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.
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 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.
Deformity, Deviance and Difference: Exploring Disability History
There are over 11 million people with a long-term illness, impairment of disability living in the UK today, but the experiences of disabled people in the past often remain hidden from view. This module provides an introduction to the historical experiences of people with physical, sensory and intellectual impairments from medieval Europe to contemporary society. It explores the changing perception of people with disabilities over time and examines what it has meant to be 'different' in past societies. There have been people with disabilities throughout history, but what it means to be 'disabled' has changed over time. Indeed, the modern category of 'disability' as conferring a 'special needs status' on an individual is a modern invention that has developed since the late eighteenth century. This module will examine the ways in which people with disabilities have been treated in the past, and explores cultural meanings of human difference and their construction in various historical settings. It will show how attitudes towards disability have been varied and that while people with impairments have been stigmatized as 'freaks', or symbols of divine punishment, societies have also found ways of valuing human difference. Beginning with a survey of attitudes towards disability in medieval times, the module examines the development of state welfare responses to sickness and disability, changing medical approaches to impairment and debates about whether people with disabilities should be cared for in the community or inside institutions. The growth of educational provision for children with disabilities since the late eighteenth century will also be surveyed. Furthermore, the module will examine the impact of warfare and industrialization on approaches to disability and show how movements for Disability Rights emerged in the modern era. Throughout, students will be given access to the voices and experiences of people with disabilities themselves through a variety of primary source material.
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.