History Second and Third/Final Year module summaries

Second year

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. 

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.

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 modules:

  • The First Crusade as seen by Contemporaries  
  • Sex and the City: Women’s lives in Heian-era Japan
  • Rachel Carson and the Making of Environmentalism
  • A Carthaginian Peace?: The Treaty of Versailles and its Aftermath
  • Conversion and Mission in Early Medieval Europe
  • Lost in the Arctic: the English Search for a Northwest Passage
  • Failed Colonies 
  • Race, Nation, Economy: French Empire from 1789 to Decolonisation
  • Kings and Propaganda: Power in the Islamic World
  • Medievalism in Politics and Popular Culture
  • History as a Game?
  • Domestic Servants at Work in Georgian England  
  • The American Occupation of Germany, 1944-1949 
  • European Encounters with Islam in the Early Modern Period
  • Home Sweet Home? Housing, Squatting and Rent Strikes in 20th Century Britain

Optional modules:

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.

Language module at an appropriate level

*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 example modules

  • 20 credits
  • Rulers and Rebels of Early Islam
  • Nationalism in Modern Europe, 1815-1914
  • John Bull against Napoleon: Fighting the French, 1793-1815
  • US Political and Social History 1890-1980
  • The Sixties: “Years of Hope, Days of Rage”
  • “From Slavery to Freedom”: The African American Experience to 1945
  • Military Revolution and the Conduct of War, c.1300-1650 
  • Finding a Role: Britain and the Global Economy since 1870
  • From Division to Unification: A History of (West) Germany 1945-2000
  • Feeling Politics in Twentieth Century Britain
  • America in Conflict: From the Civil War to the War on Terror
  • Childhood and Adolescence in Medieval Europe
  • France from the Popular Front to the Liberation
  • Crusading and Crusader Kingdoms
  • ‘There is Black in the Union Jack’: An Introduction to Black and South Asian British History
  • Crime and Public Order in Late Medieval Europe
  • The Silk Roads
  • The British Empire: An Introduction
  • The Stuff of History: Cotton, Oil, Gold – Towards a Resource History of Global Modernity
  • Reformation and Rebellion in Tudor England, c.1500-1558
  • Before Globalization?: Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800
  • In Search of Wealth and Power: China from the Opium War to the Present Day

History Option B example modules 

  • 20 credits
  • The US in the World, 1890 to 1980 
  • Society in the Viking World c.800-c.1100
  • ‘Beyond Black and White’: The African American Experience since 1945 
  • Mass Culture and the Modern United States, 1877-1939 
  • Social Activism in Modern Britain
  • The Good War? A Cultural and Military History of Britain and the Second World War
  • A Medical Revolution? Society, Warfare, and Disease from the Crimea to Afghanistan
  • Feeding the World? International Development from Colonial Empire to Neoliberalism
  • Gender and the Making of the Modern World: Britain, 1650-1832
  • Kings, Conspirators, and Revolutionaries: Political Thought and Action in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700
  • Nationalism and Conflict in the Balkans and the Middle East
  • Towns and Urban Life in the Middle Ages
  • Making of Modern India, c.1885-1964
  • Blood and Steel: Indigenous Peoples and the Spanish Conquest of the new World
  • Sex, Money and Fighting: Women and Men in Imperial China 
  • The British Empire: An Introduction
  • Before Brexit: Histories of European Integration, 1945-2016 
  • Auschwitz in History and Memory

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 example modules

  •  20 credits
  • Latin American History through Film
  • Britain's Imperial Century: The British Empire, 1815-1914
  • Reason and Romance: The Cultural History of Nineteenth-Century Britain
  • From the OSS to Snowden: A History of American Intelligence Agencies since 1945
  • Mediterranean Crossings: Hope, Fear and Ambition between Europe and Africa
  • Gross Indecency to Gay Marriage? Gender and Sexual Minorities 1885 to the Present
  • The Black Death in Medieval Europe. Disaster, Change and Recovery 
  • ‘A Holiday from Reality’: A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era
  • Of Great Powers and Failed States. Conceptions of the State in the Modern World
  • Monasteries and Religious Orders in the Middle Ages
  • From Empire to Colony: Indian Society, Politics and Economy, c.1757-1885
  • South Africa in the 20th Century
  • Capital Lives: Experiencing the City in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain
  • The United States South: From Plantations to NASCAR
  • Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust

History Advanced Option B example modules

  • 20 credits
  • George Orwell, England and the Modern World
  • Visions of Utopia: Socialism, 1800-1980
  • Warfare at Sea from the Armada to D-Day 
  • Gender and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States 
  • Give me Liberty! The Meaning of Freedom in American History, 1776-1900 
  • After the Mongols: Political Authority in Islamic Lands, 1000-1600 
  • The Black Death in Medieval Europe. Disaster, Change and Recovery 
  • 'A Holiday from Reality': A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era 
  • Heresy, Crusade and Genocide in Thirteenth-Century France
  • Genocide: An Interdisciplinary Perspective 
  • Monasteries and Religious Orders in the Middle Ages
  • Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period 
  • Servant Stories: Domestic Service in Britain and the Wider World, c.1800-1939 
  • The British Army, 1660-1960 
  • Before Globalization?: Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800 
  • China in Revolution: China under Mao (1949-1976)