A (dis)united Kingdom? Early modern perspectives on the makeup of Britain, 1485-1707
Run by School of History, Law and Social Sciences
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr Shaun Evans
Overall aims and purpose
What is the United Kingdom? How did it come into being? What are the commonalities and differences between its component parts? Recent and ongoing debates associated with Brexit, campaigns for Scottish and Welsh independence and an Irish border poll are igniting significant interest in the constitutional future of the United Kingdom and the relationships between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. An understanding of the period c.1485-1707 provides critical insights into these questions. The objective of this Special Topic is to undertake a ‘four nations’ assessment of the early modern expansion of the English state and the cultural and constitutional creation of Britain.
The focus of the module is identities, language and culture, relations and interactions across the Atlantic Archipelago, governance and conquest, and the legislative framework contributing towards the formation of a British state. The module proceeds through a series of thematic and place-specific case studies analysing the construction, composition and character of ‘Britain’ and the identities of Wales, Ireland and Scotland between c.1485-1707, to be followed by a series of ‘legacy’ sessions tracing the evolution of key themes, issues and questions from 1707 to the present day. This will include a continual assessment of how an understanding of the early modern context can contribute towards contemporary debates about the nature and future of post-Brexit Britain. It will be especially engaging for students specialising in the early modern period and more broadly to students interested in cultural and political history and the formation of identities.
Students achieving Distinction grades (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. Standards of presentation will also be high.
Merit (B- to B+) students will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all criteria in the Pass (C- to C+) range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.
Threshold (C- to C+). Students in this band will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at PGT level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.
Critically analyse competing scholarly interpretations relating to the construction, character and composition of the British state and British identities, and an ability to intervene in these debates.
Demonstrate an ability to articulate sustained, informed and analytical historical arguments.
Demonstrate in depth knowledge of connections and differences between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales across the period 1485-1707 and the short- and long-term effects of these interactions.
Demonstrate an ability to analyse contemporary sources in depth, set them in contexts, and to use them in overarching arguments relating to the themes and issues of the module.
c. 5,000 word essay (plus references and bibliography) from a list provided in the module handbook or agreed in advance with the convenor. The essay will include an interrogation of relevant historiographical arguments and interpretations and analysis of primary source material.
Teaching and Learning Strategy
12x 30min introductory lectures online, providing an overview of key themes, issues, case studies and competing historiographical interpretations.
Private study will be structured through the Module Handbook and tasks and activities on Blackboard. This will focus on workshop preparation and the formal assessments.
11x 90min workshops (one per week) to discuss case studies, overarching themes and issues, historiographical debates and use of primary sources to shape and inform discussion
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
Resource implications for students
Students will not be expected to purchase any key texts. A range of relevant secondary literature is available through the University Library.
Key texts include:
Asch, R. G. (ed.), Three nations – a common history? (Bochum, 1993)
Bradshaw B. and P. Roberts (eds.), British consciousness and identity: The making of Britain, 1533- 1707 (Cambridge, 1998)
Bradshaw B. and J. Morrill (eds.), The British problem, c.1534-1707 (Basingstoke, 1996)
Brady, C. and J. Ohlmeyer (eds.), British Interventions in Early Modern Ireland (Cambridge, 2005)
Brown, K. M., Kingdom or province? Scotland and the Regal Union, 1603-1715 (Basingstoke, 1992)
Burgess, G. (ed.), The New British History: Founding a Modern State, 1603-1715 (London, 1999)
Canny, N., Making Ireland British, 1580-1650 (Oxford, 2003)
Ellis, S. G. and S. Barber (eds.), Conquest and union: Fashioning a British state, 1485-1725 (London, 1995)
Kidd, C., British Identities Before Nationalism: Ethnicity and Nationhood in the Atlantic World, 1600–1800 (Cambridge, 1999)
Kidd, C., Union and Unionisms: Political Thought in Scotland, 1500–2000 (Cambridge, 2008)
Levack, B. P., The formation of the British state: England, Scotland and the Union 1603-1707 (Oxford, 1987)
Ohlmeyer, J., Making Ireland English (New Haven, 2012)
Smyth, J., The Making of the United Kingdom, 1660-1800: State, Religion and Identity in Britain and Ireland (London, 2001)