 years, as England became divided by a series of religious ‘culture wars’ and parliament and the people turned against royal government. Its consequences were felt for decades, as the new opportunities afforded by print culture and the radical ideas of groups like the Levellers and Quakers opened up opportunities for ordinary English men and women to debate and change their society. The nature of the conventional family was challenged, England was subjected to an experiment in ‘Puritan rule’ and the divide between Royalist and Parliamentarian introduced a new partisanship in politics.

The aim of this course is to study the English Civil War from the perspective of those who lived through it, in the towns and villages, from the gentry and social elite down to the ordinary men and women of the freeholder and artisan classes. The first term will focus on the lead up to the Civil War, exploring the ‘culture wars’ and social tensions that divided local communities, the growth of opposition to the crown and ideological conflict, and how and why people sided with Parliament or the King in 1642. The second term will focus on the war itself: the battles and sieges which often laid waste local communities, the experience of soldiering and the disruption of the family, and debates about the destructiveness of a war which killed as many of the British people as World Wars I and II. There will also be an investigation of the consequences of the war, opening up new opportunities for empowering women and radical religious groups, but also producing a conservative backlash in favour of the patriarchal family and traditional royal government. These topics will be explored through a rich mix of primary sources, consisting of diaries, correspondence and visual material which reveals, through their own words and images, how the English people experienced civil war. 

Land, Law, and Violence in the American West (20 + 20 credits)

This module traces the expansion of the United States into the continental interior, over the course of a century from 1776 to 1877. It deals with the myth and history of pioneers, frontiersmen, and explorers; of outlaws and lawmen; of cowboys, and Indians, and slaves. Drawing on a generation of revisionist historiography, it looks for the reality behind the Hollywood image of America’s west. We will study flows of people, trade, and capital; the formation and destruction of communities; the development of law, democracy, and politics; as well as the day-to-day dynamics of gender, race, and class; from the Midwestern prairie to the desert of New Mexico. We will place western history in the context both of the United States, and of the globalising nineteenth-century world, including the west’s role in the Civil War of 1861-65. And we will learn, through primary sources and through recent scholarly debates, how land, law, and violence shaped a nation. 

Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-slavery in the Late-Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries (20 + 20 credits) 

Britain’s emergence as the dominant slave trading nation and involvement in the slave- economies in 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 considers connections between economics, religious beliefs, secular ideologies and social and political protest. It also explores 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. The 1807 Act to abolish the slave trade and the 1833 Act to abolish slavery provide two focal points for the module. As a case study of slavery and anti-slavery activity, the course provides an insight into the industrial, social and political forces which shaped Britain. The Library is well-served with secondary material. We will also examine primary sources, including parliamentary papers, autobiographies, slave narratives, pro-slavery and anti-slavery texts, visual evidence, artefacts and records of abolitionist societies. 

Britain and the First World War: A Social, Cultural and Military History (20 + 20 credits) 

The verdict of popular culture on the First World War is unanimous: it was ‘stupid, tragic and futile’. However, given that this most controversial of conflicts is surrounded by stereotypes and myths, is this the only way to understand it? The aim of this module will be to analyse how the British people waged, endured and attempted to comprehend the First World War. Was the British Army really led by incompetent generals who callously ordered their men off to be slaughtered, or was it really a highly effective institution which faced and eventually overcame extreme difficulties, creating modern warfare as we know it today? Why did the British population consent to war in 1914 and continue to back the war effort even as casualties mounted? Were they manipulated and ‘fooled’ or was their support for the conflict spontaneous and genuine? Why has the national memory of the war focused on military disasters, such as Passchendaele, Gallipoli and the first day of the Somme, when Britain was ultimately on the winning side? Therefore, this module will not be limited to an overview of the fighting on the Western Front, but, instead, will consider the British experience in the First World War much more broadly, and will include, inter alia, how British society responded to the war, how effectively the war was waged militarily and how the national memory of this conflict was created. 

The History of Grand Strategy (20 + 20 credits)

This course, based on Yale University’s Grand Strategy Seminary and the U.S. Naval War College’s Strategy and Policy course, examines the creation and functioning of grand strategy of great powers from Thucydides to the present. It considers strategy to be the calculated relationship between means and ends. We will examine the historical creation of strategy in a broad variety of cases from a range of analytic perspectives. We will roughly one to two class sessions on the grad strategies of different great powers. Though we begin with Thucydides and will proceed chronologically, the majority of cases that we will examine are centred on wars from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.  At its base, this is a history course that considers the implications, seen and not foreseen, of decisions by policymakers on the development of wars. Beyond policymaker’s decisions, we will also consider the role of social, political, cultural, and international factors that shape outcomes of wars as well as the role of contingency in this. In turn, we will consider the extent to which policymakers were cognizant of these broader factors and the extent to which they attempted to shape or react to these factors. This course adopts a broad perspective and will encourage students to reflect on how the practice of strategy in relationship to war has changed over time. Finally, we will also consider if there are particular strategic practices and perspectives that are transhistorical in nature. 

Strategy, however, is not only limited to the period of wars themselves. It is firmly embedded in a broader approach to international politics among great powers. While we will examine individual conflicts, we will also be examining broader approaches to strategy taken by groups of powers. For example, we will look at the approach to geopolitics undertaken by the authoritarian and fascist countries in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Of course, the Second World War and its events will play a role in discussions of authoritarian geopolitics. Yet, this will not be a class that concentrates on creating a narrative of the Second World War, so students need not be concerned that they will need to have or develop an extensive knowledge of individual conflicts in order to succeed in the class. Rather, we will examine the grand strategic approach of powers in broad terms throughout the course. 

Where There Is Discord: Making Thatcher’s Britain (20 + 20 credits)

Few politicians have polarised opinion in quite the same way as Margaret Thatcher. For her supporters, Thatcher was ‘the Iron Lady’ - the Prime Minister who arrested thirty years of economic decline and re-established Britain as a major player on the world stage. A remarkable series of successes - victory over Argentina in the Falklands War; victory over the NUM in the Miner’s Strike; victory over inflation in the battle for economic stability; her victories over the Labour Party in 1979, 1983, and 1987 - have made Thatcher a living legend for many on the Right. For her detractors, by contrast, Thatcher has become a political bogeyman: the embodiment of outdated 'Victorian values', and responsible for the slow decline of British society and British industry. Her declaration that were was 'no such thing as society' was seen by many of the Left as evidence of her wilful disregard of those less fortunate than herself, and the restrictions her governments imposed on trade unions have been understood as an attack on the rights of ordinary working people. Even thirty years after her resignation, the visceral reactions she provokes on both Left and Right are unmatched by almost any other politician. 

Whichever view one takes, it is hard to deny the impact that Thatcher - and Thatcherism - has had on contemporary British politics. Many historians have come to regard the Conservative Party's victory in the 1979 general election as a crucial turning point in the direction of British politics, the moment at which the post-war settlement was abandoned in favour of the neoliberalism that would dominate the following thirty years. This module will place Thatcherism in historical perspective, observing the evolution of the ideology from its genesis in the ‘crisis’ of the 1970s, through to its influence on New Labour, on David Cameron and Theresa May, and on Brexit, via a study of a decade of Thatcherism in practice. You will study in detail the reforms that Thatcher implemented in a range of key policy areas, the impact of her policies on British society, and depictions of Thatcher in popular culture, in order to discover why so many on Right have worshipped her while so many on the Left have wanted - to quote Morrissey - to see 'Margaret on the guillotine'. 

After Hitler: Politics and Society in (West) Germany during the Adenauer Era, 1945-1965 (20 + 20 credits) 

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 and its aftermath. Many, if not most, of the events in Germany during this period have to be seen against or are linked to the background of either the Second World War or the Cold War, the emerging European integration and the Nazi past. The module will be based on extracts from contemporary documents and visual images.

After compact introductory lectures on the political, social and economic developments of the period, we will deal mainly with political topics such as the changing (Western) Allied policy that would lead to the creation of two German states will be investigated in detail. This is followed by a look at the ‘foundation myths’, the political, social and economic challenges the new West German state was faced with before the first tentative steps towards Germany’s re-integration into the western community are investigated. 

After two more ‘political’ sessions on the Hallstein Doctrine and European integration, we will deal mainly with social topics: arts & culture, leisure & consumption and the interaction between business, the state and the Trade Unions (the ‘corporate state’) before looking more closely into Adenauer’s last years and how the affairs of the late 1950s and early 1960s and the challenges of the Nazi past changed the Federal Republic. 

Terrorising History: Terrorist Motivations, Methods, and Mayhem (20 + 20 credits)

Terrorism is constantly in the news and is widely viewed as a scourge of the 21st century. Yet, extremist violence in many different forms and locations and for various reasons has existed for hundreds of years. One reason for the perception of terrorism being a modern problem is that the scholarship around it tends to be dominated by political scientists and the end result is work that is often historical and event driven.

This special subject module will challenge this skewed perception by examining in historical context the phenomenon of terrorism. It will do so by looking at the evolution of the historiography around terrorism, exploring and challenging key concepts in the field, and by making a case for the importance of historical scholarship in understanding terrorism. Most importantly, through secondary and primary sources, the module will study the motivations of terrorists, including David Rapoport’s four waves of modern terrorism theory, their methods, such as suicide bombings, car bombings, aircraft hijackings, assassinations, and lone-actor attacks, and their actions through specific case studies of major attacks like the 1972 Munich Olympics, 9/11, and 7/7. 

People of the Aftermath.  British Culture in the 1920s and 1930s (20 + 20 credits)

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 which helps define 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, not necessarily in immediately obvious ways. Britons were divided by profound differences of class, wealth, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and geography. 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. 

Money, Morality, and Culture: Early Modern Cities in Comparative Perspective (20 + 20 credits)

In this course we trace the growing fascination of early modern Europeans with city-life and urban culture: 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. At the centre of our attention is the vibrant and dynamic city of Venice, which expanded its position as a commercial powerhouse and major crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Venetians came into contact with traders and travellers from a wide variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. This meeting of people and cultures provides us with room for strategic comparisons between Venice and some of the other great cities of the period, such as Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Nuremberg, Barcelona, Madrid and Constantinople/Istanbul. The course is structured thematically around topics such as politics and power, popular culture, community, minorities, space and art. Most weeks we will focus on Venice and one other city to think comparatively about the complexity of urban development and identify common issues and differences. At the heart of this course will be the people we meet in the primary sources: courtesans and vagrants, aspiring saints, priests and Jewish rabbis, shipbuilders, tradeswomen and many others. We will find out about their attitudes, values and perceptions to learn how they experienced life in early modern cities. 

The Revolting Right: Conservative Activism in Post-war Britain (20 + 20 credits)

In light of the success of UKIP and the anxieties about nationalist populism across the globe, it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the history of activism from the right within the UK. What happens to the history of political activism and Britain if we look at voices which might otherwise be dismissed as ‘cranky’, ‘backwards-looking’, ‘marginal’ and ‘peripheral’? In examining the history of non-party mobilisations from the political right from the end of the Second World War to the rise of UKIP, this module questions how citizens have been political in the post-war and the extent to which activists brought about and resisted political, economic, cultural and social change? 

The modules uses the extra-parliamentary right to ask big questions about political mobilisations in the twentieth century and how to historicise these. What did conservative mobilisations find so objectionable about immigration, homosexuality and feminism and how do we as historians understand these ideas, responsibly engage with them while critiquing such notions? 

Taking this module, you will consider what conservatism looks like when we observe it from outside Parliament and explore the ways in which Thatcherism become ‘ordinary’ through activist spaces including the Neighbourhood Watch, the individual share owners or the University campus. You will reflect upon the histories of conservatism, ethnic populism, neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. By offering broad conceptualisation of the political, you will assess a range of mobilisations stretching from elite think tanks (such as the Mont Pelerin Society), to grass roots 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. 

You will be introduced to a range of sources including unpublished oral histories, archival papers from obscure activists and never-before seen collections of letters reflecting public concerns about race, empire and immigration, permissiveness, students and protestors. In so doing, you will seek to understand the networks which connected Cold War and security NGOs with, for example, those opposing lesbianism from a shed in Newbury, Berkshire. 

The module will help you reflect on whether 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? It will also provide historical context for the rise of UKIP, assessing its similarities and distinctiveness from older forms of protest. 

Facing the Führer, the Duce and the Emperor: British Foreign and Defence Policies 1931-1942 (20 + 20 credits) 

After introducing the controversy over British efforts to avert war and reviewing the historiography, to consider the background factors impelling the pursuit of appeasement by British governments during the 1930s in answer to the fascist threat, including why rearmament was slow to take off, thereby weakening diplomacy, perceptions of totalitarian powers, incorporating the influence of intelligence assessments and their flawed reasoning and the role of the Army. Following this introductory framework the module proceeds on a crisis-by-crisis case study basis, starting by considering the British reaction to the rise of Hitler to power and the early crises in which Britain became embroiled over Manchuria, Abyssinia and the Rhineland. These signalled ‘the triple threat’ to British security from three theatres: the Far East, the Mediterranean, and Western Europe. The pursuit of appeasement was an attempt to ameliorate this dilemma through diplomacy. 

We then consider the crises of the later 1930s leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. Within these, the module considers the policies adopted and the underlying factors, which drove them and the debates they have generated. While the main focus of the module will be on the German threat some attention will also be given to the emerging Italian and Japanese threats. The final part of the module covers the early part of the war when the defence policies of the Chamberlain government were either vindicated or found wanting. The Norway disaster brought the resignation of Chamberlain. The fall of France and Dunkirk exposed the inadequacies of the British Expeditionary Force. The triumph of the Battle of Britain when the focus on building up Fighter Command and a radar defence system bore fruit. The smashing of Mussolini's Tenth Army when the pre-war decision to create an armoured division to defend Egypt proved correct. The disastrous intervention in Greece when Churchill attempted to fulfil the guarantee of Greek independence extended in April 1939. The fall of Singapore in February 1942, regarded as the greatest disaster to befall the empire since America was lost in 1776. 

Village Life in Later Medieval England (20 + 20 credits) 

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. 

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?  Peasant society has often been re-interpreted and viewed in different ways depending on the context of the historian, this included often the romantisciation of village life. So what role does and did the peasant village have in the imagination and popular or political culture? What is the medievalism of the English medieval village? 

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. 

We will explore such themes and topics in the context of long term social and economic changes, such as the agricultural expansion in the 13th century, followed by the upheavals in the 14th century, the developments of which were in no small part wrought by the peasantry themselves. 

Bearers of the Cross: Devotion and Violence in the Crusading World (20 + 20 credits) 

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 ideas 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? 

We will focus on the history and historiography of the First Crusade, which laid the foundations for so much of what was to follow and we will broaden the scope of our enquiries to consider the development of crusader devotion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, examining a variety of forms of medieval textual, visual and material culture, including works of history and hagiography, coins, seals and manuscript illuminations, and reliquaries great and small. 

English Law and Society between the Norman Conquest and the Black Death (20 + 20 credits) 

Following Duke William’s invasion of 1066 another layer of law was introduced into the conquered kingdom: apart from a multitude of local customs, the decisions made in Church councils and collections of royal pronouncements (later known as ‘Anglo-Saxon Law’) already in existence, the Normans brought their own rules which focused on the control of land and criminal trials. This state of affairs emerges clearly in a treatise from the early twelfth century (confusingly known as ‘The Laws of King Henry I’) whose author tried to collect and harmonise at least some of these different traditions. This did not work and there was a different way forward: the creation of a law based on royal authority which had equal validity in all parts of the kingdom. The new law was based on specific types of cases which were heard before the king of his justices. It became known as English Common Law, a unique legal system which developed from the second half of the twelfth century onwards, becoming a pillar of royal authority. Beginning with the situation following the Norman Conquest, students in this module will study the evolution of this legal system in the context of social development. They will learn which legal devices were used and how the law affected the lives of members of all social groups. 

On the basis of a survey of the immediate post-Conquest legal administration the changes in the reign of Henry I will be discussed. The origins of a countrywide royal jurisdiction affecting not just crown vassals but all free subject who were prepared to obtain the relevant writs will be presented as a significant advance from procedures which were entirely based on feudal custom. By the end of the first term will have become familiar with the basic concepts and procedures of the English Common Law up to the time of Magna Carta. This will be based on the study of different types of source material, legal treatises, normative sources, cases from plea rolls. You will also have encountered areas of the law which coexisted with the Common Law, e.g. manorial law and other aspects which affected lower sections of society. In the following term the origins of the main royal courts and their records will be studied. Moving into the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries other types of sources, statutes and Year Books will be added. 

Students will also practice the preparation of presentations and the analysis of historical sources. 

Immigrant Nation: Racism, Multiculturalism, and Immigration in Twentieth-Century Britain (20 + 20 credits) 

In Brexit Britain, immigration remains the most controversial of subjects. Throughout the twentieth century people from around the world made the nation their home, often in the face of severe discrimination. Labour migrants came from Ireland, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia; while refugees fled wars, ethnic cleansing, and the Holocaust. This module will explore in depth the history of twentieth-century immigration to Britain, looking in particular at the issues of racism and multiculturalism. 

We will unpick the history of race as an idea, and analyse the different ways that migrants have been racialised. We will also track the evolution of British anti-racism, the growth of race relations, and the techniques employed by migrants to defend and develop their British lives. Although this is a British history module, it will consider all of these issues through a global lens, exploring British responses to the Holocaust and key postwar racial issues (like South African Apartheid, US segregation, and decolonisation). Throughout, the module will consider how British multiculturalism evolved, and will look at the impacts on Britain of hundreds of years of immigration. 

Empire-wallahs: India in the British Imagination (20 + 20 credits)

India was not merely a vast territory that needed to be conquered and governed but also an intellectual challenge that was to be puzzled over and solved. By the early twentieth century, India constituted more than two-thirds of the total population of the British Empire and about one-sixth of its land-mass. The ideas of India from – a land of fabulous riches, to orientalist fantasies of a mystical East – would change as the imperial project in South Asia was transformed over the course of the nineteenth century. Wonderment, curiosity and admiration rapidly gave way to contempt, hostility and suspicion. To Victorians, India was still a vast field of opportunity and adventure, though now typified by devastating famines, degrading poverty and scandalous social customs sanctioned by idolatrous or fanatical religious traditions. The central problem confronting colonial rule was the need to reorder this universe of complexity and render it intelligible.

The colonial project attracted the attention, energy and imagination of generations of Britons who invested newer meanings into these changing ideas of empire. These Empire-wallahs included: women as elite travellers and missionaries claiming expertise in education and health, writers, poets, pamphleteers, journalists and the most distinctive amongst these – the all-knowing expert of British India – the ‘India hand’. The production of empirical knowledge of the subcontinent – its languages, laws, cultural practices, religious traditions, economic life – increasingly became the domain of a select cadre of specialists, claiming technical expertise in all matters Indian. Britain was not merely a nation which possessed the most extensive empire of modern times – the Raj fundamentally transformed the idea of Britain itself. This module will engage with representations of the subcontinent in metropolitan culture – covering the eighteenth century stage, the Victorian literary imagination and, with the coming of mass culture in the twentieth century, popular cultural representations in broadcast television and cinema. 

Stray Dogs: Confronting Loss in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (20 + 20 credits) 

‘Stray Dogs’ will encourage you to question the strategies Modern Britons developed to confront instances of loss and decay. Using sources such as newspaper articles, engravings, insurance policies, travel guides and advertisements, the course will begin by examining the establishment of institutions such as archives and museums. We will consider how and why these institutions came to be and  will  interrogate  their  role  in  seeking  to  stave  off  the  loss  of  the  past  by preserving documentation, objects and buildings. Then we will think about loss in economic terms and will examine the different market responses that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth century to deal with risk and loss, such as insurance. We will explore the growth of fire, life and marine insurance to consider the terms in which such products developed. We will focus on urban spaces, and particularly London, to consider how the increasingly abundant flow of people and objects operated. Within this we will explore what happened when people and things flowed out of their ‘normal’ realm and were deemed lost. Later in the module, we will think about the emergence of the concept of the ‘self’ and the ‘individual’. We will examine how and when certain practices emerged which might be considered to have acted to stave off the loss of the self. In sum, during this module we will investigate the ways in which understandings of, and responses to, loss shaped the making of modern Britain. 

The World’s Largest Empire: The Mongols and China (20 + 20 credits)

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. 

Treasure in Anglo-Saxon England, 400-1000(20 + 20 credits)

From the ship burial at Sutton Hoo to the Staffordshire Hoard, treasure forms a significant part of the surviving material culture of Anglo-Saxon England. Treasure also looms large in many of our written sources: the halls of Beowulf are filled with tales of noble warriors and their glittering weapons; Bede’s kings are gift-givers, distributing plunder to their followers and bestowing costly plate on religious communities. 

In this module we will look at different types of treasure, including physical artefacts as well as descriptions and depictions of valuable items, to explore the ways in which value attaches to objects. Some media, particularly gold and silver, were more valuable than others, a distinction preserved and perpetuated in the Treasure Act (1996). But whilst all that glittered was not gold, value could also attach to everyday objects: old clothing or drinking vessels took on additional significance if they had belonged to a saint, and pieces of the saints themselves – relics – were fought over, sometimes literally. Other items might become more or less valuable in particular contexts, through scarcity or changes in fashion. 

We will also look at the different ways in which valuable objects were produced, exchanged and deposited, and what this can tell us about broader economic and cultural trends. 

British Women and Internationalism since 1850 (20 + 20 credits)

David Low’s 1929 cartoon “The Saner Sex” paid affectionate tribute to the Women’s Peace Crusade, a cross-party organisation of British women committed to securing collective security and international peace through the League of Nations. Low’s juxtaposition of an army of bellicose old men and a bored peace-loving woman underscored the prevalent notion of sexual difference in attitudes towards war and peace. Women, as mothers and nurturers, were, it was argued, inherently more pacific than men, and many women used this logic of sexual difference to justify their participation in international affairs.   If women’s voices could only be heard, the world would be a more peaceable place. 

Not all women who became involved in international affairs did so because they were feminist pacifists. Some were revolutionaries or militant nationalists. Some were interested in international civil society or humanitarian relief, and comparatively unconcerned with issues of war and peace. Some were pacifists, but understood their pacifism in socialist or humanist terms, and not as a product of their gender. This course looks at the history of women’s involvement in the international sphere, from the nineteenth century through to the present age. The primary sources give voice to women who devoted their time and energy to work in the international sphere, and shed light on the way in which these women understood their connection to the broader world, how they sought to influence the world outside their own borders, and how those around them responded to their international activism. 

Protestants, Papists and Puritans: Religion and Religious Change in England during the Reigns of Elizabeth I and James I (20 + 20 credits)

 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 England’s journey towards 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 reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, from two main perspectives. It will adopt a loosely chronological approach, considering key moments and events in the reign, such as the Elizabethan Settlement, the so-called ‘vestments’ controversy, the Northern Rebellion, the Spanish armada, the Gunpowder Plot, etc., considering their relevance in terms of religious identity and change. It will also look at key themes, such as popular religion, puritanism, Catholicism and religious nonconformity, 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. 

1066: Epic Tales of Saints, Swordsman and Scribes (20 + 20 credits)

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 subjects 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. 

The Lure of the Modern: China between Tradition and Modernity (1839 to the Present Day) (20 + 20 credits) 

In this module we will contextualise and critically analyse primary sources and explain and evaluate historical interpretations of twentieth century Chinese history. Through focus on the lives of ordinary and extraordinary Chinese people, we will examine how individual lives - as shaped by gender, social background and geography - have intersected with the larger regional, national and global processes of twentieth century history. Perhaps more than any ideal, the lure of ‘modernity’ - and its clash with ‘tradition’ - has shaped how the Chinese have grappled with the twentieth century.

History Advanced Option A 

  •  20 credits

History Advanced Option A example module summaries:

Latin American History through Film (20 credits)

In this course, we watch and analyse key Latin American films and read texts about their context to understand critical moments of Latin American history. The module format and course readings facilitate learning about Latin American history from the Conquest to the contemporary moment, while the films invite us to analyse aesthetics, representation, and the creation of historical memory. We will watch and analyse one film per week, study the historical context of some of the region's most popular and/or controversial films, and learn how to read each film critically as a cultural product and historical text. The course includes films from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the United States. 

Britain's Imperial Century: The British Empire, 1815-1914 (20 credits) 

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Britain was the greatest imperial power in the world. In the following century the empire expanded greatly in size on four continents so that by 1914 it was a global phenomenon of immense economic and military power as well as cultural diversity. The aim of this module will be to analyse how and why Britain was able to gain and maintain such a vast empire during this period. In exploring this central issue, we will consider the factors which drove the expansion of the empire. Was its rapid growth caused principally by economic considerations, such as access to raw materials and the opening of new markets for British goods, or were there other ideological, social, religious and geopolitical factors at play? This module will also explore how imperial command and control worked in practice. We will explore how in India, for example, a ruling cadre of under 1000 British officials were able to manage a native population of 250 million people. Was British rule imposed only through oppression and violence or were there other factors involved? The examination of this topic allows a consideration of what everyday life was like in the empire for both the rulers and the ruled. What impact did colonisation have on indigenous peoples? How did the empire influence British society, culture and eating habits? The module will also address how the empire responded to both internal challenges, such as the Indian Rebellion of 1857-8, and external threats, such as the growth of the United States of America and increasing Russian influence in Asia. Therefore, this module aims to not only understand the empire in geopolitical terms, but also its impact on British society and culture. 

Reason and Romance: The Cultural History of Nineteenth-Century Britain (20 credits) 

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. 

From the OSS to Snowden: A History of American Intelligence Agencies since 1945 (20 credits) 

'I remember a senator once asked me. When we talk about "CIA" why we never use the word "the" in front of it. And I asked him, do you put the word "the" in front of "God"?'

-The Good Shepherd (2006)

Spy agencies garner occupy a special place in the popular imagination. The most famous of these, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has made numerous appearances in popular culture over the years. But what is the real history behind the CIA and its partner agencies in the American intelligence community? This module will examine that history from World War Two and the first US foreign intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the birth of the CIA and the national security state in 1947, its central position as an instrument of American foreign policy during the Cold War, its relationship with various US presidents, its struggles after the end of the Cold War, and its new purpose as the chief tool of American counter-terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. Along the way, we will look at historical writing about the CIA, the nature of intelligence as a practice, and the records of the CIA itself. 

Mediterranean Crossings: Hope, Fear and Ambition between Europe and Africa (20 credits) 

As the ongoing migration crisis between Africa and Europe reveals, the Mediterranean remains a cross-roads at which people's hopes for a better life encounter the imperatives of political interests and economic structures. This option investigates the history of the Mediterranean in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the lens of French colonial empire, asking how the peoples of the northern and southern shores projected their hopes, fears and ambitions onto the blue waters of 'the corrupting sea'. We will dwell on how trans-Mediterranean migration and settlement dispersed and re-united families before and after de­colonization, how corporations sought to extract and transport the riches of Africa to Europe, and how the sea itself was variously imagined as a network of ports and potential, an imperial lake - and as the centre of 'Eurafrican' visions of the future. 

Gross Indecency to Gay Marriage? Gender and Sexual Minorities 1885 to the Present (20 credits) 

"The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it," wrote Oscar Wilde in 1891. Less than a decade later, the Irish poet and playwright was dead, having never recovered from his prison term for gross indecency with men. This module takes up Wilde's challenge and explores the queer history of modern Britain. Beginning in 1885, when the Labouchere Amendment made gross indecency a crime, the module traces the emergence of queer identities and practices from sexological debates and criminal codes. It covers the politics of gay activism in the 1970s and 1980s and the development of modern identity categories, often grouped in the acronym LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex), protected by the 2010 Equalities Act. Defining 'Britain' broadly, we will ask how empire and colonialism shaped queer historical experience, and we will explore the intersections of race, class, and gender within the worlds of sexual and gender minorities - looking, for example, at the home movies made by a British archaeologist in Palestine in the 1930s and the Bedouin man who seems to be his lover. Queer history challenges us to read between the lines and to unsettle established categories, a project we will undertake with a variety of sources, such as Jeanette Winterson's classic coming-out tale Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985). Ultimately, we will ask how the tools and methods of queer studies can help us to rewrite the history of modern Britain. 

The Black Death in Medieval Europe. Disaster, Change and Recovery (20 credits)

This module will introduce students to the historiography of different aspects of the Black Death and the short, medium and long term effects of the arrival of the disease on a myriad of aspects of society. This will be done by drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, which will be examined critically in-depth. 

‘A Holiday from Reality’: A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era (20 credits)

In his novel A Brave New World (1932), Aldous Huxley declared that consuming the mythical drug 'soma' was to take a ‘holiday from reality'. While the module is not quite this break from reality, it does seek to examine the history of drugs in the modern era in a broad and imaginative manner. The module explores the myths surrounding a range of drugs - from opium and alcohol, to LSD and amphetamines - placing drugs and their users in historical, social and cultural contexts. As we will see, drugs are very often used as vehicles to articulate social or cultural anxieties relating to 'deviant' groups defined by their race, gender or class. Via weekly sessions that focus on a particular drug, a group of substances or a specific historical  moment - including teaching based  on original research -  we will explore  these  shifting  contexts and the manner in which drugs very often transition from 'angels'  to 'demons'. 

Based around a loose chronology that spans the Victorian  era to the Cold War (and beyond), the module  includes a particular focus on Britain  in the era of the two World Wars; drug  use in times  of conflict; the political, social and cultural responses to drug use; and the use of drugs  in everyday life. The module includes reflections on the role of the press and the extensive use of primary sources. We will also have class debates and small group work that seeks to link the history and historiography to modern attitudes and approaches to drugs.  By so doing, the module aims to understand humanity's long­standing and synergistic relationship with drugs. 

Of Great Powers and Failed States. Conceptions of the State in the Modern World (20 credits) 

When we think of the British Empire or the United States, we tend to think of highly successful states. When we think of today's Iraq or Afghanistan, we do not. Matters may be less clear-cut with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, but we certainly acknowledge they were functioning states that wielded substantial power. Who determined which states of the modern world were Great Powers and which were "failed states"? In this module, we will examine how people's expectations towards the modern state changed, and how scientists, politicians, economists and the military developed methods to make it more "successful". We will trace how such methods evolved in a time when geography was the main factor that seemed to determine the future prospects of a state and how they radically changed in the era of totalitarianism's ambitious programs of social engineering. To wrap this up, we will specifically examine whether the way we look at successful or failed states today may be less objective than we often think. 

Monasteries and Religious Orders in the Middle Ages (20 credits) 

Praised as havens of piety and the perfect Christian life, condemned as centres of hypocrisy and because of inflexible and oppressive lordship, medieval monasteries were an important part of society with extensive political and economic roles. The same is true for religious orders. Were they associations of male or female convents which allowed the individual to withdraw from the world in a life of religious contemplation or the extended power of an ever more autocratic papacy, controlling vast assets and shaping public opinion? Were they centres of culture, with schools and sophisticated systems of education, libraries and writing offices or intellectual centres which produced arguments against the presence of Jews in Christian society? Did the Reformation destroy exceptional cultural centres or was it not before time to get rid of a stagnant and corrupt system? In order to discuss these and other questions, this 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. This will allow students to discuss the above - and other- questions on a basis of sound information. 

From Empire to Colony: Indian Society, Politics and Economy, c.1757-1885 (20 credits) 

The early colonial period (c.1757-1857) is an important and widely debated chapter in the history of the British empire as well as India. This module studies a period when the British conquest of India was undertaken by the East India Company. No prior knowledge of India or Indian history is necessary for this module which places student participation and understanding at the heart of its seminar discussions. Beginning in the twilight of Mughal sovereignty across early eighteenth century India this module charts early British rule in India, and ends with the creation of the Victorian Raj in the nineteenth century.  Students will be encouraged to critically engage with new research on orientalism, gender, race and law.  The exercise of coercive power was at the heart of the early colonial encounter although 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. From the religiously sanctioned 'tradition' of burning  Hindu widows  to critiques of Muslim  'despotic' rule - this module will introduce you to the key debates in the study of the first century of colonial rule in India. The role of religion, status, changing forms of wealth, ethnicity and conceptions of racial difference - will form an important part of this module.  These aspects of the early history of British and Indian contact continue to shape British and western understandings of South Asian communities. Seminar discussions will have you debate Company servants, learned   Brahmins, Muslim scholars and Christian missionaries - analyzing the nature of early colonial rule and how historians have attempted to study it. Our seminars will end with the violent uprising of mutinous sepoys in the Revolt of 1857 which is understood as a cataclysmic break marking the racialization of colonial rule with an increasing distance between the rulers and the ruled. 

South Africa in the 20th Century (20 credits) 

This module is based in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology and as such has a slightly different form of assessment from History modules and a different number of contact hours. 

This module studies South Africa from the late 19th century to the end of political apartheid in 1994. The emphasis falls equally on the consolidation of settler domination and on the varieties of African initiative and resistance that shaped and challenged white rule and accumulation. Topics include the causes and consequences of the Anglo-Boer War and their  relationship to the gold mining industry; the segregationist institutions and policies of the settler  dominion from 1910-1939; the meaning and making of apartheid after 1948; black nationalism at home and in exile; and the insurrections, states of emergency and negotiations that produced  the new South Africa. 

Capital Lives: Experiencing the City in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (20 credits) 

In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, as the population expanded and people became more mobile, cities grew. In this period, increasing numbers of people came to engage with and inhabit city life. This module seeks to explore the social and cultural aspects of urban living in eighteenth- and nineteenth­century Britain. It primarily asks: how did people experience these ever-changing urban environments?  

Using London as a case study, the module explores eight key areas of life: visions, provisions, intoxication, crime, spectacle, senses, motion and illumination. First, it examines how people navigated and envisioned the geography of London through maps, guidebooks and images. Second, it tracks the ways in which the provisions of everyday life - food, clothing - were supplied to the capital and how individuals went about acquiring them through fairs, markets and shops. Third, following on from the focus on provisions, it grapples with how particular provisions - namely intoxicants, such as stimulating hot drinks and alcohol - came to take on important roles in the lives of city inhabitants. Often imbibed in coffee houses, drawing rooms and ale houses, they were part of the practices which facilitated a growing public sphere dependent on information, debate and discussion. Fourth, it explores a critical aspect of everyday life on urban streets - crime. It questions how crime and the means of confronting and tackling crime changed over the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Fifth, with the growth of scientific demonstrations, pyrotechnic displays, zoos and pleasure gardens, awe-inspiring spectacles came to be understood as an important element of urban life. We will look at how and why spectacles became so central. Sixth, urban spaces were renowned for the noise, smell and general hubbub created by the movement of people and animals. We will explore the sensory experience of the capital and how it changed over time. Seventh, we will also examine how changes in transportation meant that people, animals and provisions began to move to and around the capital more quickly, changing the pace of life. Finally, the geography of the city was distinctly shaped by methods of illumination, particularly once night fell. We will explore how the methods and means of illumination changed. In sum, the module will encourage you to consider the nature of urban life and the ways in which it changed in social and cultural terms over the eighteenth and nineteenth century. 

The United States South: From Plantations to NASCAR (20 credits) 

In the eyes of many the United States' southern region stands apart from the rest of the nation. Its institutions' have been described as "peculiar," its culture lacking, and its people a "problem." At the same time, "the South" is not an easily definable place. This Advanced Option Module examines southern identity and history from the antebellum period (1820-1861) to contemporary debates over the "Global U.S. South".  Using the insights of cultural, social, political, and economic history it will ask students to think of the South as a specific place as well as a national construction. Using traditional primary sources alongside works of fiction, film, and music, students will explore the often-complicated relationship between the U.S. South, nation, and world. Each week students will use the assigned readings and primary documents to evaluate the ways white southerners, African Americans, and recent immigrants shaped the region's history.

 Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust (20 credits) 

This module is based in the Department of Theology and as such has a slightly different form of assessment from History modules and a different number of contact hours. 

The module analyses a range of Jewish responses to the Holocaust, both as events were happening and subsequently. These responses fall into three broad chronological and/or thematic groupings a) Orthodox responses emphasize continuity with what has gone before; b) Holocaust theology emerged in the mid-1960s and emphasizes discontinuity, interpreting the Holocaust as a radical challenge in the face of which traditional categories of meaning (e.g., providence, covenant, election) are deemed inadequate and/or in need of radical reinterpretation; c) post-Holocaust  responses (the 1990s ff) are characterized by chronological and geographical distance from events and explore the impact of the Holocaust, and the ways in which it has been interpreted, on Jewish identity and Jewish/non-Jewish relations, particularly attitudes towards the Palestinians. In the module we focus on the contribution of key thinkers (e.g., Ephraim Oshry, Elie Wiesel, Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fackenheim, David Blumenthal, Melissa Raphael) and the evolution of their thought, as well as on recurrent themes or controversies (such as the Holocaust as punishment for sin, the relevance of kidush hashem or 'martyrdom' as a response during the Holocaust; Holocaust testimony as sacred text; how to appropriately memorialize the Holocaust within the Jewish calendar and the relationship between Jewish commemoration  of these events and national and international Holocaust Memorial Days; the mythologization and 'sanctification' of the Holocaust, the Holocaust and civil Judaisms).

History Advanced Option B

George Orwell, England and the Modern World (20 credits)

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 anti­totalitarian 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. 

Visions of Utopia: Socialism, 1800-1980 (20 credits) 

Since its origins, socialism has not only provided a compelling argument for economic reform and material redistribution; it also offered a powerful set of cultural values and utopian ideas. In the nineteenth century many socialists viewed themselves as 'converts' to a new way of life, suggesting that they viewed their movement in terms borrowed from religion. This module will trace the development of socialism in cultural and intellectual historical perspective from the early nineteenth century through the 1970s. We will aim to understand how socialism became so popular, how it drew strength from other currents of thought and cultural movements such as religious revivalism and evolutionism, and how it lost so much of its appeal by the 1980s. Through secondary literature and vivid primary sources, including fiction and film, we will examine how socialists responded to what they considered the central challenges of the day in Europe, North America, and beyond. For instance, early socialists saw themselves restoring 'true Christianity' after the crisis of spiritual authority engendered by the French Revolution. The American novelist Edward Bellamy imagined a utopian alternative to the rise of monopoly capitalism and consumer society. And Otto Bauer and Frantz Fanon inspired socialist responses to ethnic nationalism and overseas imperialism, respectively. 

Warfare at Sea from the Armada to D-Day (20 credits) 

We will study the history of warfare at sea from the Armada to the end of the Second World War, and explore three major themes. First, and most obviously, we will trace the influence of sea power upon history. How did naval warfare shape both European and world history? Secondly, throughout this period, preparing for and waging war at sea was the most complex and expensive challenge faced by modem states. How and why they built, maintained and used navies, and their ability to adapt to rapid technological change while keeping sight of enduring strategic truths, tells us much about the societies and cultures which did so. Thirdly, we will study the influence of history upon sea power, analysing the long tradition of the use (and abuse) of naval history to address latter-day concerns. 

Gender and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States (20 credits) 

This module traces the changing definitions of gender and sexuality across the twentieth century United States. Students will explore how gender and sexuality have both shaped and have been shaped by the politics and society of the United States. It places particular emphasis on the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality in shaping identities across a broad scope of American men, women, and trans people. Gender and sexuality are not fixed categories but identities that are constantly constructed and performed, controlled and subverted. Students will leave the module with a keen sense of how Americans understood themselves to be male or female, gay or straight, across the twentieth century. 

Give me Liberty! The Meaning of Freedom in American History, 1776-1900  (20 credits) 

For a nation founded on the idea of liberty, the United States has had a troubled relationship with the concept and its implications. This course offers an intellectual and political history of the ways in which the United States has struggled to define freedom and defend its commitment to liberty. It is primarily a course about ideas, but it is also about how contradictions can emerge when ideas are put into practice. We will look at the concepts of liberalism and republicanism, democracy and civil disobedience, slavery and independence, among others. We will also learn how some Americans, including slaves themselves, developed powerful abolitionist ideas, and how the idea of freedom faced the challenge of emancipation during the Civil War of the 1860s. Drawing on the thought and writing of marginalised people as well as famous white men, this course grapples with the ideas that still shape our modern world, and with political problems we still face today. 

After the Mongols: Political Authority in Islamic Lands, 1000-1600 (20 credits) 

How do ruling elites cope when they are conquered by people whose world views are so different from their own? This module examines the bases of political authority in Islamic lands between the 13th and 16th centuries to try to answer this question. The Mongol elimination of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century posed fundamental challenges to Islamic notions of rule. For the first time in its history sedentary Islamic society was faced with the reality of non­Muslim rule and the pre-eminence of Turko-Mongol political culture with its emphasis on a pastoralist ethos.  Over the  course  of the  next  three  centuries  Muslim  scholars  and  rulers struggled to develop new ideas of political authority which could address the shifting political realities  of their  day.  Such ideas ranged from resistance to accommodation and, over the centuries, they resulted in new ways of doing things.  A consideration of these changes allows us to understand the ideological foundations of the early modem empires which dominated West and South Asia into the modem era. 

The Black Death in Medieval Europe. Disaster, Change and Recovery  (20 credits) 

This module will introduce students to the historiography of different aspects of the Black Death and the short, medium and long term effects of the arrival of the disease on a myriad of aspects of society. This will be done by drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, which will be examined critically in depth. 

'A Holiday from Reality': A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era (20 credits) 

In his novel A Brave New World (1932),  Aldous Huxley declared that consuming the mythical drug 'soma' was to take a ‘holiday from reality'. While the module is not quite this break from reality, it does seek to examine the history of drugs in the modern era in a broad and imaginative manner. The module explores the myths surrounding a range of drugs - from opium and alcohol, to LSD and amphetamines - placing drugs and their users in historical, social and cultural contexts. As we will see, drugs are very often used as vehicles to articulate social or cultural anxieties relating to 'deviant' groups defined by their race, gender or class. Via weekly sessions that focus on a particular drug, a group of substances or a specific historical moment - including teaching based  on original research - we will explore  these  shifting  contexts and the manner in which drugs very often transition from 'angels' to 'demons'. 

Based around a loose chronology that spans the Victorian  era to the Cold War (and beyond), the module  includes a particular focus on Britain  in the era of the two World Wars; drug  use in times  of conflict; the political, social and cultural responses to drug use; and the use of drugs  in everyday life. The module includes reflections on the role of the press and the extensive use of primary sources. We will also have class debates and small group work that seeks to link the history and historiography to modern attitudes and approaches to drugs.  By so doing, the module aims to understand humanity's long­standing and synergistic relationship with drugs. 

Heresy, Crusade and Genocide in Thirteenth-Century France (20 credits)

In the early thirteenth century the south-west of France was ravaged by armies of crusaders who were tasked with eradicating the 'pestilence' of heresy from the region.  For twenty years the Languedoc was transformed into a bloody warzone, with the so­called 'warriors of the cross' engaging in merciless campaigns of violence against their opponents -  so much so that one historian has recently referred to these anti­heretical crusades as acts of genocide. In this module we will examine the origins and ideologies of the heretics of southern France; the initial responses of Latin Christians to the heretical 'threat'; the origins and objectives of 'internal' crusading; the transition from crusade to inquisition; and the aftermath of the war on heresy. 

Genocide: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (20 credits) 

Raphael Lemkin formulated the concept of genocide in the midst of brutal twentieth century violence and World War II. Since then, the neologism has been consistently applied to episodes of violent extermination in the Bible, classical antiquity, the expansion of early modern empires, the establishment of modern settler colonies, the collapse of empires, the emergence of the nation state and the rise of ethnic nationalism. Within broader public discussion, genocide is often seen as 'the crime of crimes':  the greatest moral failure of humanity. 

In recent years, there has been a considerable outpouring of scholarly work on genocide giving rise to the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Since the 1980s in particular, scholars have attempted to move beyond histories in which the Holocaust is seen as 'unique' and instead sought to provide comparative accounts of mass violence, extermination and genocide across a range of historical and geographical contexts. This course will be an interdisciplinary introduction to genocide studies. It will be primarily structured around historical case studies. However, we will also draw on anthropology, political science and gender studies to try to relate genocide to broader issues of scholarly concern. 

Monasteries and Religious Orders inthe Middle Ages (20 credits) 

Praised as havens of piety and the perfect Christian life, condemned as centres of hypocrisy and because of inflexible and oppressive lordship, medieval monasteries were an important part of society with extensive political and economic roles. The same is true for religious orders. Were they associations of male or female convents which allowed the individual to withdraw from the world in a life of religious contemplation or the extended power of an ever more autocratic papacy, controlling vast assets and shaping public opinion? Were they centres of culture, with schools and sophisticated systems of education, libraries and writing offices or intellectual centres which produced arguments against the presence of Jews in Christian society? Did the Reformation destroy exceptional cultural centres or was it not before time to get rid of a stagnant and corrupt system? In order to discuss these and other questions, this 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. This will allow students to discuss the above - and other - questions on a basis of sound information. 

Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period (20 credits) 

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, founding their first colonies in the Americas, and establishing vast global trading companies. 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. 

Servant Stories: Domestic Service in Britain and the Wider World, c.1800-1939  (20 credits) 

This module introduces students to the history of domestic service in Britain and the wider world, c.1800-1939.  Although servants formed the largest occupational group in the country by the end of the nineteenth century their stories have traditionally been ignored in histories of modern Britain. Whether researching the maids working in middle-class households in the metropolis or the ayahs who cared for British children living in India, questions of race, gender, and class will be at the heart of our investigations. Regional differences and the plethora in types of domestic service will be emphasised: contextualising the well-known narrative of the butler at the grand English country house alongside assessment of the servants working in suburban lower-middle-class households, and the increasingly international traffic of domestic workers. Together, we shall consider the appropriateness of the ways in which servants from this era are remembered today: at National Trust properties and through television programmes such as Downton Abbey. We will immerse ourselves in the expansion of literature in recent years seeking to nuance and develop understanding of domestic service in historic context, and will get to grips with the issues still preoccupying scholars (such as the changing nature of domestic service from nineteenth century live in maids and cooks through to daily cleaners and au pairs by the mid twentieth century). Time will be spent each week exploring relevant primary sources, such as contemporary articles in The Servants Magazine and the diaries depicting the cross-class romance between  'master' and 'servant' Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby. 

The British Army, 1660-1960 (20 credits) 

This option aims to familiarise students with the development of the British army over a period of approximately three hundred years. The module will examine the army's relationship with civilian society, its relationship with wider political, economic, social, and cultural changes during this period, and how aspects such as its command, organisation, weaponry, tactics, and composition evolved between 1660 and conflicts post-1945. By considering the British army over this significant period of time, it is hoped that students will be able to understand how the army developed as an organisation, the lessons it took forward that influenced its development, and how such lessons helped or hindered its military performance. As well as positioning the army within a wider social and political context, the module will focus on selected military campaigns in order to illustrate the army's strengths and weaknesses in specific periods. 

Before Globalization?: Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800 (20 credits) 

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 preeminence 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  seen 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. 

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-modem' Afro-Eurasian civilizations. 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. 

China in Revolution: China under Mao (1949-1976) (20 credits) 

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) is arguably the most important historical event of China's twentieth century, yet in many ways it is the least understood.  It saw the last decade of Mao Zedong's life rule and had impetus in Mao's desire to hold on to power over the party-state he helped create, as well as to instill revolutionary spirit in China's youth. Although the Cultural Revolution saw the destruction of innumerable artifacts of historical culture and memory, it has also been richly documented both on camera in photographs and film, and in writing by way of memoirs. The unique characteristics of the Cultural Revolution will allow our module to explore the meanings of history, and its contestation between the state and ordinary actors, from a variety of backgrounds. 

In this module, we will examine the Cultural Revolution's historical background, the Communist Party's rise to power and early years of rule, Soviet influence on the early years of the party, the party-state structure, the role of gender and age in the dynamics of the Cultural Revolution, the relationship between city and countryside, intersections with anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles around the world, and finally, how the Cultural Revolution is remembered and utilized in contemporary China.