A History of Violence
This module explores the history and historiography of violence, focusing especially, but not exclusively, on Europe between the medieval period and the present day.
It has two principal themes. First, it examines the recent, important debate on whether and why violence has declined in the past half millennium. Domestic violence and crime, terrorism, war and genocide will all be discussed. The role of religion and secular ideologies, concepts such as honour, and the growth of state power will be among the issues covered.
Second, the module investigates the methodologies that scholars have used to explain the causes of violence, the different forms in which it has been practised and its incidence in history. Students will study cultural histories of violence and will explore how disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and more recently behavioural sciences such as psychology and neuroscience, have contributed to understanding of human violence in history.
You will be able to:
- Acquire an understanding of recent multidisciplinary debates on violence; its causes, forms and trajectory in history
- Gain an appreciation of how historians can draw insights from and fruitfully collaborate with other disciplines, as well the problems and pitfalls of interdisciplinary methodology
- Engage critically with historiography and develop skills of primary source analysis
- Develop capacity for independent thought
- Cultivate written and spoken argumentation skills
- Carroll, Stuart, ed., Cultures of Violence: Interpersonal Violence in Historical Perspective (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
- Ferguson, Niall, War of the World. History’s Age of Hatred (London: Allen Lane, 2006)
- Kiernan, Ben, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2007)
- Miller, William Ian, Humiliation and Other Essays on Honour, Social Discomfort and Violence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995)
- Pinker, Steven, The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and its Causes (London: Allen Lane, 2011)
- Spierenburg, Pieter, A History of Murder: Personal Violence in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (Cambridge: Polity P., 2008)
Dr Alexander Watson