History modules - 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 modules: 

  • Kings and Propaganda: Power in the Islamic World
  • The Early Modern Witch Craze
  • Wheels of Fortune: The Bicycle, 1885-1920
  • Women and the English Revolution
  • Worlds of the Founders: Revolutionary America, 1750-1826
  • The British Infantry Officer on the Western Front 1914-18
  • While the Worst are full of Passionate Intensity: Fascism and Communism in Interwar Britain 
  • Atlantic Coastlines in British and Irish History
  • The American Occupation of Germany, 1944-1949
  • The Desert War in North Africa 1940-1943
  • From Robin Hood to Game of Thrones, Medievalism in the Popular Culture of TV and Cinema
  • Britain and Drugs in the era of total war
  • Lost in the Arctic: the English Search for a Northwest Passage 
  • Failed Colonies 
  • Conversion and Mission in Early Medieval Europe  

History Option

  • 20 credits

History Option example module summaries:

Crusading and Crusader Kingdoms  

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

Reproduction and the Self: Gender, Family and Sexuality in the Early Middle Ages 

This module explores changes and continuities in the relationship between production and reproduction in the period between the collapse of the Empire in the West in the fifth century to the transformations of the year 1000. We will examine the ways in which families could be created (through marriage, adoption, fostering, amongst other methods) and regulated (in terms of size, shape and membership), how changes in tenure and inheritance customs affected relations within families, and the opportunities for opting out of family structures or creating alternative structures (such as same-sex unions).  We will also look at roles and expectations for individual men and women, the ways in which masculinity and femininity were performed, and the points at which such roles and expectations were questioned.  Finally we will explore ideas surrounding sexuality: was sexuality seen as a question of identity, or a question of practice?  This module will draw on a broad range of primary sources, from normative texts such as penitentials and lawcodes to narrative sources including saints’ lives, poetry and biography; we will also draw on visual sources and on archaeological material such as grave goods. 

Crime and Public Order in Medieval Europe  

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

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

Toleration and Persecution in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700 

Early modern Europe was an era steeped in violence and marked by the forceful restraint of groups and individuals deemed seditious, revolutionary or perceived to be threats to social order and stability.  The religious reformations coincided with – indeed, accelerated - the growth of the early modern state and authorities keen to consolidate their increasing power took steps to neutralize threats to their political ambitions.  Yet, amongst the condemnation and bloodshed, research has demonstrated the tentative yet growing concept of peaceful co-existence within and between localities, religions and nationalities.  This module will explore the various manifestations of ‘toleration’ at both an intellectual and practical level and assess the ways in which the nature of persecution responded to changing social, religious and political outlooks.  Underpinned by close analysis of primary source material, this module will focus particularly on how society dealt with the tensions caused by the development of the early modern state, opposing religious groups, as well as explore responses to undesirable outcasts - including the disabled, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, the elderly, cunning folk, prostitutes. 

Religion and Religious Change in England during the Reign of Elizabeth I  

As recently as fifty years ago, historians believed that the English reformation stopped dead with the accession of Elizabeth I in 1559.  What we know now is that by 1559 the process by which England was becoming a Protestant nation had really only just begun.  Looking back at the long and prosperous Elizabethan ‘golden age’, it is easy to forget that the last Tudor inherited a kingdom wracked with religious

tensions, and a people struggling to come to terms with the traumatic events of the previous half century.  The age of Shakespeare was also an age of bitter division, simmering religious hatreds and titanic battles over the heart and soul of the English Church.  This module will look at the reformation during the reign of Elizabeth I, from two main perspectives.  It will adopt a broadly chronological approach, looking at key moments and events in the reign, such as the vestiarian controversy, the northern rising, the admonition controversy, the Spanish armada, etc., and considering their relevance in terms of religious identity and change.  It will also look at key themes, such as popular religion, puritanism, and Catholicism, in order to highlight some of the

main areas of historiographical interest in this period.  We will explore a wide variety of primary sources together in depth, from official publications such as homilies, sermons, liturgies and religious articles, to descriptions of martyrdom, educational and devotional texts, works of propaganda and persuasion, musical compositions, court records, parochial accounts, diaries, and other printed and manuscript materials. 

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

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

Fashion and Fighting: Status and Social Conflict in tudor and Stuart England 

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

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

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

Islamicate Empires: the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals in the Early Modern World 

In the period before Europe dominated the globe, several powerful empires expanded and thrived across Eurasia.  This module introduces you to three of the most significant of these empires whose impact remains with us today.  In the sixteenth century, the central lands of Islam emerged from a prolonged period of political, social, and religious upheaval through the establishment of three massive, stable land-based empires: the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals.  These empires - all of which shared a common Turco-Mongol and Perso- Islamic heritage - produced innovative and lasting approaches to governance that facilitated the control of expansive swaths of Eurasia.  We will approach these three pre-modern societies on their own terms by examining the particular dynamics that informed political, social, religious, and cultural life across this vast space stretching from the Balkans to Bengal.  We will study these empires individually and comparatively and consider their establishment and development in a global context. 

The Good War? A Cultural and Military History of Britain and the Second World War  

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, and the war in the air and at sea, this analysis will not be limited to an overview of the Allies’ campaigns in the war.  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 British home front, or whether the war served to exacerbate already existing tensions.  We will also consider how Britain and the Allies won the war in a military sense.  Was it through luck, through combat effectiveness and experience or a combination of multiple factors?  By using a variety of primary sources, including oral history, official papers, diaries, and letters, we will explore the experience and impact of the Second World War on Britain at home and overseas. 

The African-American Experience since 1945 

This module offers students the opportunity to study the political, social and cultural experience of African- Americans since 1945. It includes the study of important events in the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the rise of Black power. The course allows students to critically assess the role of leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the work of civil rights organizations such as the Student Nonviolence Co-ordinating committee.  The course examines the impact of the civil rights movement, studying post-civil rights themes such as Black Poverty and access to justice.  The course will be delivered by a one hour lecture and a two hour seminar, which will give students the opportunity to engage with primary texts. 

The Sixties: "Years of Hope, Days of Rage"  

This module takes as its basis the decade that defined the society, culture, and politics of the postwar United States. From the Civil Rights Movement to the Stonewall riots we trace the history and consider the legacies of the Sixties’ “rights revolution.” We look at the people and cultural movements that shaped the period from the hippies, drug and counterculture to JFK and Richard Nixon. The module also pays close attention to the increasing dissatisfaction of many Americans with the new spirit of liberalism and the rise of a new conservatism and “silent majority.” Lastly, the module examines how United States’ foreign policy, particularly in the case of Vietnam, had a profound influence on both foreign and domestic politics. This module aims to provide nuance and clarity to a decade often remembered through a haze of nostalgia. 

Rebellious Women and the Latin American Nation  

Latin American cultures are frequently thought of as limiting women’s movements and rights. Yet, many of the historical iconic women of Latin America were rebellious, strong, bold, and untameable.  They intimidated the men and women around them and stood defiant in the face of societal norms.  They defied not only gendered expectations, but those expected of their race, class, region, and nation.  In this module, we will study Latin American history through the region’s iconic women—from La Malinche (the often villainised indigenous woman who translated for the conquistador Hernán Cortés) to popular prophetesses, from comic strip heroines to the recently impeached Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.  We will seek to understand how these women - nonfictional and literary - have been represented throughout Latin American history. Gender, sexuality, race, and class will be key concepts that guide the course.  Why have Latin American journalists, artists, historians, and social movements drawn upon these particular women as symbols of their nations at different historical moments and to what effect?  Why is it, specifically, women that are conjured in Latin American discussions of colonialism, imperialism, dictatorship, and/or globalization?  How and why have the narratives around them changed over time? 

Staging growth, feeding the world: International development from Colonial Empire to Neoliberalism 

“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? 

Before Brexit: Histories of European Integration, 1945-2016 

In 1957, six European countries pledged to work towards an ever closer union in the Treaty of Rome. It is one of many certainties that have come under scrutiny in recent years, and Britain’s Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 is a good opportunity to take stock of narratives about European integration.  The module looks at the long history of the idea of Europe and then turns to how a united Europe became a political reality in the years after 1945.  It will look into the gap between ideas and realities, explores selected fields of policy, and traces the institutional evolution and its discontents.  The module offers a broad introduction into key fields of European post-war history, and it shows the power of history.  After all, 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. 

Finding a role: Britain and the global economy since 1870 

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.

Choose from one of the following modules:

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

The Research Methods module will give students first-hand 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.

*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