In your final year you will weight your credits towards History or Contemporary Chinese studies according to your preference – either 80 credits in History and 40 in Contemporary Chinese studies, or vice versa.
You will practise your Mandarin skills in increasingly sophisticated contexts and may choose to study optional modules in Contemporary Chinese studies, including the option of a dissertation.
In history, you will really get to grips with historical work during the year-long Special Subject study, based on primary sources, and if you take more credits in History, you will write a dissertation as well as tackling your Special Subject.
The Collapse of the Weimar Republic
The module evaluates the crisis of modern mass industrial society that underpinned the weakness of democracy in Germany in the Weimar years. It examines the impact of World War One on the German welfare state, the rise new forms of paramilitary politics, the Americanization of industry, new gender roles, and the crisis of the nobility and traditional conservatism in the country-side. It looks in detail at the debates on modern cities that were increasingly identified as the hotbeds of the supposed ills of modernity and the way the Nazis were able to exploit these various pressure points of modern mass society for political gains. It makes detailed use of original source materials.
Culture, Society and Politics in 20th Century Russia
In the early 20th century, Russia embarked on one of the most momentous experiments in history – to transform not only global political structures and social relations, but human nature itself.
Fundamental to the revolutionary project was the creation of a new culture, which would construct and promote new visions of the desired present and ideal future. Through culture, individuals would learn to think of themselves, their relations with others, and their relations with the world in new ways.
On this module, you will:
- Be introduced to Russian revolutionary culture and trace its evolution during the 20th century
- Engage with Soviet film, literature, graphic arts and architecture, both state-sponsored and ideologically non-conforming
- Read first-person testimonies written by ordinary Soviet citizens, offering fascinating insights into historical problems of social and self-identity and changing inter-relations between the individual and collective and state and society
Through grappling with these sources, you will discover new ways of understanding how culture and politics interact and shape one another. This is a vital skill for engaging critically with political and media discourses in the current age of ‘fake news’ and ‘virtual reality’.
This module is aimed at anyone interested in modern Russian history, in the significance of culture in political change, and the role of politics in constructing culture.
This module is worth 40 credits.
The History of a Relation: Jews in Modern Europe
This special subject surveys and analyses the place of Jews in modern European history. Throughout the modern period, Jews lived in Europe as part of a minority. The module is concerned to analyse the enduring, productive and resilient relation between Jews and non-Jews. It is the contention of this module that the story of the relationship’s development and evolution can tell us a great deal of the history of Europe as a whole.
The British Civil Wars c.1639-1652
This module surveys and analyses political, religious, social, cultural and military changes during the civil wars fought across the British Isles and the British Atlantic between 1639 and 1652. The major topics to be explored include:
- the causes of the civil wars
- the mobilisation of civilian communities
- the course of the civil wars
- the impact of war on individuals and communities
- religious and political change
- the growth of religious and political radicalism
- print culture and propaganda
- the changing roles of women
- the issues surrounding the public trial and execution of the king
- the abolition of the British monarchy and the House of Lords
- the ‘Celtic dimension’ of the conflict
- the Civil Wars in the British Atlantic
Sex and Society in Britain Since 1900
This module is an examination of the links between sexuality, intimate life, identity, politics, society, power and the state in Britain since 1900. It also examines the theoretical approaches to the study of sexuality and analyse sexuality as a category of historical analysis.
Key themes include
- free love and eugenics
- sexology, psychoanalysis and the therapeutic revolution
- birth control and sexual knowledge
- marriage and society
- male homosexuality
- the permissive society and Counter Culture
- the AIDs crisis.
Module convener: Dr Harry Cocks
Faith and Fire: Popular Religion in Late Medieval England
This module explores religious ‘faith’ in England from c. 1215 to the beginning of the Reformation in 1534.
The English church made great efforts in this period to consolidate Christianity amongst the masses through wide-reaching programmes of instruction, regulation and devotion. However, historians disagree as to how successful the church was in its efforts.
The module investigates the relationship between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ religion and examines how the church sought to maintain its authority in matters of faith. It asks how people responded and the degree to which they fashioned their own religious practices and beliefs. It also considers the violent repression by church and crown of those deemed ‘heretics’.
It looks at the condemned teachings of the Oxford academic John Wycliffe and the significance of those who followed his ideas, known as Lollards.
Module convener: Dr Rob Lutton
The Black Death
In 1348 the Black Death arrived in England. By 1350 the disease had killed half of the English population. The module concentrates upon the stories of the epidemics' survivors and what they did to adapt to a world turned upside down by plague. It examines the impact of this unprecedented human disaster upon the society and culture of England between 1348 and 1520. It examines four particular groups of survivors:
The module explores English society through translated medieval sources. Themes include:
- Impact of the Black Death
- Religious and scientific explanations of the plague
- Changes in peasant society and how peasants lived after the plague Merchants, their lives, businesses and shifting attitudes towards them
- Gentry society and culture in the fifteenth century and the development of an entrepreneurial ‘middling sort’
- Women’s lives and experiences in a post-plague patriarchal society The module poses a simple question: How central is the Black Death in explanations of long-term historical change and the evolution of the modern world?
Life During Wartime: Crisis, Decline and Transformation in 1970s America
Once dismissed as the “Me Decade” (Tom Wolfe), or a time when “it seemed like nothing happened” (Peter Carroll), the 1970s have enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent American historical scholarship. This module introduces students to the narratives of crisis and decline that defined the 1970s and which helped make the decade such a transformative period in American life - recasting the United States and its society, politics and culture in significant and far-reaching ways - whilst encouraging students to think critically about those narratives and their utility for subsequent processes of political, socio-economic and cultural change. We will explore developments such as the growth of identity politics and the cult of the individual, debates over American foreign policy abroad and social policy at home, the rise of populist conservatism, the market and neo-liberalism, anxieties over the city, the environment and the political system, and a broader political and cultural power shift from Rustbelt to Sunbelt, as we seek to understand why the 1970s are now regarded as the decade “that brought us modern life - for better or worse” (David Frum).
Imperial Eyes: the Body in Enlightenment Thought, c.1730-1830
This module explores the role of empire and ideas of race, gender and disability in the eighteenth-century enlightenment. The module includes topics such as:
- What role colonial encounter played in Enlightenment theories of human development
- How Enlightenment scholars imagined bodily difference
- The place of the slave trade in Enlightenment thought
- Enlightenment ideas of the body, sexuality and disability
- Colonized people's responses to Enlightenment thinking
After the Golden Age: The West in the 1970s & 1980s
In the historiography, the 1970s and 1980s are often referred to as a ‘landslide’ (E. Hobsbawm) or a ‘time of troubles’ (A. Marwick) for the West, which, it is argued, followed upon the ‘Golden Age’ of material affluence and cultural liberalisation that characterised the post-war period. At the same time, historical scholarship is only just beginning to make inroads into a field that has been extensively documented by cultural critics, the media and the social sciences. The module will engage critically with the dominant conceptualisation of the 1970s and 1980s as crisis decades and ask about the contribution that Contemporary History can make to our understanding of the period. It focuses on the UK and W-Germany as case studies, but will also look at developments in the West more broadly, exploring economic, social and cultural change as well as continuity. It takes thematic approaches, analysing topics including:
- Détente and the second Cold War;
- the crisis of industrialism and structural economic change;
- social change and continuity, with special emphasis on the class structure;
- the disintegration of consensus politics and the rise of the New Right;
- liberalisation, new social movements and cultural politics;
- domestic terrorism, the public and the state; heritage, memory and nostalgia.
British Culture in the Age of Mass Production, 1920-1950
The module explores the cultural transformations in Britain brought on by the shift to a Fordist economy (roughly covering the period 1920-50), and the social and cultural contestations that resulted. It takes chronological and thematic approaches, and topics may include:
- New experiences of factory work and the rationalisation of diverse areas of everyday life;
- New forms of advertising and commodity culture, and the anxieties and opportunities these produced;
- New forms of industrial urban leisure (e.g. the cinema and dance hall) and their role in promoting social change;
- Performances of self-hood and the contested politics of movement and habit;
- The perceived impact of Americanisation on national traditions, values and ways of life;
- The rise of the ‘expert’ across a range of fields to manage working-class behaviour;
- The development of social science and the problems of knowing ‘the masses’; Post-WW2 reconstruction and the early years of the Welfare State;
Overseas Exploration, European Diplomacy, and the Rise of Tudor England
This module evaluates the ways in which ideas during the Renaissance had an impact on both long-distance exploration and interstate relations. Also, of primary importance will be situating Tudor England in a pan-European context, thereby helping students better understand the rise of this island nation to become a global superpower. Topics covered will include:
- Renaissance attitudes to human potential
- Motivations for overseas exploration and travel
- Beginnings of European imperialism
- Continuities and changes in diplomacy
- Religion and foreign policy
- Travel literature and cultural diplomacy
- Xenophobia and cosmopolitanism
Alternatives to War: Articulating Peace since 1815
International history is dominated by wars; historians and international relations scholars focus with an almost obsessive zeal on the causes and consequences of conflict. The intermittent periods of peace are rarely scrutinised, other than to assess the imperfections of peace treaties and thus extrapolate the seeds of future wars. This module offers a corrective to this tendency, taking as its focus the multifarious efforts that have been made since 1815 to substitute peace for war. These include diplomatic efforts (e.g. post-war conferences, legalistic mechanisms such as the UN, arms control protocols, etc.), and those advanced by non-state actors (e.g. national and transnational peace movements, anti-war protests, etc.). Taking a broad definition of the term peace , and focusing predominantly (though not exclusively) on Britain, this module revisits some of the pivotal episodes of the 19th and 20th centuries, exposing and interrogating the often complex relationship between war and peace that emerged, and thus arriving at an alternative history of the period.
A Green and (un) Pleasant Land? Society, Culture and the Evolution of the British Countryside
This module explores the relationship between society, culture and the British countryside between 1800 and 1918. It examines both perceptions and realities, and reveals a dynamic British countryside which both reflected and shaped society and culture and forged an enigmatic relationship with the urban. Themes include:
- perceptions and popular representations of the British countryside
- constructing a rural idyll
- Englishness and national identity
- exposing the reality of living and working conditions in the countryside
- the (un) healthy countryside? - poverty, disease and insanity
- the agency of the labouring population
- the radical countryside
- constructing gender in the British countryside
- the leisured countryside
- animal-human relations
- the preservation and conservation movement
- the evolving relationship between town and country
- public history: representations of the British countryside
The Past That Won't Go Away: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939
This module examines the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), its underlying causes and legacy for present-day Spain. Commencing with the establishment of the Second Republic in 1931, students will consider the principal historical forces and conditions that gave rise to the outbreak of war in 1936 in Spain. The module is delivered through a combination of lecture and student-led seminars in which students present their understanding of a specific historical event, theme or ideas through their study of primary and secondary sources, and respective historiographical debates. Thus, students will develop an in-depth understanding of the war through propaganda, myth, revolutionary ideology, anti-clerical and gendered violence, as well as, for example, the significance of Badajoz and Guernica. The conflict is also considered in the wider context of the ‘European Civil War’; specifically, the role of military interventions on the part of regimes in Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union, and the influence of non-interventions by Britain and France. Using Helen Graham’s notion of the ‘past that won’t go away’, the module concludes with a reflection on the legacy of the Civil War in contemporary Spain.
From Revelation to ISIS: Apocalyptic Thought from the 1st to 21st Century
The need to infuse the present moment with apocalyptic meaning is an important theme in the history of ideas. Concerns about the day of judgement, Antichrist, the millennium and the end of time have a significant impact upon many different individuals and societies throughout history, finding expression in literature, architecture and a wide variety of artistic media. In some cases, apocalyptic anxiety directly influenced the actions of kings, emperors, ecclesiastical leaders and religious communities. Students will uncover systems of belief about the end of history and trace the impact of such traditions upon states, societies and religious institutions.
Dissertation in History
This module involves the in-depth study of a historical subject from which you will create a 10,000 word dissertation. You will have regular meetings with your supervisor and a weekly one hour lecture to guide you through this task.
Recent dissertation topics have included:
- Richard II, William Shakespeare and the Revolution of 1399
- The Image of the Male Witch in Early Modern Iceland
- Lord Salisbury and the Mediterranean Agreements: Revisiting Anglo-German Relations, 1886-1896
- A Re-evaluation of Prince Lichnowsky's Role as the German Ambassador in London in the July 1914 Crisis
- Interwar British Fascist Movements and Race, 1922-1940
- 'No Country, No Home': The Abandonment of the South Vietnamese by the United States after the Vietnam War
- Visions of Loathing and Desire: Representations of Masculinity in Late Soviet Posters
Plague, Fire and the Reimagining of the Capital 1600-1720: The Making of Modern London
In 1665, London suffered the worst plague epidemic since the Black Death, killing over 97,000 people. The following year, the Great Fire destroyed four-fifths of the ancient City of London within three days. This module explores the impact of these events and places them within the context of the 1660s and the city’s past and future history.
We will investigate how Londoners across the social spectrum responded to natural disasters and crises, the challenges that these presented to community values and group identities and how the spread of news reflected fears over religious difference and terrorist plots. The module also examines the changing character of the city across the period including concerns over health, the environment and the use of green space.
Transnationalising Italy: A History of Modern Italy in a Transnational Perspective
The module looks at the history of modern Italy (19th-21 century) from a transnational framework in order to illuminate different facets of the connections between Italy and the wider world. The module makes use of the methodological innovations of a transnational approach to put emphasis on movement, interaction, connections and exchange. It examines key moments and developments in the history of modern Italy by addressing the connections and circulations (of ideas, people, and goods) that cross borders.