Skip to main content

Year Two Modules – University of Reading

Show access keys
  • Explore another perspective

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

Year Two Modules

Our wide range of modules enables you to shape your degree, pursue your passions from your first year, or try new areas of history before making an informed choice as to where to focus your interests.

The second year offers core methodological training, a chance to engage in a project in public history, and the opportunity to develop more specialised historical knowledge across a broad array of historical periods and geographical areas.  In the second year, we offer short group placement opportunities in museums and heritage organisations, and encourage students to reflect on what they have learned from previous employment or voluntary work experience. You also have the option to study abroad for a term at one of our partner universities in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia.


 "There have been some fantastic modules on offer. In History, modules have ranged from period modules such as 'The American Dream', to placement modules like 'History Education'. In International Relations, you have an extensive choice from 'Media and Politics' to 'International Terrorism'. The broad choice of  modules has really encouraged me to progress and develop under the guidance of wonderful lecturers."

Dan Bull

BA History and International Relations

core modules

The two modules listed below are compulsory for Single Honours History students but are optional for Joint Degree History students. Joint History students intending to write their year three Dissertation in History should take Historical Approaches and My Dissertation in the Spring Term.

Historical Approaches and My Dissertation

The module aims to prepare you for your year three Dissertation by exploring a range of primary sources and historical approaches across a broad chronological time-frame. It encourages you to think practically and critically about your dissertation research through a series of lectures and workshops. Some sessions focus on locally-based archives and collections, while others concentrate on electronically-available evidence from different geographic locales. Students are expected to attend a series of lectures and workshops in the spring term. Some lectures focus on generic dissertation advice, while others will concentrate on locally-based dissertation research (e.g.: using the University’s special collections, and MERL, the Berkshire Record Office, and the National Archives).

Going Public: Presenting the Past, Planning the Future

This module allows you to reflect on and engage with the issues involved in presenting the past to the public beyond the academic world. It aims to provide you with an opportunity to apply your subject-based skills to a practical project with a Public History focus. This will involve both independent analysis and group co-operation, as well as developing expertise in project-design and time-management. The module also aims to enhance personal career-development by giving you the opportunity to consider future career options in the light of your ambitions, aptitudes, previous work experience, and the transferable skills arising from the study of history at degree level. The emphasis will be on critical thinking, self-reflection and effective career-planning strategies.

optional modules

Specific modules that examine chronological periods of about 100 to 150 years are designed to acquaint you with the causes and consequences of continuity and change over the whole period. Options usually look at a range of political, social, economic and cultural history, but do not necessarily give equal weight to all of these areas of study, and may have a geographical or thematic focus. Single Honours History students can opt for four optional modules. Joint Degree History students can opt for three optional modules or choose to replace one or two optional modules with the core modules listed above. Students of Classical and Medieval Studies should normally choose all year two options from the Medieval era.





 Study Trip Abroad: Exploring the European City and its Histories


We also offer the opportunity for you to gain invaluable experience and skills and put your knowledge into practice by transferring to a 4-year programme and doing a  professional placement year  OR a study abroad year as part of your degree.



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.


Women and Medieval History

This module will study women’s history in the context of several centuries of historical change within the medieval period. Its first key aim is to study the impact of long-term economic, social and political change on those regarded as the ‘weaker sex’. The second key aim is to consider the important question of whether women’s history should be studied within the same chronological framework as men’s. An important issue here is that in medieval society women were predominantly excluded from government, economic independence, and formal education; moreover, power in the hands of a woman was regarded as actively dangerous. These restrictions made women’s situations so apparently different from that of men that some historians have argued that the normal categories of historical interpretation cannot be applied to medieval women.  We shall therefore look at the long period of economic growth which reached its peak in the thirteenth century, and then at the catastrophes of the fourteenth century, with special attention to the impact of the Black Death. Women will also be studied within their social environment, from royal courts via growing cities to manors and farms. Their legal rights and restrictions, their education, and their relationship to the Church, will all be discussed. In order to move beyond generalisations we shall be looking in detail at both textual and material sources.


The Crusades

The period 1095-1291 marked the ‘golden age’ of the crusades. This module will consider the growth of the idea of crusading in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries from the call of Pope Urban II for the First Crusade in 1095 to the Fall of Acre in 1291. The course will include seminars on key topics such as the First Crusade, the Crusader States, crusading in Spain and the Baltic and the Albigensian Crusades. Seminars will explore different aspects of crusading including papal authorization, the evolution of the crusade indulgence, the preaching of crusades, the crusade vow, the recruitment and financing of crusades, the growth of the Military Orders, and the development of crusades against heretics and political enemies of the papacy. The seminars will present important medieval texts in translation including chronicles, charters, papal correspondence, sermons, poetry and songs. There will also be discussion of recent crusade historiography and the depiction of crusades in literature and film.


Kingship and Crisis in England, c.1154-1330

This module investigates continuity and change in English politics from the late twelfth to the early fourteenth century. In this era, government was royal government: the prime mover in politics was the king. But kings had concerns outside England. Succession could be problematic. There were limitations on royal power. What happened when a king was absent or too young to rule in person? What constrained kings’ freedom of action? What part did queens and subjects play in shaping politics? After an introductory look at broad concepts and expectations of medieval kingship (and queenship), we shall focus on the context and significance of a series of formative events. Ranging from Archbishop Thomas Becket’s murder at Canterbury (1170) at the climax of his quarrel with Henry II, to the young Edward III’s coup at Nottingham (1330) overthrowing the regime of his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposers of Edward II, these events offer sharp insights into the extent and limits of royal power. Primary sources include: the extraordinary verse biography of William Marshal (regent of England 1216–19); the graphic account of the death (1265) of Simon de Montfort, ‘the first leader of a political party in English history’; the first detailed account of an English coronation, at which the king swore to ‘enact good laws’ (1189); and the contrasting revision to the coronation oath (1308), requiring the king ‘to maintain and preserve the laws and rightful customs which the community of your realm shall have chosen’.


People, Power and Revolution: Political Culture in Seventeenth-century England

The political narrative of seventeenth-century England is eventful: one Stuart monarch, Charles I, was tried and executed by his own subjects in 1649 following two civil wars; another, James II, was ousted and replaced in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688-9. In the middle of the century England came under republican government and experienced the rise to power of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. In this module we will ask who ruled England in the seventeenth century, why two revolutions occurred, and how different politics was by the end of the century compared to the situation when James I came to the throne in 1603. We will cover the narrative of the century while looking in detail at themes such as: personal monarchy and the culture of the court; parliaments, elections, and representation; popular politics, petitioning, and crowd action; the culture of news, in manuscript and print; plays, libels, and satirical pamphlets; portraiture, royal and republican; republican culture and the Cromwellian court; the birth of political parties; theories of monarchy and resistance. We will look at a wide range of sources, written and visual, and students may also come on a field trip to London which could include visits to the Banqueting House and National Portrait Gallery. You will be encouraged to make use of online resources such as Early English Books Online and Early Stuart Libels.



Belief and Unbelief in Europe: Religion, Science and the Supernatural 

This module will explore the ways in which beliefs about God and attitudes towards nature, science and the supernatural changed between c. 1400 and 1800, and how institutions responded to change. We will examine the interactions between religion, science and magic, and explore the relationship between religious orthodoxies, superstition, and atheism across this period. Topics for discussion will include the multiple meanings and functions of religious belief, the impact of the fragmentation of the Christian church in the sixteenth century, ideas about magic, superstition and witchcraft, the understanding of the natural world, early modern science and natural philosophy, ‘unbelief’ in the form of heresy, doubt, agnosticism and atheism, and the content and influence of Enlightenment ‘rationalism’, and the ideas of Descartes, Newton and others. We will also reflect upon religious institutions, in particular their role and impact, as well as the ways in which they responded to both internal challenges and external pressures, such as the development of the state and the French Revolution.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Empire, Slavery, and Society 1550-1750

Pirates are some of the most familiar stereotypical figures, appearing regularly in popular culture of all kinds. They have proved equally fascinating to historians, who have variously characterised them as violent scoundrels, as aggressive imperialists, or as radical anarchists and sexual revolutionaries; scholars continue to debate the exact historical meanings of piracy. In this course we will examine the question of piracy in terms of its popular connotations, legal definition, social dimensions, and its importance for the growth of early modern empires, with specific reference to the Caribbean from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. This was not only the heyday of Atlantic piracy, it was also a period when the Caribbean was transformed and new societies emerged based upon continuous warfare, trade, and slavery, and which integrated African, American, and European cultures. We will explore the structure of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean at the beginning of the sixteenth century; the development of French, English, and Dutch piracy against Spanish colonies and shipping; the resulting political, economic, and social dynamics in the Caribbean (including the impact of the transatlantic slave trade); and the changing cultural and legal definitions of piracy, as imperial governments sought to control and suppress the violence on which they had once relied.



Hollywood Histories: Film and the Past

Film was the mass medium of the twentieth century, used as a tool of social advocacy, political propaganda and commercial entertainment. This module will address both the aesthetic mise-en-scène of film iconography as well as the behind-the-scenes censorship politics which accompanied film production. It will focus on films which self-consciously chose to evoke the past. Taking Hollywood production in the US as its core, it will include British and Russian examples from the silent era, concluding with blockbusters competing with television. Candidates will be expected to gain a knowledge of cycles of films over time, assessing to what extent directors and screenwriters responded to each other and to governmental pressures, both nationally and internationally. A key recurring question will be: did films reflect or shape popular notions of the past?


Reform and Revolt in the Modern Middle East: Egypt from Ataturk to the ‘Arab Spring’

Between the brutal extremes of Asad and ISIS, it is commonplace to think of the contemporary Middle East as dominated by either ruthless authoritarian regimes or radical visions of political Islam. Through a focus on Egypt, this module allows an exploration of the breadth of ideologies and political systems that have prevailed over the twentieth century Middle East. We will study the role and enduring legacies of political thought such as Arab Nationalism, Nasserism and Political Islam. We look also at the Arab ‘Cold War’ between ‘revolutionary’ republics and ‘moderate’ monarchies that dominated the 1950s and 60s; and the role of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict on Egypt and the modern Middle East. Finally we will consider the motivations and implications of the recent ‘Arab Spring’ protests.


Europe in the Twentieth Century

This course offers a broad survey of the history of Europe in the Twentieth Century. Starting with the examination of the origins of WWI, the module assesses to what degree the two world wars and the cold war affected the social, cultural, political and economic development of Europe. Key concepts include: nationalism, socialism, liberalism and communism; the study of Fascism, Nazism and Stalinism in comparative perspective; historiography; history of the cold war; history of European integration; history of propaganda.


Sexual Politics: Gender, Sex, and Feminism in Britain after 1918

This module will provide an in-depth exploration of the politics of gender, sex and feminism in Britain after 1918. It will explore not just whether or not the twentieth century was a decade of emancipation for women, but crucially, analyse how ideas about gender roles themselves have changed. Using a variety of primary sources such as oral histories, films, novels, and print media, you will be asked to explore how understandings of both femininity and masculinity have been constructed in differing ways over the last 100 years, examining areas such as work, war, the family, and bodily aesthetics, amongst others. You will also examine changing sexual practices and the rise of queer identities, and consider how these are linked to gender politics. Finally, this module will explore the nature of feminism as a political movement and the impact of its campaigns.



Society, Thought and Art in Modern Europe (Joint coded - Delivered by the Department of Modern Languages) 

This module examines the birth of modern men and women in Europe in the late eighteenth century and the broad intellectual, cultural, economic, political and social conditions which have been shaping and re-shaping them since. The module further shows a) the contributions of different European nations to a common European reaction to and re-evaluation of tradition and modernity; and b) the diffusion of modernity (Westernisation) from Europe to Asia and Africa and its role in the creation of a global world. Finally, it shows how art has played a leading role in the transformations of modernity; not only recording it but also constituting one of its central components.


Unity, Nationalism and Regionalism in Europe (Joint coded - Delivered by the Department of Modern Languages)

The aim of this module is to study how the idea of the nation and the idea of the European community became two of the most important forces to shape modern Europe from the 18th century to the present day. With this aim in mind, the module is divided into two thematic sections. The first section explores the origins of the idea of the nation as it emerged as a revolutionary idea in Enlightenment Europe, remoulding states and peoples across Europe and the rest of the world. The section gives historical depth to current debates on nations and nationalism exploring the development of ideas about the nation, national identity, nationalism and the nation-state, through the study of classic and foundational texts such as Ernest Renan’s famous lecture at the Sorbonne of 1882, ‘What is a nation?’, Woodrow Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’ of 1918, and close examination of a variety of nationalist movements in Europe, from the French Revolution of 1789, through the making of the first German nation-state, to the national revolutions of 1989 in communist Eastern Europe, and the challenges to established nation-states by the nationalisms of the European regions which have persisted into the 21st century (e.g., Catalan, Flemish, Scottish). The relationship between majority, ruling nations and ethnic and national minorities is also examined as an important factor in nation-building. Does the nation-state exclude minorities?  The second section engages with public debates about European integration and the nature of European identity as these interact with the member states of the EU and with processes of globalisation.


The American Dream? US History from Colonial Times to the Late Twentieth Century

This module explores some of the central aspects of American history from its colonial beginnings through to the late twentieth century. Using a combination of chronological and thematic sessions, the module serves as an introduction to key themes and issues in the history of the US. Themes explored in the module include colonial America and the Revolutionary war, Jacksonian America, America’s westward expansion and ‘borderlands’, the antebellum South and slavery, the Civil War of 1861-5, plus Southern ‘Reconstruction’ and ‘Jim Crow’ segregation, the transformation of the nation’s world role and notions of an American ‘empire’, Americans’ experience of wars in the twentieth century, the New Deal, civil rights movements, social protest in the 1960s and 70s, and the rise of the New Right.


From Tsars to Comrades: Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, 1861-1941

This module will look on a key period in modern Russian history: surveying the political, social, and cultural history of Russia from the Great Reform modernisation programmes of the 1860s through to the rise of Stalin and Stalinism. You will assess the tsarist regime’s attempts to grapple with political reform, industrial revolution, and social upheaval; the origins of the Russian Revolution, the collapse of the Romonov dynasty, the consolidation of Bolshevik power, and the implementation of socialist policy; as well as the consequences of the rise of Stalinism. By looking across Russia’s age of revolution, the module will give you a solid background in both Imperial Russian and Soviet history, while also encouraging you to consider the uniqueness or otherwise of the Russian experience.


The Colonial Experience (Africa) 1879-1980

Colonialism provided a transformative experience both for the colonized and for the colonizer in large parts of the world. While this is an established fact, the perspective of understanding the world through the brief period of European global political domination at the height of formal empire provides an exceptional challenge to historians and social scientists: How can we think of the world’s colonial past between the 1870s and the late twentieth century without reproducing a Eurocentric ‘colonial’ point of view? This module examines the broad themes of empire: the imposition of colonial rule, colonial administration, colonial violence, nationalism, decolonization, the gender of empire, and the emergence of the postcolony through the lens of the colonial experience, understood as the encounter between colonizer and colonized. Each week examines one of these themes through primary sources (written, audio or visual) and the relevant historiography by introducing specific case studies. The main question addressed throughout the term will be: Is there a colonial experience specific to Africa?


Rebel Girls: the Influence of Radical Women 1792-1919

The course examines social attitudes to gender and the development of feminism and female politics throughout the period through the lives of women who fundamentally changed social and political attitudes. The progress of the course will be made using the women's own words and examines female attitudes to Queen Victoria, the dominant female figure of the age, through the challenges of suffrage and on to the election of Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat in parliament in 1919. We will interpret the cultural changes in women's lives, attitudes to femininity, public women and evaluate them historically. The topic will chart the female struggle for social, economic and political freedom, their 'quest for truth' and an escape from the 'tyranny of domesticity.' The latter weeks of the course will be held at Reading University Special Collections utilising the Nancy Astor Archive, based at the Museum of English Rural Life, London Road with an option to visit Parliament.


The Brightest Jewel in the British Crown’: the Making of Modern South Asia, 1757-1947

Today, South Asia plays a significant role in international politics and globalisation. Marked by tremendous ethnic, ecological and linguistic diversity, South Asia is home to the world’s largest constitutional democracy, as well as the world’s second largest population. This module explores key themes in the making of modern South Asia during the period of British colonial rule over the Indian subcontinent. This period witnessed the establishment of the British Raj, the enactment of social reforms, commercialisation of agriculture, the Mutiny of 1857, the emergence of anti-imperial nationalism, Gandhian politics, the establishment of a constitutional democracy in India, the partition of the subcontinent, and the end of British rule. This module trains students to connect events in South Asia with developments in Britain and the wider imperial world.


Utopia: the Quest for a Perfect World

This module explores one of humanity’s most cherished and long-standing dreams: the quest for a perfect world. After an initial survey of the roots of the utopian tradition, we focus primarily on modern visions and versions of utopia in the period c.1800-c.2000. We look at the writings and influence of nineteenth-century utopians such as Robert Owen, William Morris and Leo Tolstoy and then at attempts to put their ideals into practice, including Owenite communities such as Ralahine and Tolstoyan communes like Whiteway. We follow the development of this tradition through into twentieth century ‘back-to-the-land’ and countercultural communes. In the second half of the course we turn our attention to more ambitious efforts to create utopian societies at the level of the nation state, focusing on Yugoslavia 1945-1980, Cuba 1959-present and the ‘Nordic model’ of Scandinavian social democracy, c.1930-present. The module ends with an overview of efforts to translate utopian visions into practice, and a brief consideration of the future of utopia, with a focus on what the implications of IT and robotics are for humanity’s enduring quest for a perfect world.


From War to the New Millennium: Making Modern Britain  

This module traces key themes in the making of modern of Britain. Between 1918 and 1997, the UK went through much transformation, in politics (expanding democracy, war, decolonisation and European union), economics (the advent of social democracy, deindustrialisation and Thatcherism), society (class, gender, sexuality and race relations) and culture (media, youth and technology). By exploring these themes, it is hoped that students will gain a grasp of British histories, recognising divergent and overlapping strands in the country’s journey towards the twenty-first century. Beginning with a political overview, the module then examines questions of gender, class, race, education, work, culture and belief. The objective will be to study British history from both ‘above’ and ‘below’, examining how social change impacted on politics and society, and how socio-economic developments helped transform culture and politics. Throughout, the module will explore the contested nature of British history, highlighting competing narratives and interpretations.


Study Trip Abroad: Exploring the European City and its Histories

The module will consist of three strands: the history of the city; the art housed in the city; the urban topography of the city (architecture, monuments etc.) The module will consider how the city’s history fits into a nation’s history and identity, but will also consider how the European city promoted itself as a centre of culture by appropriating the past and materialising the ideas of the present. Students will read themselves into the history of the city before the trip, before visiting the buildings, monuments, museums, galleries and other sites of historical interest which have shaped the city’s historical identity. The module will encourage students to think across the inter-disciplinary boundaries of the three strands, by considering the historical conditions in which works of art and architecture were produced, sponsored and collected, as well as political changes which have affected – and sometimes destroyed - the changing fabric of the city. We shall also consider how the artist’s imagination has represented the historical past. Places on this module are limited to 20.The trip will take place in the Autumn Term to Berlin.


Work Experience Year

This module provides students with the opportunity to undertake a placement in a field relevant to the wide range of careers open to graduates in their discipline, and to reflect on and evaluate their work experience. The aim of the work placement is to enhance career development and employability by providing the opportunity to apply and develop in the work place the skills gained in the first two years of the degree programme. Students will also have the opportunity to gain knowledge, understanding and practical experience of a relevant work environment. After the placement, students will prepare a written report of 2,000-3,000 words analysing and evaluating their role within the organisation, explaining the rules of governance and other procedures affecting the role, and the skills, tools and methodologies employed. Students will also deliver a 15-minute presentation providing an overview of the organisation, how the student’s area of work fits into the organisation, detail the knowledge and skills learnt from the placement, and assess its value in terms of career development. Our Placement Coordinators are here to help you every step of the way and you will receive one-to-one support and professional placement training to ensure that you are fully equipped to secure a top-quality placement. We will also support you whilst you are on your placement and ensure that you have a successful transition back to university life when you return for your final year.


Study Abroad Year

The aims of the study abroad year are to develop a knowledge of a range of subject areas relating to the study of History and to provide students with an understanding of how these subject areas are perceived and taught overseas. Students will follow courses relating to subject areas they have already taken - in order to extend and develop their knowledge - and/or to subject areas where they have restricted knowledge but which they wish to study for personal, academic or career reasons.  Studying at selected partner universities, students will develop an awareness of the different methodologies and will develop research and writing skills appropriate to their new learning environment.


Year Three Modules


We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.

Back to top