History modules in Levels 5 and 6
The majority of modules run on alternate years and are dependent on staff availability.
History special subjects
Some degree programmes allow you to choose a History Special Subject/Group 3 module; please see the individual degree descriptions for details.
You have access to the resources of all of the colleges of the University of London when you select a Special Subject from approximately 40 available across the University. These span a range of subjects, allowing you to access the expertise of the largest concentration of university history teachers in the country.
The Special Subjects are based on the use of original sources in detailed study, which further develops your skills of understanding and interpreting historical evidence. They are worth 60 credits and count for half of the third year’s work. The availability of modules offered may vary from year to year.
The Department of History offers the following Special Subjects:
Poverty, Dress and Identity in Nineteenth-Century England
For ‘the poor’, who formed the majority of the English population in the long nineteenth century, clothing was a potent vehicle for the construction of individual and collective identities, a marker of success and failure, a determinant of ‘respectability’ and a key capital investment, yet expensive and difficult to obtain, maintain and retain. This course considers changing definitions of poverty and examines what the poor wore, what clothing meant to them, how it was ‘read’ by others and the many strategies employed to obtain it.
We will read working-class autobiographies and diaries to understand how the acquisition, possession and display of clothing impacted on multiple facets of proletarian life. We shall also look at sermons and religious tracts, Parliamentary papers, instruction manuals, psychiatric texts, institutional records, magazines, prints, photographs and some of the few existing garments, to examine the attitudes and policies of the many wealthier contemporaries who interested themselves in, and sometimes tried to control, the dress of the poor.
In so doing we shall discover that the study of popular clothing, fascinating in its own right, also opens a new window onto numerous aspects of English nineteenth-century cultural and social history including the Poor Law, class relations, gender, regional variation, religion, philanthropy, education, consumption, retailing, work and leisure.
Assessed by: 10,000 word dissertation (100% of dissertation grade); two-hour exam (55% of course grade); one 2,500-3,000-word essay (35% of course grade); one 500-750 word gobbet (10% of course grade)
Radicalism during the English Revolution, 1641–1660 (60 credits)
This module examines arguably the most turbulent period in all English history: 1641– 1660. These years were marked by rebellion in Ireland; bloody Civil Wars in Britain; political, religious and social radicalism; regicide; eleven years of republican rule; and the de facto restoration of the monarchy. One would think that by now there is nothing new for historians to learn about the English Revolution, that all the important issues have been resolved.
Yet the opposite is true, for there remains a lack of consensus as to the causes of events, the manner in which some of them occurred and their significance. Even the name is in dispute. Moreover, whereas class and ideological conflict once seemed a plausible explanatory tool, it has been a major achievement of the so-called revisionist interpretation of early modern England to shift the emphasis away from tension towards consensus and contingency.
One outcome of this approach has been the attempted marginalisation of radicalism during the English Revolution. Thus prominent figures within what might be termed the canonical English radical tradition (itself largely a twentieth-century historical construction) have been regarded as unrepresentative of the conforming, traditionalist, uncommitted majority; their extreme opinions apparently advocated for only a brief period of their lives; their influence upon society supposedly exaggerated both by panicked political elites and skilled propagandists preying on fears of property damage or cautioning against introducing religious toleration and its corollary, moral dissolution (abhorrent beliefs begat aberrant behaviour).
Similarly, conventional forms of popular protest such as food, enclosure and tax riots were reduced in scale and scope and drained of radical ideological content. Instead these incidents were presented as sporadic, uncoordinated, locally specific, largely bloodless and sometimes richly symbolic examples of conservative disorder. Whatever your opinion, you will get ample opportunity to formulate your arguments, thus adding your own distinctive contribution to these on-going debates.
Assessed by: 10,000 word dissertation (100% of dissertation grade); two-hour exam consisting of two exam gobbetsandone exam essay (55% of course grade); one 2,500-3,000-word essay (35% of course grade);one 500-750 word gobbet (10% of course grade)
Sex and the African City: Gender and Urbanisation in Southern Africa (60 credits)
This module explores how the African city was both understood and experienced by its inhabitants. Throughout southern Africa, the 20th Century was a time of rapid urbanisation and profound social and political change. Within this historical context, we examine how African women and men differently negotiated the transition to urban life.
Key themes include: gender relations and family structures; sexuality, race and ethnicity; religion and ritual; informal economies and livelihood strategies; health and development; urban politics and resistance. We consider the formation of new urban identities and we explore, through in-depth analysis of primary source material, how language and narrative gave voice to these changing identities.
The chronological range of the module begins with the mineral discoveries of the late 19th century and extends to present-day debates around the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The geographical focus is mainly South Africa, but historical and cultural material from present-day Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe are also incorporated.
Teaching is by weekly seminars, which include student presentations and discussion. You are required to submit three essays, and to write analyses of extracts from the set primary texts.
Assessed by: three-hour examination (100%) and a dissertation of 10,000 words (100%).
Medicine on the Silk Roads: Traditions and Transmissions
While history of medicine is usually taught focusing primarily on either ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ traditions, this module will focus on transmissions of knowledge along the Silk Roads. More than just routes on which missionaries, travellers and merchants moved between east and west Asia, the Silk Roads has become a metaphor of east-west connections.
This module will deal with Asian medical traditions as they are represented in manuscripts found in sites along the Silk-Roads, primarily the Dunhuang caves and Turfan. The discussion of these medical traditions will be contextualised within the multi-cultural aspects of the Silk-Roads and within processes of transmission of knowledge along the Silk Roads.
The module will also deal with the historical background leading to the discovery of the Silk Road sites and with how the internet is transforming research of the Silk Road. The primary sources used in this course will mostly consist of manuscripts found in Dunhuang (in translation from Chinese, Tibetan, Khotanese and Uighur) as well as visual material and artefacts from the Silk Roads. The texts and artefacts mostly date from the later centuries of the first millennium.
Assessed by: 10,000 word dissertation (100% of dissertation grade); two-hour exam (50% of course grade); one 2,500-3,000-word essay (40% of course grade); one 500-750 word gobbet (10% of course grade).
Life in the Trenches: Perspectives on British Military History, 1914-18
Memories of the First World War remain strong, more than a century after the war’s start, through the influence of popular culture. Images of slaughter, mud and poor leadership dominate a public view which thinks of the lucky few who came back, even though fatality rates were around 12% of those who served. This module is focused on the day-to-day experiences of soldiers in the British army and the ways in which they have informed both ideas in academic debates and also popular memory of the war.
Battalion war diaries are the core sources, recording the detailed movements of battalions once they had finished training. They provide both much detail and often, vivid description with the main focus being on four Irish battalions (2nd and 9th Royal Irish Rifles, 6th Connaughts and 7th Leinsters) which are central to the module convenor’s book Belfast Boys. These diaries will be used as one way of judging the accuracy of popular memory of 1914-18, which is so deeply rooted in popular culture.
However, a wide range of other sources is used including historical artefacts, poetry, film and individual diaries. Students have much choice over their dissertation topic which can cover any aspect of the UK’s engagement with the war. A visit to the National Archive at Kew will be arranged to support research, while there is strong academic support and encouragement for research in other archives.
Assessed by: 10,000 word dissertation (100% of dissertation grade); two-hour exam consisting of two exam gobbets and one exam essay (55% of course grade); one 2,500-3,000-word essay (35% of course grade);one 500-750 word gobbet (10% of course grade).
- The Age of Plague: Disease, Medicine and Society in Western Europe, 1348–1665
- Later Medieval London, 1450–1560: Community, Politics and Religion
- France, 1774–1794: Reform and Revolution
- Family, Society and Culture in Britain 1832–1918
- Popular Culture in American History, 1870 to the Present
- Literature, Culture and Society in Britain, 1914–1945
King’s College London
- Alexander the Great
- Augustus: Power and Propaganda
- The Norman Conquest of Britain
- The Origins of Reformation in England
- Women and Gender in Early Modern England
- Caribbean Intellectual History, c1800 to the Present
- British Imperial Policy and Decolonisation, 1938-64
- Religion and Gender in Europe, 1450–1550
- Victorian Intellectual History
- The French Civil War
- Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern France, c1140–1300
- When Kings were Gods: Early Modern Islamic Political Ideas
- Migration, Identity and Citizenship in Modern Britain
- Berlin: A European Metropolis from Kaiser to Kohl
- The History and Historiography of the Holocaust Politics and Society in Palestine from c1900 to 1948
- School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London
- Ivan the Terrible and the Russian Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century
- East and West through Travel Writing: The Limits of Division in Eastern Europe Monarchs and the Enlightenment in Russia and Central Europe
- Urban, Culture and Modernity: Vienna-Prague-Budapest 1857-1938
- Mass Culture in the Age of Revolution: Russia 1900-1932
University College London
- The Assyrian Empire
- Religions, Law and the Papacy in the West: from the Christian Roman Empire to the Frankish 'Roman' Empire
- Voyages and the Imagination in the Middle Ages
- Great Britain and the American Colonies, 1760-1776
- Living the Empire: Metropole and Colony in the 1830s Modernity and Modernism
Some programmes allow you the opportunity to take a related study as part of your degree. This means that you have the opportunity to choose an option module offered by another department (for example, from English and Comparative Literature, Politics, and Visual Cultures).