Department of History

Innovative study

Find out more about the how, what and why of learning History at University of Nottingham.




Older man admiring the medal on a young soldiers uniform
Learning History first-year module

The core module during your first year is called Learning History.

This module has two main aims:

  • to help you make the transition from school to university
  • to get you to think about History as a discipline. What is History? What is the purpose of History? How have historiographical methods changed over the centuries, and how do we do things now?

You’ll learn many new skills and become familiar with the theories that underpin the historian's craft.

One thing we can promise is that you will never look at History in the same way again!

Student-led seminars

The Department of History was one of the pioneers in the technique of ‘student-led’ seminars.

At the core of our teaching philosophy is the desire to produce graduates with independence, initiative and drive. We aim to help you learn to cope with responsibilities and pressure, and to think for yourself and question what you read.

In our student-led seminars, student teams plan and manage activities in their allotted seminar.

You will develop skills such as:

  • presentation
  • organisation
  • time-management
  • adaptability
  • teamwork and leadership

In addition, you will find that the more you participate in these seminars, the more you will enjoy your degree. 

The course also provided different formats of learning and many opportunities for group discussion and work. I learnt how to solve problems with others; listening to different opinions and bouncing ideas off different people to come to a conclusion.
Early use of primary sources

We want our students to do more than simply get a degree. For that reason, starting in your first year here, we will actively encourage you to use primary sources to enhance your work.

As a result, several of our students have made exciting and original contributions to our knowledge of the past (and many have gone on to win prestigious national prizes for their work).

Apart from the opportunity to undertake research in national institutions such as the National Archives and the British Library, you will be able to work with world-class historical manuscript collections right here at University of Nottingham.

Many students have gained valuable experience in our Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, helping to compile catalogues, and stage exhibitions; experience which has helped them to pursue their chosen careers.

Scheduled and unscheduled contact hours

What are 'scheduled' contact hours?

Much has been said in the media regarding contact hours at British universities. 

The figures quoted invariably refer to scheduled contact hours (i.e. lectures and seminars). In fact, you will have much more contact with your History tutors than these scheduled contact hours suggest.

Additional, 'unscheduled' support

Apart from spending time on your own independent research and preparation, you will frequently be meeting with tutors in their offices, participating in supervision sessions (for projects such as the third-year dissertation), or conversing with your tutors via e-mail and Moodle.

Of course, as you will now be undergraduate students rather than at school, it is largely up to you how much you interact with your tutors.

However, it is often the case that the extra value represented by unscheduled contact hours can make the difference between a good degree and an excellent one.

What I loved most about my course was meeting some of the professors. In third-year you got to really specialise in what you wanted to do and build some great relationships with your professors. I loved going to my seminars and writing my dissertation. 
Online and other library resources

One of the advantages of studying History with us is that you will have a wealth of online resources at your fingertips. The University Library has a large and growing catalogue of eBooks and you will be able to locate and download thousands of academic articles from a wide range of electronic journals.

In addition, our students enjoy the benefits of more specialised online resources: for example, you will have access to Patrologia Latina (if you are interested in Medieval history), Early English Books Online and State Papers Online (for early modern History modules), and Mass Observation Online (used by students interested in World War Two).

The scope of these resources is truly staggering. For example, with Early English Books Online you will have full access to more than 128,000 printed works published between 1473 and 1700. If you think that is impressive, try State Papers Online, which contains almost three million documents!

Wide choice of modules

University of Nottingham has one of the largest ranges of History modules in the UK – in fact we believe that we offer more choice than almost anyone else in the country!

After completing the team-taught introductory modules in your first year, as well as some options in other departments, you will increasingly be able to specialise and follow your personal historical interests.

There is a huge choice of second- and third-year modules, ranging from the fifth century CE to the present, with tutors specialising in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.

As you will be able to see from the list of academic staff, your tutors have expertise, and are published in, a wide range of genres. This includes:

  • social
  • political
  • economic
  • military
  • religious
  • and cultural history 
I really enjoyed the variety of history periods on offer. I studied Tudors, to 19th-century history, to 9/11 conspiracy theories. That also meant I got to meet and work with different people and working styles in the various module groups. 
Personal tutor system

You will find when you arrive that you have been allocated a personal tutor. Each academic in the Department of History looks after a number of students (personal tutees) in this way.

What do personal tutors do?

The personal tutor’s role is to keep an eye on your academic progress, and to meet with you from time to time to discuss how things are going.

More than this, should you ever need help (and many students do require a little bit of help during their course), you will always to able to turn to your personal tutor for advice or guidance.

Most personal tutors hold an initial meeting with all their personal tutees during Week One. This is just to make sure that you know who they are, and to help you settle into life at Nottingham as quickly as possible.


Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

Contact details