History modules - Second year

Optional Modules

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 Optional Modules

  • 20 credits

History Optional example module summaries:

Society in the Viking World c.800 - c.1100

This module aims to examine the ‘Viking phenomenon’ in as broader sense as possible. We will start by looking at Scandinavian society on the eve of what is often referred to as the Viking Age. We will consider when and why ‘viking’ activity began. Beyond that we will look at a series of different regions to examine what the effects of interactions with Scandinavians were on those regions. This means we do look at the ‘headlines’ produced by the narrative accounts of raiding and politicking but as much or more of our focus is on settlement and interactions of migrants and existing populations, or, in the case of some places, on societies founded from scratch. We look at Eastern Europe (the Rus), western mainland Europe, Britain and Ireland, and the North Atlantic (Iceland, Greenland and North America).

Tudor Terrors: Inner Worlds, Hidden Worlds, New Worlds

This course looks at the broad sweep of ‘Tudor’ history, extending from the start of the sixteenth century into the early part of the seventeenth.  It focuses in particular on the threats, challenges and worries that consumed ordinary people.  The ‘Terrors’ in question range from the religious and political upheavals of the English Reformation, through changing beliefs about, and encounters with, supernatural beings and evil magic, to the uncertainties created by confrontations with the unknown in the New World.

Each week we will consider a different ‘Terror’, looking at relevant debates in secondary literature, and working across a diverse range of primary sources, from ballads, pamphlets and material objects through to letters, diaries, martyrdom accounts and pictures.  While the Tudor monarchs are often seen as figures of great strength and power, this module shines a light on the visible and invisible threats which kept Tudors of all walks of life awake at night, from uncertainties about reformation and rebellion, through visitations from malignant spirits and forces, to life-threatening encounters with hostile environments and indigenous peoples in the Americas.

1619 and the Making of America: A 400-Year History 

What most defines the history of the United States? Liberty and freedom; or slavery and racism? At certain times, one seems to dominate the other; at other times it seems as though there is an equilibrium. This module builds off the New York Times’ ground-breaking 1619 Project and podcast to ask this very question and to explore a debate very much a part of our current historical moment. The module is fast-paced and covers 400-years of history from the seventeenth century to 2020. From the arrival of the first Africans on the shores of colonial Virginia in 1619 to the emergence of an independent nation of United States to the rise of the Cotton Kingdom and American capitalism; from the Civil War and Reconstruction to industrialisation and Jim Crow; and finally, from the Second World War and Civil Rights Movement to the Black Lives Matter protests rocking American cities in the 21st century. At stake is whether the colonies and the United States could live up to their ideals of liberty and freedom or were they corrupted from the start?

Pandora's Box: Europe and the First World War, 1900-1930

This class is a general history of Europe from 1900 to 1930, which uses the First World War as a fulcrum through which to investigate the European continent at the height of its power, examining the tremendous political, economic, military, social, and cultural transformations wrought by the war, and the resulting fractured aftermath of the war across the continent.  We will examine the military, social, cultural, and political histories of these wars with a particular focus on how these histories interacted.  That interaction is visible, for example, in the concept of total war, an elusive, but important concept for our understanding of this period in European history.  In this sense, this class is an emphatically general history of this era that is marked in particular by the conflict both between states and within them.  The class also places Europe in its broader global context, examining how the interaction between Europe and the broader world as it existed in 1900 was altered and shaped over the first 30 years of the 20th century.

Global Cold War 

The Cold War is over, but remains ever-present. Around the world, political, economic, and cultural legacies of the half-century superpower standoff are everywhere to behold, while books, movies, and the daily news indicate ongoing, widespread interest in the topic. And yet, the scope, implications, and the very meaning of the Cold War remain inadequately understood. Taking a global approach to the topic, this module will contextualize the Cold War within longer histories of colonialism. The ideological and economic rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States defined the Cold War: policies from Moscow, London, Beijing, and Washington DC shaped global politics, conflicts, and culture in the second half of the twentieth century. This module casts its gaze across the world, focusing on developments in the Third World as well as the agency of local actors and the strategies they adopted amidst collapsing colonial empires. “The Global Cold War” will provide students with an on-the-ground view of some of the places where communism and capitalism clashed, while also remaining alert to transnational interaction, cultural flow, technological development, and social movements as well as state actors. Students will deepen their analytical skills, gain familiarity with cold war documents and historical debate, and as a result enhance their critical engagement with the culture and politics of the contemporary world and its cold war and colonial inheritances.

Radical Pieties: Militants, Martyrs and Mystics in Medieval Christianity and Islam

This module explores the innovative modes of religious expression that developed within Christianity and Islam between 300 CE and 1250 CE. During this period, Christians and Muslims sought solitary or communal retreats from worldliness (e.g. eremitism, monasticism, Sufism), fought and/or died for their faith (e.g. through martyrdom, jihad, or crusade), and embraced various punitive forms of bodily suffering (e.g. extreme fasting, body-marking, mortification of the flesh). Frequently, such lived religious practices existed in tandem. Through a series of case studies drawn from the Near East, Western Europe and the Mediterranean, we shall consider why people were attracted to these practices and ask to what extent these devotions remained radical or became embedded in mainstream religious culture. We shall probe the common links between Christians and Muslims to ask whether these practices developed more frequently in dialogue, in parallel, through competition or conflict.

State and Empire in the Early Modern World 1400-1800

Our contemporary world is haunted by the patterns of early modern state and empire formation. To understand empires and their legacy, we need to understand the formation of empire-states. Between 1400 and 1800, states intensified their control over peoples and territories, as empires expanded across oceans and landscapes. We root our exploration of early modern empires in specific themes each week to ask how did early modern states and empires function and why did empire become such a powerful and widespread form of political organization in a globalizing world? We look at the origins of capitalism and ask how did global trading companies become associated with early empires? How did slavery develop out of vested economic interests? We revisit the cultural heterogeneity of early modern polities and explore how religious and ethnic differences overlapped between Islam, Confucianism, and Christianity across Eurasia. This module takes up these questions, among others, to consider early modern state and empire. In this module, students will be introduced to the overseas empires of Spain and Portugal, the centralized states of the European northwest, the Ottoman Empire, and Ming and Qing China.

By taking a comparative and connected approach to the study of early modern states and empires, this module explores and implements cutting edge developments in global history. We examine early modern empires comparatively and from the perspectives of political philosophy, historical sociology, sociocultural and economic exchange, ethnicity, gender, law, multilingualism, and cultures of knowledge. This module suggests that understanding the comparative and connected cultures, economies, and politics of early modern empires opens up new possibilities to thinking through and beyond the contemporary nation-states and globalization in our own day.

American Empire: The United States and the World 

How the United States – as the most powerful society in human history – conducts its foreign relations is of great significance to everyone on the planet. In this module, we will explore the imperial dimensions of transnational US history in order to understand how the country has risen to a position of unparalleled might. To come to terms with this story, we will focus on structures of dominance based on gender, race, and class in order to ascertain not only how the world has been influenced by the US but also how its projection of power has profoundly shaped the United States domestically. Using a broad definition of what constitutes “foreign relations” and adopting a critical approach to the idea of "American empire," we will pay attention to the policies of Presidents and Secretaries of State, but will also be concerned with themes of migration, consumerism, globalization, oppression, liberation, and forms of popular culture which both represent and construct the global trajectories of US power.

Global History of Gender and Sexuality: Body, Work and Citizenship

This module is about gender in the making of the modern world. We examine historical voices and experiences through the lens of gender. We ask big questions: what is gender? What is sex? How is the body sexed and gendered in different times and places? How does gender intersect with race and class? But we root those explorations in specific stories and cases each week. We might, for example, think about how foot binding in China changed ideas about women’s bodies, or track the cultural transformations that led the Republic of Ireland to legalize abortion in 2018 after decades of debate. We might ask how gender changed what counted as work in Early Modern England, or why trans women are at the heart of debates about civil rights in modern Brazil. Our learning will be organized around three core themes: body, work, and citizenship. We will examine how the links between modern sex, gender, and the body have been historically constructed. We consider how work has been historically gendered, and in what ways does the gendering of work recalibrate our definitions of work? Finally, we ask how is citizenship gendered in modern state making, and what are the implications for gender equality? These three themes will be interwoven throughout the module, which begins c1600 and ends with the contemporary world.

There is Black in the Union Jack: Black and South Asian British Histories

In recent years, people have become increasingly dissatisfied with the ways in which British history has been taught, from schools to universities. Numerous reports have shown that many people regard the histories that they have encountered as narrowly focused and with little to say about important topics such as empire or migration. Recently, the BBC’s landmark series Black and British: A Forgotten History, and the accompanying book by David Olusoga, and Yasmin Khan’s documentaries on South Asian migration have brought these histories 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 widely neglected histories of Black and South Asian Britons. It was introduced by Dr Sadiah Qureshi as a proactive attempt to redress this balance within the department and draws on her expertise on histories of race and empire. Since then, the course has run several times and been hugely popular. The module does not assume any prior knowledge and would be suitable for a wide range of interests. For instance, it might be of particular interest if you want to explore your own family history, potentially do a dissertation on these topics or teach on these topics in the future.  Topics are subject to change. However, at the moment, the course covers: early presences; servants, lascars (sailors) and ayahs (nannies) in Georgian Britain; abolition and compensation for enslavers in Victorian Britain; empire on show in the imperial metropolis; Commonwealth soldiers in the two world wars; post-WWII immigration and social life, including Windrush and South Asian immigration from Africa and Asia; twentieth-century citizenship, immigration controls and the Windrush Scandal; racism, race relations, and antiracism; activists and intellectuals, including Black feminisms, and, finally, and decolonizing British history and heritage in the present day. The three core text for the option are Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984), David Olusoga, Black and British: A Forgotten History (2016) and Rosina Visram, Asians in Britain (2002). If you want to get a sense of the history we will cover or do any preliminary reading, check out these. You do not have to buy any books, but if you would like to do so buy Fryer and Olusoga. Visram is available as an e-book from the library.

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 

This is a work placement module involving a minimum of 10 days in a work environment in the type of organisation or business sector to which students might apply following successful completion of their undergraduate programme. The module will provide students with an opportunity to develop transferable skills, including team working, problem solving and communication skills, as well as allowing the development of the ability to self-reflect on activity undertaken.

Future Skills Modules

Please note these are examples of Futures Skills Modules that might be on offer:

 Humanities in the Classroom

 For this placement module you will be placed in schools to observe or shadow teachers in their own disciplines or in adjacent disciplines, and where possible and appropriate to deliver enrichment activities yourself or to act as mentor in those schools. You will also attend a series of lectures and workshops from visiting speakers focussing on pedagogy and curricula in their subjects, on careers and training for teachers, and on outreach and engagement activities at Universities. You will be supported within your department in small group seminars during which you will reflect on your own learning and plan for the assessment. Students can also explore education more widely, outside school settings, for example by researching educational facilities and resources in local museums, heritage sites or other cultural institutions and by participating in or observing outreach activities within their departments.

Media in Practice

 This module gives you the chance to produce your own original content, learn skills and techniques that will improve what you create, and think rigorously about how media shapes our world. With lectures from a range of academic disciplines, the module asks big questions, like “How does news consumption affect voting behaviour?” and shares practical know-how, like how to conduct an interview or put in a Freedom of Information request. Through peer workshops, guided by academic leads, it also helps you to develop your own ideas and projects, from the first spark to the finished article. This module is designed to open media to all, so no prior experience is necessary.

 Sustainable development Climate, Culture, Society and Policy

 This is an interdisciplinary module that allows you to examine sustainability through the lens of several disciplines that fall broadly within arts, humanities and law. Examples of the topics you will examine are: sustainability and interdisciplinary research; the concept of sustainable development; climate change; sustainability and environmental justice. In examining these topics, students will also look into particular polices/initiatives to understand how sustainability is implemented in practice. The module will be delivered by academics from different disciplines which will allow you to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion with some of the mentioned topics. You will also have an opportunity to learn about sustainability initiatives at the UoB campus.