Students produce a dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a historical topic, chosen in conjunction with their supervisor. This represents the culmination of the History MAs, and constitutes Part Two of the programme.
This module is designed to help students to identify a dissertation topic appropriate to their interests and expertise, and to tackle the problems of methodology, develop the research techniques, and undertake the project planning which are the necessary preliminaries to researching and writing a 20,000 word dissertation.
Directed Reading in History
Under the guidance of an expert supervisor, students analyse developments in research and historiography relating to a topic in History which they choose from a wide range of options.
Early Modern World, 1500-1800
In 1500, European exploration and colonisation of the rest of the world was only in its infancy. America, two continents North and South, had been unknown to Europeans until just eight years previously. Most of it was still unmapped by Europeans, as were large parts of the rest of the world. By 1800, on the other hand, it was possible to construct a recognisable modern version of a world map. Europeans had explored, colonised, and resettled huge swathes of America in the first instances. They had killed or displaced millions of Native Americans in the process, wiping out whole civilisations, and they had enslaved 12 million or more Africans in that same process, inflicting immense damage on African societies. Europeans were in the early stages of colonising large parts of Africa and Asia too by 1800.
And yet, advances in science had transformed human understanding of the universe, of the world, and indeed of ourselves. This was connected through the Renaissance in art, culture, and politics as well as science, to enormous changes in the structure of polities and societies. The early modern era perhaps saw the invention not only of modern empires, but of large, centralised modern states. Also, the Renaissance and then Enlightenment changed the way people and states interacted. Arguably, the early modern period represents the transition period between an era of medieval hierarchy and the origins of modern social and political democracy.
Essentially, the aim of the module, through your lectures, seminars, and independent reading and thinking, is to give you a sense of the connections between these places and their histories, highlighting that the increasing inter-connection between them is itself a feature of the early modern period. You¿ll also get a broad sense of how the world as a whole changed between 1500 and 1800.
History is an imprecise art and what historians say and write about the past is not the same as what actually happened in the past. Most people's knowledge about the past doesn't come from professional historians at all but rather from 'public history'. Public history is the collective understandings of the past that exist outside academic discipline of history. It is derived from a diverse range of sources including oral traditions, legends, literature, art, films and television.
This module will introduce you to the study and presentation of the past. It will consider how the content, aims and methods of academic and public history compare and contrast and you will engage in your own small research project to investigate this. The module will also teach you about the fundamentals of studying and writing history at university. You will learn about essay writing, group work and critical analysis and employ these skills to understand and assess history today, both as an academic activity and as public knowledge.
The Golden Age of Spain and Portugal, 1450 - 1700
This course will provide an introduction to the history of Spain, Portugal and their empires in the early modern period. Students will come away with a broad knowledge of the political, cultural, religious and social history of Iberia during its period of greatest influence. We will begin by surveying the political history of Castile, Aragon and Portugal, seeking to understand the complex series of inheritances and political manoeuvres that created Spain. After looking at Early Modern Iberian imperial government, we will turn to the area¿s social and intellectual history. Here we will discuss Portuguese and Spanish culture, literature and art, as well as the intense religious fervour that launched both a global missionary effort and the Inquisition. The final weeks of the course will be devoted to studying the Spanish and Portuguese empires, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Here, our perspective will be decidedly metropolitan as we seek to understand how Iberian social and political institutions were exported overseas. We will also discuss the problems encountered by the Iberian monarchy as it attempted to manage the world¿s first truly global empire and faced the problem of dynastic decline.
The Practice of History
The purpose of the module is to encourage you to think more deeply about how historians work and, in particular, about how we as historians can locate and use primary historical sources effectively as a means of interpreting and understanding the past. During the module we will learn about the survival of historical evidence, how it is organised and made accessible to historians to undertake their research, and how to effectively locate and interpret it in your studies. We will consider how the process of doing historical research changes over time, in particular with the impact of recent developments like digitization.
At the core of the module will be the work you undertake with others in your seminar group using a range of primary sources which your seminar tutor will introduce to you. As part of the module assessment you will also undertake your own primary source based research project using items from these collections. The module is designed strengthen your analytical skills and to help prepare you for the more extensive uses of primary evidence which you will encounter in final year special subjects and dissertation.
European Empires in the East. A comparative analysis
The course provides an opportunity to study the European expansion in the East during the early modern period. Starting with an analysis of European familiarization and encounters with the peoples of India, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, China and Japan, the course shall investigate how Europeans traded, built up their presence in the East, exchanged knowledge and ideas, and on what terms. One of the engaging features of this period is that the interaction between European and Asian was fundamentally pre-hegemonic, before European imperialism in its classic sense as understood by historians today, so it was essentially more two-way or interactive. We shall strive to determine whether this reflects on European intentions, or merely mirrors the meager resources available to them, and the difficulties of implanting colonial society.The course is essentially a comparative one, which means two things. First, although we shall start from the concept of an Indian Ocean world, students will be encouraged to think of Asia not as some great cultural monolith but an array of very different civilizations posing European different challenges and which reacted in very different ways to the arrival of the `Franks'. The second comparative dimension will be to explore the differences in organization and approach of the Portuguese, Dutch and English merchant empires, which largely followed each other in succession.
Merchants & Marvels. Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800 (I)
'Globalisation' is a phenomenon that has caused a good deal of recent debate, though the movement of goods, people, bullion and services from one corner of the planet to another is nothing new. In this course, students shall investigate in some depth the role of long-distance commerce in 'disenclaving' (to use a French term) the world in the early modern period, the forms this trade took and some of its effects. The elaborate paths luxury goods wove across the planet seem remarkably unimpeded by either the speed of communications (it could take 16-23 months to send a consignment of silk from Nagasaki in Japan to Amsterdam), the high risks of banditry on the caravan routes or shipwreck at sea, and the transmission often via unreliable and hostile intermediaries. At the same time, the instruments of commerce - insurance, credit, speculation and derivative trading that went on in the European trading exchanges like London and Amsterdam - suggest a remarkably modern global system was already on its feet. This module forms the first of a two-part Special Subject (with HIH3228) and will introduce students to the main historical problems and debates concerning this subject.
Merchants & Marvels. Long-Distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800 (II)
'Globalisation' is a phenomenon that has caused a good deal of recent debate, though the movement of goods, people, bullion and services from one corner of the planet to another is nothing new. In this course, students shall investigate in some depth the role of long-distance commerce in 'disenclaving' (to use a French term) the world in the early modern period, the forms this trade took and some of its effects. The elaborate paths luxury goods wove across the planet seem remarkably unimpeded by either the speed of communications (it could take 16-23 months to send a consignment of silk from Nagasaki in Japan to Amsterdam), the high risks of banditry on the caravan routes or shipwreck at sea, and the transmission often via unreliable and hostile intermediaries. At the same time, the instruments of commerce - insurance, credit, speculation and derivative trading that went on in the European trading exchanges like London and Amsterdam - suggest a remarkably modern global system was already on its feet. This module forms the second of a two-part Special Subject (with HIH3227) and will the historical sources concerning this subject.
The History dissertation is a free-standing, 40-credit module that runs across both semesters of Level Three. Candidates conduct research upon a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of staff teaching for the degrees in History, and concerning a topic that falls within staff research and teaching interests.