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Year Three Modules – University of Reading

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    Our wide range of modules enables you to study a breadth of topics

Year Three Modules

Our third year options enable you to choose between diverse topics  and approaches, or specialise in a particular area.

The research skills you develop in your first and second years form the foundation for your final year dissertation. Special subject modules get you working hands-on with primary sources in a small group, and placement modules offer you the opportunity to explore potential careers.

 

 It has been a pleasure to have such a wide variety of subjects available to study ranging from 'Rebel girls' to medieval studies in History, to Shakespeare and contemporary literature in English Literature. I have gained a wider understanding of how the topics I studied are relevant to modern life. I feel comfortable within both departments, which have been conscientious in helping me with any academic issues.

Danielle Juste

BA History and English Literature

During year three, Single Honours History students undertake two optional modules, one Special Subject and a dissertation of 10,000 words. 

Joint History students (except Modern Languages and History programmes) are required to earn 40-80 credits in year three. They may either select two optional modules or a Special Subject (40 credits) AND/OR  a dissertation in either History or another department (40 credits).

All students on joint programmes in Modern Languages and History can choose from three options for their third year: studying at a partner institution through the Erasmus+ programme, undertaking a work placement or working as a British Council language teaching assistant. In year four they may opt for either one optional module plus a dissertation in History or a Special Subject (60 credits) OR three optional modules (60 credits).

Dissertation

The dissertation allows students to pursue a topic of particular interest through an extended piece of individual research. The subject is a matter for discussion between the student and their supervisor. Students are encouraged to work on primary sources, and many find this both the most challenging and enjoyable part of the programme. There is also an oral presentation on the dissertation which contributes to the module mark. Joint students whose degree programme includes a dissertation may choose to complete their dissertation in History.

Optional Modules

These modules provide students with an opportunity to study shorter periods or more detailed aspects and themes in the history of a particular region or country.

Special Subjects

Special subjects form the most highly specialised part of the single-subject programme and we recommend students choose these modules on subjects within which they have some prior experience. Here students have the chance to study a closely defined subject in great depth using original sources. Special Subjects not only illuminate individuals and events from the past in detail, but also illustrate the kind of problems that confront historians in their research. In terms of both content and method, Special subjects offer insights into the craft of the historian.

 

Disclaimer

Sample modules are provided as a taster of some of the modules that may be available on the courses described on this website. The sample modules listed may be compulsory (core) or optional modules. The University cannot guarantee that a module appearing in this list will definitely run. Optional modules vary from year to year and entry to them will be at the discretion of the programme director.

The University cannot guarantee every applicant the possibility to study abroad or that it will be possible to study abroad at a particular institution or in a particular country. The number of places available at partner institutions can vary year-on-year. Certain courses and/or institutions may require you to satisfy specific eligibility criteria.

At present the UK is currently due to remain a Programme Country of the Erasmus+ programme until 2021. UK institutions' access to Erasmus+ programme will be decided through the UK government's future negotiations with the EU.

Placements are fully dependent on students securing their own placement opportunity, normally through a competitive recruitment process. The University provides career and application support that is available to placement year students.

 

Ireland and the English in the Middle Ages

The starting point for this module is one of the major turning points in the history of the British Isles: the invasions of 1167–71 that established English lordship in Ireland in the reign of Henry II. How did they occur? What were the consequences for Ireland, England, and the political development of the British Isles? The module will investigate key events in later medieval Irish history: the lordship of Henry’s son, John; the Bruce invasion of 1315–18; Richard II’s expeditions in the 1390s; and Ireland’s involvement in the Wars of the Roses. Broader themes will be examined too: the impact of English settlement on thirteenth-century Ireland and the Irish church; English exploitation, and subsidization, of Irish resources; the state of the English colony in the early fourteenth century; the late medieval Irish economy, and divisions and interactions between the Gaelic Irish, the English of Ireland, and the English of England. Students will be introduced to a wide variety of primary sources ranging from exchequer rolls to bardic poetry, and will also consider how modern nationalist perspectives can influence historical debate.

 

Ireland in the Seventeenth Century: Colonization, Conflict and Identity

The seventeenth century in Ireland was a period of brutal struggles over land, religion, and identity. Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland in the middle of the century and King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 are defining events in Irish history; memories and myths of these events still reinforce the divided identities of the modern island of Ireland. In this module we will trace the story of Ireland from the process of English (and later British) plantation of Irish lands which had begun in the sixteenth century, through the 1641 rebellion and the wars of the mid and late seventeenth century, up to the foundations of the Protestant Ascendancy which was to dominate eighteenth-century Ireland. Topics covered will include: the legacy of the Tudor reconquest of Ireland and the failure of protestant reformation; society and politics in Ireland: the Irish, the Old English, and the New English and Scots; the idea of plantation and the Ulster Plantation; Strafford in Ireland; The rebellion of 1641 and the Catholic Confederacy; Cromwellian conquest and the transplantation of Catholics; Restoration Ireland; The Earl of Tyrconnell and Catholic Ireland under James II; The War of the Two Kings: Catholic revolution and Williamite conquest in Ireland; The foundations of the Protestant Ascendancy. Throughout the module we will consider the interplay of religion, nation, and culture in forming the identities of different groups in Irish society; the idea of colonization and its applicability to Ireland, and English and Scottish attitudes to Ireland and the Irish; and the role which Ireland played in the interlocking politics of the three Stuart kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.

 

‘Race’, Ethnicity and Citizenship in America

This module explores key issues related to ‘race’, ethnicity and citizenship in America from colonial times to the social protests of the 1960s, using a combination of chronological and thematic perspectives.Beginning with an overview of theoretical explanations of assimilation, the module then explores early American conceptions of citizenship and how these changed over time. It also considers immigration to America across time and space, via the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the development of the system of slavery. African American history will then be explored during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, and during the Civil rights protests of the 1960s. A history of Native Americans from colonial times to the 1960s will also be covered here. The module explores relations with Mexicans in the borderlands of the Southwest and the rise of nativism (anti-immigrant sentiment), which culminated in a series of exclusionary measures in the 1920s which stood in place until 1965.

 

Africa from European Settlement to Nelson Mandela

Southern Africa provides specific insight into Africa’s colonial past and its aftermath up to the present. During the period to be examined the region was characterized by settler colonialism, the imposition of colonial rule by Britain, Germany and Portugal, and by a long period of decolonization from the mid-twentieth century, culminating in the attainment of majority rule in South Africa in 1994. The focus will be on the history of South Africa and Zimbabwe from 1890 to 1998, although historical antecedents, later developments, and comparative examples from the region will be addressed where appropriate. Each week examines a theme that is studied through primary sources (written, audio or visual) and the relevant historiography. The main question addressed throughout the term will be: What is the legacy of settler colonialism in Southern Africa?

 

Stalinism: The Struggle for a New Civilisation, 1931-1941

This module will examine Stalin’s attempt to disseminate a new mass culture, remake Russian society, implement new modern technologies, and turn Moscow into the ‘fourth Rome’. Few periods have occupied and terrified the minds of historians more than early Stalinism. But this module seeks to explore the history behind the opening years of Stalin’s dictatorship. It will ask for what purpose and to what end was all that blood shed? Rather than treating this period as the whim of a maniacal leader and focusing entirely on Stalin’s personality, we will instead look at our subject through the prism of modern ideology, Bolshevik political culture, and Soviet attempts to form a new civilisation.

 

Axis at War: Life and Death in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, 1936-45

We explore the everyday history of extraordinary times for Italians and Germans under fascism and in the crucible of war. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had entered World War Two as Axis allies, but from 1943 Italy was embroiled in a virtual civil war, occupied in the north by the Germans and in the south by the advancing Allies. We shall examine morale on the home and fighting front through a range of primary sources, from propaganda posters and newsreels, to diaries, secret police reports and even bugged prisoner-of-war conversations. What were ordinary Italians and Germans hearing on the radio? What did they see in the cinema? The module places a premium on cultural representations of the fascist experience, and will screen a weekly film, as well as giving you an opportunity to read some of the classic literary texts of Primo Levi or Hans Fallada. We also ask why there was no meaningful resistance in Nazi Germany, but armed partisans fought in Italy in an unholy alliance of Marxists, liberals, Catholics and British and US intelligence. It finishes by revisiting the moment of liberation and the violence that accompanied it on the cusp of the new global conflict, the Cold War.

 

Modern Science and the Imperial World, 1750-2000

This module examines the links between global histories of science with world empires in modern history. It covers a period of over two and a half centuries beginning with French and Prussian scientific expeditions to South America in mid eighteenth century and ends with debates concerning global warming in the final decade of the twentieth century. It examines practices and texts associated with exploration, cartography, geology, botany, anthropology, natural history, medicine, environment, and technology drawing materials from imperial Europe, the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, East Asia, Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and post-World War II United States. This module addresses how scientific and medical knowledge were closely connected to themes of colonial history, such as Orientalism, diffusion and exchange of knowledge, travel, extraction, commodification, race and eugenics, gender, nationalism, and neo-imperialism. In order to explore the complexity of these historical processes, we will read primary sources, including official documents, illustrations and fiction alongside secondary materials.

 

History Education (selective placement module)

This module will enable students to test and develop their interest in careers in History Education by applying their skills and communicating their knowledge in local secondary schools. Ten-day, subject-specific, school placements in June–July or September before the start of the university Autumn Term will give students the opportunity to gain, and reflect on, the practical work experience required for successful applications for postgraduate teacher training. Following acceptance for the module through successful application and interview and (if required by the placement school) a successful Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, students will attend pre-placement training seminars at the university before undertaking a 2-week placement in a local school. On placement, they will maintain a log (with attendance validated by school supervisor’s signature) recording teaching methods observed and tried, skills developed and critical self-evaluation. Before the end of the placement, students will research and plan a History lesson for a particular class, sharing its delivery with their school supervisor. After the placement, students will compile a full report on this lesson, with supporting rationale (making reference to relevant literature), self-reflective evaluation, bibliography, and copies of supporting presentational and learning materials. Students will also make a 10-minute presentation in the Department, explaining what they have learned from their placement, with 5 minutes’ questioning from examiners.

 

Discovering Archives and Collections (selective placement module)

Following acceptance for the module through successful application and interview, students will contact their placement supervisor to introduce themselves and confirm arrangements for their placements. After pre-placement induction in the History Department, students will undertake 10 placement days at the university’s Special Collections, the Berkshire Record Office or another participating repository. Placements will offer all students initial introductions to the role and work of two participating repositories, and a careers workshop. Activities on placement will otherwise vary, but will include specific project work under the direction of the placement supervisor, who will keep a record of attendance and assess overall performance on placement. Students will submit two pieces of written coursework in the History Department. One will be an article, blog, vlog or gallery of images with text and captions, highlighting, for a general audience, the scope and historical interest of the records on which the project work focused (or on some particular aspect of them), in a form and style suitable for publication on the placement provider’s public-access website, or newsletter. The other piece of coursework will be a full, reflective report on the project work undertaken on placement, setting it in the wider context of the functions and activities of the placement workplace, explaining what it entailed, what knowledge and skills it demanded and developed, and providing a critical self-evaluation of what was achieved. Students will also make a 10-minute oral presentation in the History Department explaining what they have learned from their placement, with 5 minutes’ questioning from examiners.

 

Crisis, Change, Opportunity: Italy from 1968 to the present

This module focuses on defining episodes of Italian history from 1968 to the present day, and it will shed light on how each of the selected themes and events have contributed to change the physiognomy of contemporary Italian society. It aims to provide students with an understanding of Italian history, politics and society from the student revolt in 1968 to the present day. Exploring this key period in contemporary Italian history will allow students to engage with many of the most significant political and social developments of twentieth-century Italy. Students will discuss select case studies and will approach them through a variety of methods, sources, and media with the aim to understand how Italian society reacted to complex national and international challenges of the period under scrutiny.

 

Medieval Magic and Origins of the Witch craze

The period from c.1100 to c.1500 saw important and influential changes in the conception of, and reaction to, magic and witchcraft. The Church moved from regarding belief in witchery as a popular superstition to declaring that failure to believe in witchcraft and its dangers was heretical. This course looks at the key points in this development in both Britain and Europe. Chronicles, law-codes and miracle stories will be examined for the range of beliefs and practices which contributed magic and witchcraft in the medieval period, culminating in the notorious, and influential, ‘Hammer of Witches’. Political aspects of witchcraft, and the changes in the nature and functions of witchcraft accusations across the medieval and early-modern periods will be analysed, in order to understand the origins of the phenomenon of the witch-craze.

  

The Making of the French Revolution

The module will ask why the French Revolution happened, how it happened, and what it changed. It will identify the structural problems which pitted the Absolute monarchy before 1789 and analyse the ways in which they paved the way to the French Revolution. The module will then ask why crisis of the Estates General in 1789 led to the collapse of the Old Regime and why the establishment of a new political system based on the rights of the citizen led to instability, violence and international war. The following sessions will be devoted to analysis of the social, economic, political and religious structures of the Absolute monarchy. Then focus will be on the challenges brought about by the Enlightenment and the pressures of international competition for great power status, and examine how conflicts over reforms paralysed government and forced the king to convene a meeting of the Estates general in 1789. The following sessions will show how conflicts between the deputies and the king paved the way to the storming of the Bastille and the collapse of the Old Regime. The second half of the course will be devoted to study of the conflicts which pitted various groups concerning the principles of the new regime and its organisation. The last sessions will analyse the ways in which growing tensions fuelled violence, both at home and abroad, and review the debates about the origins of revolutionary violence and Terror.

 

Political ‘Extremism’ in Britain between the Wars

The course will begin by exploring the origins of fascism and communism in Britain, tracing the precursors of these two divergent strands of political thought and organisation. Having established this, the more immediate impact of the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution will be considered and related to Britain’s ‘place’ in the fundamentally different world that emerged from 1918. The formation, strategies and policies of the CPGB will then be detailed, with due recognition given to the influence of the Soviet Union on the party’s organisation and political perspective, before the fascist response – and fascism was very much a response to Bolshevik socialism – will be assessed in relation to the smaller fascist groups of the 1920s and the emergence of the BUF amidst the ‘crisis’ of 1929-32. Again, the influence of ‘foreign’ models – Italy and Germany – will be explored, along with the particular policies and organisational formulas ‘pioneered’ by Mosley. Among the many themes covered will be: the role of the state in monitoring and shaping political extremism in Britain, common and divergent perspectives between fascists and communists, the extent to which the social, political, cultural and economic context of Britain between the wars acted as a bulwark against political extremes, and the diverse ways in which the two organisations sought to appeal to the British public.

 

The United States and the Cold War

The module uses a chronological approach to explore key issues in US foreign policy and its impact abroad and at home during the Cold War. It questions American foreign policy ideology, its foundation, aims and means during a critical period of international history. Beginning with an overview of the historiographical debate on the origins of the Cold War, the module then explores the US reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the US-Soviet Alliance during World War II and how the atomic bomb changed US strategy. It will then look at post-World War II US foreign policy. Issues to be covered will include: the Korean War, McCarthyism, The Cuban Missiles Crisis, Vietnam, Détente and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

‘Battleaxes and Benchwarmers’: Early Female MPs

This module will reassess the importance of the 1918 Representation of the People Act on British democracy, in relation to women and the emergence of female ‘public’ politicians. It will examine the life and works of the earliest female MPs and raise new questions on the role and contribution of conservative married women alongside more politically experienced socialist women. It will explore the contribution of ‘benchwarmers’ or those who took ‘family seats’ in paving the way for ‘battleaxes’ or the election of more radical women. It will also assess how far the ‘tried old firm of Astor and Company’, provided a template for women in parliament. As there are limited secondary sources available for some elements of the module; it will be partially taught using extensive primary sources at Special Collections at the University's MERL Museum utilizing the Astor archives and other personal testimonies to assess the importance of early female MPs in the lead up to 1928 and beyond.

 

From Darwin to Death Camps? Evolution and Eugenics in European Society, 1859-1945

This module examines the reception of Darwin’s ideas and their influence in shaping social theories. In particular, the shifting perceptions of a desirable social and biological order which found expression in attempts by science, medicine and the state to influence heredity and evolution, to regulate sexuality and reproduction, and eradicate disease and defect. The consequent labelling of ‘mental defectives’, ‘degenerates’ and ‘born-criminals’ will be studied in relation to the attempts of the eugenics to promote the artificial selection of certain racial characteristics. Students will be asked to compare and contrast the differences and similarities of eugenic policies in a number of European countries. Underlying the course is a historiographical question about the relationship between nineteenth-century biology and twentieth-century politics: namely whether the ‘Final Solution’ should be seen as the culmination of a pan-European movement which began with the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859).

 

The Romantic Revolution: Culture, Environment and Society in England, c.1790-c.1900

The Romantic Revolution was the third of the great revolutions that shaped the modern world, alongside the French and Industrial Revolutions. It transformed culture in a way that was comparable to the effect of the French Revolution on politics and the Industrial Revolution on the economy. While less easy to define than the other two revolutions, the Romantic Revolution had, in the view of scholars such as Isaiah Berlin and Tim Blanning, still greater consequences for the way we think and perhaps even feel about the world. This module looks at Romanticism in England from its origins in the eighteenth century through to its nineteenth-century apogee. Throughout the module, the emphasis is on the way English Romanticism turned to nature and the environment as a source of inspiration and, crucially, to hold up a mirror to society. Romanticism and the cultural traditions that derived from it offered a powerful, searching critique of social and political change in Britain as it went through the seismic upheaval of the Industrial Revolution. Romantic writers and artists such as Dorothy and William Wordsworth, the working-class poet John Clare, the painter Turner, art critic Ruskin and designer and socialist William Morris have been heralded as the first environmentalists and the profound questions they asked about the relationship between capitalism, nature and social justice are every bit as relevant today as they were in the nineteenth century.

 

Heretics and Popes

This module will focus on the growth of heresy during the Middle Ages (eleventh to fifteenth centuries), the persecution of heretics by the Church and secular authorities, the status of heretics as a minority group, and the concept of the ‘Other’. Different types of heresy will be explored: theological, political, popular, those stemming from grass-roots disaffection and those from intellectual and philosophical traditions. Seminars will examine the origins of the concept of heresy, different types of heretics, the papacy’s response to heresy, the growth of Church legislation and jurisdiction against heretics, and the establishment of the Inquisition. Students will be able to access a range of sources in translation including the writings of heretics themselves, contemporary chronicles, papal letters, sermons, theological treatises, conciliar legislation and canon law. The course will also examine the construction of heresy and orthodoxy, Max Weber’s famous distinction between Sect and Church, and recent trends in the historiography of heresy, including Emmanuel le Roy Ladurie’s Montaillou and Robert Moore’s The Formation of a Persecuting Society and its critics. The seminars will explore: Heresy and orthodoxy in medieval society; the concept of heresy; heresy and ‘the Other’; the construction of heresy; political heresy; popular heresy; intellectual heresy; women and heresy; Cathars; Waldensians; Lollards; Hussites; the persecution of heretics; the Albigensian Crusade; the Inquisition; heretics and other minority groups; the historiography of heresy.

  

Ritual, Myth and Magic in Early Modern Europe

This module will examine the place of ritual, myth, and magic in popular cultures in the early modern period, and analyse the way in which the people of Europe viewed, and attempted to influence, the world around them. The impact of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic reform on popular culture will be examined in depth, alongside a study of the changing nature of the ritual year, the calendar by which communities measured the passage of time. Consideration will also be given to beliefs in magic and witchcraft, the persecution of witches in the early modern period, and the changing patterns of belief.

 

Gender in Africa

This module explores gender in the African past. While there is a focus on women’s experiences, it takes the broader approach of gender and gendered history. The first looks at gender as a historical formation, while the latter assumes that gender relations are relevant for a full understanding of all historical problems. The module provides insight into gender history as an approach within the historical discipline and at the same time it examines the gender historiography of Africa south of the Sahara. Some of the questions raised are: How do gender relations relate to wider power relations, for example in African slave owning and trading societies? How did the onset of colonialism transform gender identities? How do religions, such as Islam and spirit cults, intersect with gender? How does the gender division of labour reflect and inform gender identities? What are African masculinities? More broadly, this module asks: Is gender a useful category of historical analysis, as Joan Scott postulated in 1986? If so, is it universal or culturally specific? After some introductory readings, we will trace these questions through historiography and case studies across time and space which provide grounding in the history of Africa.

 

Landscapes of the Mind: Romanticism and the Rural Idyll, c. 1750–1939

This module looks at the central role the countryside has played in English culture since the eighteenth century, focusing particularly on Romanticism and its influence. The cultural centrality of the countryside is paradoxical since during this period rural England has become economically, socially and political marginal. Part of the explanation is that, as Raymond Williams influentially showed in his classic study The Country and the City (1973), representations of the countryside are not only a response to the countryside itself but also act as a mirror to powerful changes affecting society as a whole, in particular urbanisation, industrialisation and the rise of capitalism. The concept of 'the countryside' was a creation of the modern period, and we will look at the significance of the English landscape garden in establishing a distinction between land as a productive resource and landscape as an aesthetic amenity. Amongst other themes we will consider are the rise of the regional novel in the nineteenth century, the evolution of English landscape painting and the ruralist tradition in English music, notably through the folk revival and the classical composers such as Vaughan Williams and Finzi who were influenced by it. This module involves a study of the rich variety of ways in which creative artists have deployed the countryside in their work by looking at a broad spectrum of art forms including literature, painting, landscape gardening and music.

 

Slavery in America

American slavery and its legacy raise major questions about the nature of American society, and the study of enslavement has produced many historiographical debates among historians. This module considers key aspects of American slavery. Issues to be explored include the nature of enslaved families, enslaved work patterns, enslaved culture and belief systems, enslaved solidarity and divisions as well as the exploitation of slaves through physical or sexual abuse and enforced separations. The module also explores white perspectives on enslavement, compares slavery in the USA with that in the Caribbean and South America, and traces the abolition of enslavement during the Civil War era. It also considers literary representations of slavery. There will be a focus on gender throughout the module. Key primary sources from enslaved perspectives are used throughout, including the narratives and autobiographies of former slaves (for example the Works Progress Administration interviews, and the autobiographies of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs). Students also examine other primary evidence such as wills, bills of sale and enslaved folk stories. White perspectives on enslavement are also utilized, including the diaries and letters of slave owners such as James Henry Hammond and Frances Anne Kemble.

 

Victorian Lives

This module will focus on three key ‘Victorian Lives’, those of Charles Darwin, Annie Besant, and John Stuart Mill. In each case we will build our understanding from the autobiographies that each wrote to explore broader questions about the nature and value of Victorian autobiography as a source material for the historian. Supplementing the autobiographies with other primary source material, including letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts, the lives of Besant, Darwin, and Mill will provide portals into the consideration of some key themes in Victorian culture, including childhood, gender and marriage, religion, and secularisation, and the boundaries between public and private spheres.

 

Making Revolution: Russia 1905–1929

This Special Subject examines the process of revolutionary change in Russia between 1905 and 1929. It will chart Russia’s development from the autocracy of the Tsarist regime to the promise of Socialism. The module starts with what Trotsky called the ‘dress-rehearsal’, the 1905 Revolution, an uprising that saw thousands of people take to the streets to protest against the inequalities of the age. We will chart the everyday experience of revolutionary forces, from workers carting their bosses out of the factory in wheelbarrows to the growth of underground political movements. From there, we will explore the ideologies competing for Russia’s future, and examine why the Bolsheviks were able to seize power in 1917. The module will close by considering life in the world’s first socialist state, exploring new ideas about work, sex, society, and culture. This module will place the Russian Revolutions in their historical, political, cultural and geographical context and will consider the impact these events had on the history of the twentieth century.

 

The Last Super Power and the New World Power: the United States and China in the historical context

This module examines source materials which show the relationship of two nations that occupy centre stage at the beginning of the 21st century. One is the world’s sole surviving super-power, the other the world’s most populous state, now entering the fourth decade of the longest sustained period of rapid economic development of any third world country. Through weekly seminars the course examines diplomatic, military and economic relations between the United States and China from the late 18th century to present. Specific topics covered include, the importance of the China market, World War II, the start of the Cold War, the military crises in Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, Nixon’s trip to China and the US and China in the 21st century.

 

Sea Changes: Britain and the Maritime World, 1500-1800

This module explores the relationship between British society and the sea through a period of transition and transformation. In this module we will study how Britain became a ‘maritime nation’ in cultural, practical, and political terms, forging an identity which is still influential today. We shall examine the development of Britain’s relationship with the maritime world during the period 1500-1800 from several angles. How did cultural attitudes about the sea itself shift over this period, and how was this related to changes in religious culture within Britain, and to encounters with other parts of the world, marine and terrestrial? What was life like for seafarers, as they undertook ever longer and more dangerous voyages, and for their families? How did the growth of these maritime communities, across Britain and its empire, affect wider society, and how did they respond to the appearance of stereotypes about them? What impact did overseas trade have on the British economy, and on the material culture of everyday life – even for people who never travelled across, or perhaps never even saw, the sea? What efforts did the British state make to control these seafaring activities and coordinate its empire, and how successful were these efforts? How did the empire affect those communities and cultures with which it came into contact, and which it often sought to supplant? Throughout the module we will seek to answer these questions by considering a wide variety of primary sources, mainly textual, but also encompassing visual and material sources, such as those in the collections of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

 

England without a King, 1649-1660

The execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649, following his defeat by his own parliament in two civil wars, sent shock waves around Europe. This course will explore the huge challenges faced by England’s new rulers, who needed to invent a new constitution and stabilize a non-monarchical regime in the face of a serious lack of legitimacy and popularity. It will also explore the reactions of the ruled to the succession of novel constitutional arrangements which were put in place, and ask how far the civil wars of the 1640s had prepared people for the ideological and practical implications of living without a monarchy. The challenges of religion, including the novel flourishing of protestant sects outside the national church, will be explored, and the module will consider the nature of the radicalism - both republican and religious - which grew up in different contexts over these years, as well as asking how royalists responded to non-monarchical rule, and why they were not able to challenge the regime more effectively. We will also examine Cromwell's personality, beliefs, and effectiveness as Lord Protector, and the reasons for the collapse of the Protectorate and ultimate return of the Stuart monarchy after Cromwell's death. England’s relations with foreign powers and its conquest of, and attempted union with, Ireland and Scotland may also be covered. Throughout the module we will use a wide range of different types of primary sources, including literary and visual material, and pay attention to political culture and political ideas.

 

Becoming a Revolutionary: the Old Regime and the French Revolution, 1787-1794

In 1789 the French people brought an end to the political, economic and social system known as the Old Regime, which had proved unable to face up to the societal challenges of the time and which they had come to despise. Almost overnight, the obedient subjects of an absolute monarch constituted themselves as a nation of sovereign citizens. They endeavoured to create a new order based on the principles enshrined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. From its outset, the Revolution raised, and continues to produce, many historiographical debates about its long-term origins and more immediate causes, as well as its legacies. The module will explore these debates by considering two key questions. Why did the French become revolutionaries in 1789? How did the process of building a new society promote a new genre of revolutionaries associated with a new political culture, radicalism and the rule of Terror? The module will examine the ways in which various social groups and actors became revolutionaries in 1789, and how the meaning of being a revolutionary evolved in the process of building a new society. Using a variety of primary sources (political and legal, cultural and literary, visual), it will explore the major societal debates that arose in the eighteenth century and in the course of the Revolution. Themes covered will include the Enlightenment, the Old Regime’s institutions, the grievances of the French in 1789, the conflicts over the Estates General, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the political divisions and alignments in the new regime, the creation of a new political culture (newspapers, political clubs, popular societies), war and the fall of the Monarchy, gender and women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery.

 

Anarchy in the UK: Punk, Politics and Youth Culture in Britain, 1976-84

This module examines the relationship between youth cultures and politics in Britain between the period 1976 and 1984. These were turbulent times, during which the steady improvements in living standards that helped facilitate the emergence of recognisable youth cultures in the years following World War Two gave way to economic downturn and political instability. The course uses primary material to explore the ways by and extent to which youth cultures provided space for young people to resist, explore and understand the society and communities into which they were coming of age. Thus, the breakdown of the post-war consensus, the emergence of Thatcherism and the reigniting of the cold war will be examined through the music, artwork and writings produced in the wake of punk’s emergence in 1976. Key questions include: what were the politics of punk? Was youth culture a site of resistance, as argued by Stuart Hall and others from the Centre of Contemporary Cultural Study (CCCS)? Can youth culture be read as a reflection of or influence on the wider political and socio-economic context into which it emerges and exists.

 

Cold War Berlin: Politics and Culture in a Divided City, 1945-65

This Special Subject uses recently declassified documents made available since the end of the Cold War to explore the politics of liberation in 1945, the Berlin Blockade in 1948-49, the 17 June 1953 insurrection in East Germany, as well as the mass exodus of the 1950s which ultimately led to the building of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. As well as superpower politics and intelligence operations – Berlin was after all ‘spy city’ – the module will cover every day life Page 24 in extraordinary circumstances, including the problem of mass rapes, the black market, reconstruction and denazification. It will also consider the cultural representation of division through propaganda films and literature, including the spy thrillers of Ian Fleming, John le Carré and Len Deighton, as well as the ‘shopwindow politics’ of rival socio-economic systems competing across an open border before the Wall. Popular opinion from below will be furnished through situation reports collected by the western military governments and the East German party and Stasi.

 

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