Choose a total of three 20-credit modules from a wide range of options, from at least two areas of study.
Select up to three 20-credit History modules from an extremely wide chronological and geographical range. You also have the option to take up to two 20-credit optional modules in American and Canadian Studies.
Each of the modules in this area of study will offer a comprehensive introduction to the changes in the genres of prose, poetry and drama across the period studied, placing the works encountered in the context of key aesthetic, social and political/historical contexts.
From Talking Horses to Romantic Revolutionaries: Literature 1700-1830
This module introduces you to a range of literature written between 1700-1830. This was a dramatic and turbulent period in literary history where anything was possible and many roles were reversed. Writers produced texts about contemporary issues such as class, poverty, sexuality, slavery, and the city, but also had their eyes firmly on the past. They took every available opportunity to promote their own agendas and to savage and ridicule those of their political and literary opponents. You’ll examine a wide-range of literature considering the political, social and cultural contexts of the period.
Shakespeare and Contemporaries on the Page
This module focuses on material written between 1580 and 1630 to provide you with an introduction to methods of reading early modern texts. Shakespeare’s poetry will be among the core texts; other canonical writers will include Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney and John Donne. You’ll explore the practice of historicised readings of early modern texts and you’ll consider the related challenges and limitations. You’ll have one hour of lectures and two hours of seminars each week.
Victorian and Fin de Siècle Literature: 1830-1910
You will explore a wide variety of Victorian and fin-de-siècle literature, with examples from fiction, critical writing, poetry and drama. It will examine changes in literary forms and genres over this period, as well as looking at the contested transition between Victorianism and Modernism. The module is organised around a number of interrelated themes, to include empire and race, class and crime, identity and social mobility, gender and sexuality, and literature and consumerism.
Literature and Popular Culture
This module will give you an understanding of the relationship between literature and popular culture, as you explore works from across a range of genres and mediums such as prose fiction, poetry, comics, graphic novels, music, television and film. In addition to exploring topics such as aesthetics and adaptation, material will be situated within cultural, political and historical contexts allowing for the distinction between the literary and the popular.
Modern and Contemporary Literature
This module will familiarise you with relevant aesthetic, generic, and literary-historical strategies for tracing formal and thematic transformations in 20th and 21st century literature. Moving between genres, the module will unfold chronologically from modernism, through the inter-war years, and into the 'contemporary scene' up to the present day.
Texts Across Time
This module will consider key issues in the study of English language and world literature, locate language and literature in time and place, and extend your knowledge of the intellectual, political, historical, and cultural developments in language and literature.
Building on the study of language undertaken in year one, these modules provide the exciting opportunity for you to explore aspects of language use in the mind, in society and in literature.
In all of these medieval language and literature modules you will develop your understanding of language change and variety, registers, styles, modes and genres, as they appear in medieval texts, and become expert in reading with reference to wider medieval cultures.
These modules gives you the opportunity to develop approaches from year one by studying 20th and 21st century theatre: by exploring key critical approaches to drama in theory and practice, and by focusing on a key period in the development of our nation's theatre.
This is a representative sample of the optional History modules available each year. It does not reflect the full number or range of those available. Availability is subject to change from year to year.
The Rise of Modern China
In this module you will study the history of China from the 1840s, through to the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949. You will focus in particular on the ways in which Chinese society responded to the arrival of ‘modernity’ in the form of the Western powers and Japan throughout the period in question, but also how different groups in China tried to remould or redefine China as a ‘modern’ nation-state and society. In this module you will have a two-hour lecture each week.
The Second World War and Social Change in Britain, 1939-1951: Went The Day Well?
This module surveys and analyses social change in Britain during and after the Second World War, up to the end of the Attlee’s Labour government in 1951. Key issues include:
- changing gender roles and expectations
- the experience and impact of rationing, bombing, conscription, voluntary service and direction by central government
- historiographical debates about whether Britain was united against a common enemy
- propaganda, mass communication and the management of information
- planning for a post-war world, including the creation of the National Health Service and the reform of the education system
- post-war reconstruction of cities
- reactions to the Holocaust, atomic weaponry, returning service personnel, returning Prisoners of War
- post-war austerity
- representations of the period and the construction of memory
The stranger next door: Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages
The module explores the diversity of ways in which Jews and Christians interacted in middle Ages, seeking to offer alternative views to these of Jews as mere victims in a religious struggle or of economic envy. We will study the complex economic interconnections between the two groups, considering the new approaches to the role of Jewish moneylending and international trade and its connections with structures of power in both communities. The module will also investigate crucial ideas on anti- Semitism and anti-Judaism and will look into case studies of intolerance and conflict between Jews and Christians. Themes to study here are the massacres of Jews in the Rhineland during the First Crusade, the persecution of Jews during the Black Death and the construction of Blood libel and ritual murder accusations. The module will also examine the internal life of the Jewish communities of Western Europe looking at communal organisation and leadership. We will consider differences amongst Jewish communities in different locations of the medieval European landscape in their understanding of Jewish Law and tradition, as well as in their own patterns of interaction with the Christian political and religious authorities in different locations. At the same time, we will explore the common cultural and religious characteristics and the creation of extensive national and supranational Jewish networks. Finally, we will evaluate the historiography on the subject and the changing of perspectives on the history of the Jews in Europe, analysing the debates arisen amongst scholars with their own ideologies, methods and approaches.
'Slaves of the Devil' and Other Witches: A History of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe
The module offers an overview of the history of witchcraft and covers a wide geographical area spreading from Scotland to the Italian peninsula and from Spain to Russia. Such breadth of reference is of vital importance because, in contrast to the uniform theology-based approach to witch persecution in Western and Central Europe, the world of Eastern Orthdox Christianity represented a very different system of beliefs that challenged western perceptions of witchcraft as a gendered crime and lacked their preoccupation with the diabolical aspect of sorcery. The module’s geographical breadth is complemented by thematic depth across a range of primary sources and case studies exploring the issues of religion, politics, and social structure.
Environmental History: Nature and the Western World, 1800-2000
The module is an introduction to the environmental history of the Western World over the past two centuries. It examines the history of environmental ideas and our changing attitudes to animals and nature, alongside the history of human impacts on the environment using the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain as case studies. Topics include species history, the rise of popular movements concerned with the environment, the role of the state in environmental protection, the history of pollution and pesticide use; the National Park movement and the Nature Reserve and the rise of outdoor leisure and recreation. The role of wildlife television and natural history film-making will also be examined.
Central European History: From Revolution to War, 1848-1914
This module aims to encourage students to develop a detailed understanding of the major political, social and economic developments in Central Europe between 1848 and 1914. They should become aware of the main historiographical debates concerning the region and the Habsburg Monarchy in particular.
As a result of their historical studies and analytical thinking, students should enhance and develop a range of intellectual and transferable skills.
Soviet State and Society
This module examines political, social and economic transformations in the Soviet Union from the October Revolution of 1917 to Gorbachev’s attempted reforms and the collapse of the state in 1991. You will look at Russia both from the top down (state-building strategies; leadership and regime change; economic and social policy formulation and implementation) and from the bottom up (societal developments and the changing structures and practices of everyday life). You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Heroes and Villains in the Middle Ages
The module compares and contrasts key historical, legendary and fictional figures to examine the development of western medieval values and ideologies such as monasticism, chivalry and kingship. It explores how individuals shaped ideal types and how they themselves strove to match medieval archetypes. The binary oppositions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are explored through study of the ‘bad king’, and the creation of villains such as the Jew. You will spend four hours per week in lectures and seminars.
The Venetian Republic, 1450-1575
This module explores the nature of the Venetian Republic in the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It examines the constitution, and administrative and judicial system, its imperial and military organisation, but will above all focus on the city and its inhabitants. The module will examine the enormous cultural dynamism of the city (especially the visual arts from the Bellini to Tintoretto and Veronese), changing urban fabric, the role of ritual and ceremony, the position of the Church, and class and gender.
- Venice and international context
- The Venetian economy
- Constitution and administration
- Venice at war and peace
- Patricians, citizens and popular classes
- Women in Venice: wives and workers, whores and nuns
- Urban fabric
- Patronage and the arts
- Artisans and printers
- Religion and the republic
- Jews and foreigners
Liberating Africa: Decolonisation, Development and the Cold War, 1919-1994
The purpose of this module is to examine current debates in the historiography about the end of the European empires in African and the emergence of a new political system of independent states. Topics which will feature particularly strongly are
- the emergence of a variety of different forms of African nationalism
- the ongoing debate about the uneven economic development of Africa during the last years of empire and the first years of independence
- the controversies surrounding the numerous colonial wars which were fought during the liberation struggle
- the significance of race including the question of European settlements and migration
- the impact of the Cold War on the politics of decolonisation. Countries which will be examined in particular detail will include Egypt, Algeria, Ghana, the Congo, Kenya, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
De-industrialisation: A Social and Cultural History, c.1970-1990
In the 1970s and 1980s, momentous economic changes swept through traditional industrial regions across the West, turning proud heartlands into rustbelts in less than a generation. As the lights went out in shipyards, steelworks, coal mines and manufacturing plants, a way of life was destroyed for millions of manual workers and their families, with profound repercussions on identities, communities and urban topographies. This module examines the social and cultural impact of de-industrialisation in the north of England, the German Ruhr basin, and the American Midwest, using a wealth of diverse primary sources, from government records to popular music, to tease out what it meant to live through a period of tumultuous socio-economic change. The module takes thematic approaches, exploring topics including:
- Change and decline in traditional industries such as coal, steel and shipbuilding.
- Political responses to industrial change, with a particular focus on industrial conflict over closures.
- The impact of de-industrialisation on manual workers and their ways of life.
- Changing ideas of social class.
- Mass unemployment and its social and cultural consequences.
- Gender and identity, with a particular emphasis on the crisis of ‘muscular masculinity’.
- Urban decline and regeneration.
- Youth and youth subcultures in post-industrial cities.
- Cultural representations of de-industrialisation, with emphasis on popular music, fiction and feature films.
Poverty, Disease and Disability: Britain, 1795-1930
This module explores the role of the poverty, disease and disability in shaping lives between 1795 and 1930, and how these intersected with ideas of and attitudes to health and welfare. It also examines representations of poverty, disease and disability in museums and on TV.
- understanding poverty, disease, disability in an age of progress and reform
- the problem of the poor? Poverty, the poor law and workhouses
- studying poverty, disease and disability: sources and representations
- town versus country - the healthy countryside?
- housing conditions: the slum
- working conditions
- disability and the deaf
- ‘madness’: mental illness in an age of reason
- hygiene and health care
- unrest and dissatisfaction: resistance, rebellion and riot
Rule and resistance in colonial India, c.1757-1857
This module introduces the history of the British imperial expansion in India from the mid eighteenth century, through to the Rebellion in 1857. It covers:
- the rise of trade relations with India
- the growth of territorial rule through war and negotiation with Indian rulers
- resistance to imperial rule through mutiny
- the debate over sati (widow immolation)
Travel and Adventure in the Medieval World
The module looks at peoples and places in the period c.1150-c.1250 from the perspective of travel. It shifts the focus of Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Mongol interactions from the more traditional medieval narratives of conflict, crusade and conquest, to those of Trade, Pilgrimage, Exploration and Mission. The introductory classes look at medieval travel and what people in the world with the Mediterranean at its centre knew, and thought they knew, about the rest of the World, including far-flung places that only a few people had ever ‘seen’. The lecture and seminar topics include introduce Travel Writing, Monsters, Maps, Crusades, Merchants, Pilgrims, Explorers, Envoys, Missionaries, and Assassins. Examples are drawn from Jewish, Muslim and Christian experience.
The Victorians: Life, Thought and Culture
The module mixes intellectual, cultural and social history to produce an overview of cultural trends in Britain between c. 1830 and 1901. Key themes include:
- The Victorians, An Overview
- Religion: Sin and Redemption
- Consumerism and the Mass Market
European Fascisms, 1900-1945
The module examines the rise of fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the wake of the First World War, setting this in the context of broader developments towards counter-revolutionary and authoritarian politics in the 1920s and 1930s (e.g. in Spain and Portugal). By comparing Fascism in Italy and National Socialism in Germany with ‘failed’ fascisms in Britain and France, it seeks to understand why certain movements were able to seize power and proved more popular than others. The module examines the social composition of fascist movements, the nature of fascist ideology and the relationship of fascism to the ‘inter-war crisis’, which had economic, political and social dimensions. The practice of the Fascist and National Socialist governments in power is also analysed and compared with particular reference to class repression and attempts to build ‘consent’, policies on ‘race’ and expansion through conquest; the module ends by considering the Axis and genocide during the Second World War.
From East India Company to West India Failure: The First British Empire
This module highlights key debates and themes in the history of the ‘first’ British Empire 1600-1807.
trade to the East and colonisation to the West
how the British government protected their empire and enforced a trading monopoly within it
the loss of the American colonies
the impact of abolition upon the valuable slave trade.
The module explores the key themes of ideology and identity; the concept of formal and informal empires and the causes and consequences of historical change.
Sexuality in Early Medieval Europe
This module deals with an important, but long neglected, aspect of life in the early medieval West - sexual behaviour and attitudes to human sexuality. Key issues include:
- ancient, medieval and modern theories of sexuality
- Christian beliefs about the family and marriage, and challenges to these
- the regulation of sexual behaviour as expressed in law codes and books of penance, including violent sexual activity
- alternative sexualities
Kingship in Crisis: Politics, People and Power in Late-medieval England
Political and constitutional history forms the core of this module, which covers a period when kingship in England was a high-risk occupation. From the mid-thirteenth century until the late fifteenth century a series of political crises rocked the English monarchy, resulting in as many as seven depositions. The module investigates the nature of kingship and the circumstances when a king's authority was challenged.
Imagining 'Britain': Decolonising Tolkien et al
Germany and Europe in the Short 20th Century, 1918-1990
The aim of the module is to provide knowledge about the history of Germany from the end of World War I to the reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It will provide a perspective based on the role of Germany within the European (and broadly global) context from pariah to relevant actor of the European integration process. It will encompass the process of democratisation in the interwar period, the National Socialist dictatorship and the Holocaust and the post 1945 fragmentation until the reunification. It will also include a reflection on the two German dictatorships and the pre and post-unification politics of memory.
International History of the Middle East and North Africa 1918-1995
The module offers a knowledge of key developments in the Middle East and North Africa between the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the emergence of a politicised version of Islam. Students should familiarise themselves with the key historical debates surrounding, for example, the relative impact of regional and international factors and begin to work with some primary documentary material relating to political and diplomatic developments. They will also be encouraged to use primary source material from the region and to consider the role which historical events have played in framing current problems in the Middle East and North Africa.
A Tale of Seven Kingdoms: Anglo-Saxon and Viking-Age England from Bede to Alfred the Great
The discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, has forced historians to re-evaluate the Anglo-Saxon period and ask new questions about this crucial formative stage of English history.
The history of much of this period of conversions, conflicts and cultural renaissances is documented by Bede, a monk from Wearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria (c. 673–735). In 793, the world described to us by Bede was thrown into chaos by a Viking raid on the island monastery of Lindisfarne, an event that some Anglo-Saxons interpreted in apocalyptic terms. The subsequent settlement of Vikings across Northern and Eastern England profoundly changed the social, cultural and economic structures of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
This course covers the period from the beginning of the seventh century to the end of the ninth, ending with the reign of Alfred, the only English king to ever achieve the moniker 'the Great'.
Sex, Lies and Gossip? Women of Medieval England
Later medieval England was a patriarchal society. Women were considered of great importance because of their roles as mothers. However, medieval women were also considered to be more passionate and sexual than men; they were considered wile and guileful and it was thought that they spent much of their time gossiping. Using a wide range of translated medieval sources this course will pose questions about how English women overcame and operated within these stereotypical preconceptions. It will examine women in terms of progression through their life cycle from daughters under the protection of their fathers, to the work available to single women, to married women and the law – mothers under the ‘protection’ of their husbands – and then to widows and the increased opportunities available to these women. In doing so, it will examine a number of aspects of medieval women’s lives from female piety to women and work, medieval attitudes to women and sex and the gendered medieval understanding of power and authority. The course will allow students to recover much of the essence of medieval life. Were later medieval English women merely disadvantaged or were they actively downtrodden within a patriarchal society? Further, it considers the extent to which the foundations of modern gender inequalities were established in the middle ages.
The British Empire from Emancipation to the Boer War
This module examines the history of the British Empire from the end of the slave trade in 1833-4 to the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899-1902. The module is divided into three major geographic and chronological sections. In the first part of the course, we will discuss the British Caribbean, with a particular focus on the transition from slavery and the period of instability in the decades that followed. In the second part, we will focus on India and the changeover from East India Company rule to the direct administration by the British government in the wake of the Indian Mutiny (aka “the Sepoy Rebellion”). In the final section, we will discuss Britain’s participation in the “Scramble for Africa” and the rise of “popular imperialism” with the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. The final, pre-revision class meeting will also discuss the metropolitan aspects of empire, examining London’s status as “the Imperial Metropolis.
Cultural Histories of Urban Modernity, 1840-1900
The module introduces students to the cultural historiography on how urban modernity transformed everyday life in British and European cities (covering the period 1840-1900). In particular, it focuses on a range of new spaces, objects, images and discursive representations through which people tried to come to terms with rapid processes of social change. These provide a number of thematic approaches that will build into a composite picture of how experience was reshaped during this period. Topics may include:
- ‘Haussmannisation’ processes across Europe and the contested terrain of the boulevard;
- The development of mapping, surveying and statistics;
- The bourgeois home as a site of identity, the meanings of interior design;
- The department store and new contested sites of consumer culture;
- Photography as a means of both identity-creation and detection;
- The cultural meanings of pollution and waste;
- Slum literature as a source of anxiety and control,
- Museum culture, exhibitions, and the ordering of imperial knowledge.
The Tokugawa World: 1600-1868
This module covers two-and-a-half centuries in Japan during the early modern era when the land was governed by a dynasty of Tokugawa shogun rulers. Often characterized as a period of relative stability, it was also a time of profound social, cultural and intellectual change. Lectures and seminars address some of the historical forces that would combine to transform society and lay the foundations for Japan’s subsequent encounters with modernity. Key themes include: the premises of Tokugawa rule, control mechanisms and relations with daimyo lords; the self-imposed policy of seclusion, trade and external relations; transport networks, class mobility and urbanization; the emergence of ‘the Floating World’ and the growth of popular culture; natural disasters, famine and economic crises; the responses of competing schools of thought drawing on Japanese, Chinese and European texts to address problems within Japanese society; the ‘Opening of Japan’ and the collapse of the Tokugawa World.
From the Tsar to the Emperor: Russia in the Early Modern Period 1547–1725
This module studies the emergence of Muscovite Russia as a major player on the European arena by the early 18th century.
- the rapid territorial and racial expansion from the 16th century and its consequences
- Muscovy’s first civil war
- the struggle of the Russian crown to curtail the power of its aristocracy
- the ground-breaking reforms of Peter I
- the beginnings of Russia’s slow progress towards Westernisation.
British Foreign Policy and the Origins of the World Wars, 1895-1939
This module provides a study of British foreign policy, from the last years of the Victorian Era to the German invasion of Poland in 1939. It focuses in particular on the policy of British governments, giving an historical analysis of the main developments in their relationship with the wider world, such as the making of the ententes, entry into the two world wars, appeasement and relations with other great powers. It also discusses the wider background factors which influenced British policy and touches on such diverse factors as Imperial defence, financial limitations and the influence of public opinion.
Consumers & Citizens: Society & Culture in 18th Century England
This thematic module examines the social and cultural world of eighteenth century England in the period when it enters the modern world.
Areas for consideration include:
- the structure of society
- constructions of gender and culture
- family life and marriage
- the urban world
- consumerism and culture
- the press and the reading public
- social protest & the rise of radical politics