Module HCH-2050:
Debating History

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Susan Johns

Overall aims and purpose

The past is complex and can be interpreted in different ways and different forms of historical evidence or understood differently which can lead to divergent interpretations. It is very easy to think of the past as something given, solid and fixed, which merely has to be researched to be understood. Disagreements between historians suggest, however, the past is open to debate, there are diverse views which give rise to controversies . There is even a sense in which people create different pasts as they describe and present history for different purposes. This course aims to acquaint students with some of the ways in which the past has been constructed by historians and others; and to stimulate thought about how such various understandings of history might affect the way they view the past. Students will be challenged to wonder whether there is an objective, true’ past that we can recover; and whether professional historians come closer to describing areal’ past than politicians or popularisers.

Course content

The first part of the course is concerned with the use of the past made by historians and commentators such as politicians, the way traditions are invented (and destroyed), and introduces the different historiographical schools. The second part covers some historiographical (ie. concerned with the art of writing history) issues with emphasis on the various ideas about the study and writing of history which have developed over the last two centuries and which students need to understand in order to engage confidently with the different approaches which professional historians take to their work. This is taught through a case-study approach where students can apply the different approaches studied in the first part of the course to specific controversial historical subjects. The course will cover the following topics: Whig and Tory history, Ranke, the professionalisation of the study of history, nations, empire, structuralism, post-structuralism, revisionism, counter-factual history, case studies may change from year to year but will include topics from different periods, such as The Peasants’ Revolt, The English civil war, the outbreak of world war one; suffrage, consumerism, the Welsh in history, the Reformation, American Civil war, the Cold War.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). The work may lose focus and may have irrelevant or atypical evidence. Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.

PORTFOLIO: Portfolios in the range of 42-48 (D- to D+) may cover each section in the required format, but may tend towards description rather than analysis, the summaries may be hazy and comment may be irrelevant or weak. Seminar/workshop summaries will tend towards description or very weak analysis and may not cover all of the areas as laid out in the proforma. There may be little contributions to class and a lack of how to improve and a lack of understanding of the topic. The summaries will have some reflections on how to improve but this may be vague and only suggest a basic understanding of the themes. The discussion of the areas for self-improvement may betray serious confusion, and may be badly organised. There may be some discussion of core themes, but this will be superficial and confused. The annotated bibliography may tend towards description and the range of texts may be very limited, or be badly chosen, or may contain popular rather than academic texts, irrelevant websites or untrustworthy texts. The book review may be written in ways as described in the essay criteria above for this class; the counterfactual review may discuss relevant literature and relate it to a specific example but it may lack substance and focus. The overall presentation will have numerous inaccuracies, poor grammar, spelling errors, errors in syntax and overall the portfolio will betray confusion and a lack of critical engagement and only a limited understanding of the module.

good

Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical controversies. 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. will exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical controversies. Ideas will be communicated effectively in both verbal and written forms.

PORTFOLIO: Portfolio: portfolios in the 2i range will cover each section correctly and will be mostly analytical and critical throughout. Seminar summaries will be cogent and will maintain a good balance between describing preparation, contribution and areas to improve and analysis. The summaries will mostly relate to class discussions and will have some reflective critical analysis of the summary, areas for self-improvement and will relate the discussion to reading and core themes. The annotated bibliography will be focussed and critical and will a good selection of academic texts, the book review will be based on an academic monograph and will be well-written in ways as described in the essay criteria above, the counterfactual review will discuss relevant literature and relate it to a specific example in a mostly critical approach. Overall presentation of the portfolio will be accurate, the writing will have a good structure and purpose, and the writing style will be clear and lucid and will have a good analytical and thoughtful approach, references will support the arguments made and the presentation overall will be good with few mistakes.

C- to C+

Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a solid and 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 undergraduate 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.

PORTFOLIO: Portfolios awarded C- to C+ will cover each section in the required format, but may tend towards description rather than analysis. Seminar/workshop summaries may tend towards description and will have some balance between describing preparation, contribution and areas to improve and analysis. The summaries will have some reflections on how to improve but this may be vague or lack a secure understanding of the themes and the discussion of the areas for self-improvement may reflect this confusion. There may be some discussion of core themes. The annotated bibliography will be well-presented but may tend towards description and the range of texts may be limited, or may contain popular rather than academic texts, irrelevant websites or untrustworthy texts. The book review may be generally well-written in ways as described in the essay criteria above, the counterfactual review may discuss relevant literature and relate it to a specific example but it may lack substance and focus, and it may be related to limited reading of perhaps one or two items. Writing will be fairy well-organised and cogent but may contain weaknesses and there may be some confusion, irrelevance or /non-academic evidence. The presentation will be accurate. Overall there will be a some understanding the problems of studying history and historiography.

excellent

Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the 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, analysis and standards of presentation will be high.

PORTFOLIO: Portfolio: first-class portfolios will cover each section correctly and will be analytical and critical throughout, and will provide references in each section to support the argument. Seminar summaries will be especially cogent and thoughtful, and may, for example, provide a detailed example to illustrate a key point. The summaries will relate to class discussions and will have a reflective critical analysis of the summary, areas for self-improvement and will relate the discussion to reading and core themes. The annotated bibliography will be focused and critical and based on a good range of academic texts and will suggest a sure command of the items cited. The book review will be based on an academic monograph and will cogent, fluent and analytical, it will be very well written in ways as described in the essay criteria above, the counterfactual review will discuss relevant literature and relate it to a specific example in a critical and assured prose. The writing will be especially well-structured. The presentation will be very accurate and the writing style will be cogent and accurate with a consistently strong analytical approach.

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand the different ways in which the past may be understood, and of the extent to which it is a creation of later generations and subject to interpretation and controversy.

  2. Demonstrate an appreciation of the role of identity as a factor in our use of the past, and of the role of views of the past in political movements.

  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the way in which the discipline of history has developed, especially in recent decades, and an awareness of some the various influential schools of historical thought

  4. An ability to present clear, cogent, evidence-supported and referenced arguments about aspects of the course in degree essays.

  5. An ability to present a cogent, clear and evidence-based analysis of their reflection on seminars, and to reflect critically on scholarly apparatus and the skills required to compile a critical bibliography and to present a summary of key historiographies in a concise form (portfolio of work).

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
3,500 Word Essay 50
3000-4000 Word Portfolio 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Workshop

one hour per week weeks 5, 8, 10, 12

4
 
  1. 14 x 1 hour lectures (two per week, weeks 1-4, one per week weeks 5-12)

  2. 4 x 1 hour seminars (one per week, weeks 1-4)

  3. 6 x 2 hour seminars (weeks 4-10)

 
Lecture

2 per week, weeks 1-4 two per week in weeks 6. 9. 11

14
Private study 179
Seminar

one hour per week in weeks 2-4

3

Transferable skills

  • 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
  • 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
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity

Resources

Resource implications for students

Students may choose to by Tosh John, The pursuit of history: aims, methods, and new directions in the study of modern history (5th ed., 2010) (core text);

Talis Reading list

http://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/hch-2050.html

Reading list

Indicative general reading: full details in the student handbook: Black J., Macrail D., Studying History (2000). Bloch, Marc, The historians’ craft (1954). Burke, P., New perspectives on historical writing (1991). Burrow, J. W., A history of histories : epics, chronicles, romances and inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the twentieth century (2007) Cannadine, David, What is History now? (2002). Carr E.H. with a new introduction by Richard J. Evans What is history? (2001) Claus, Peter and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (2012) [on order Sept 2014] Collingwood, R.G., The idea of history (1946, 1980) Dray,William., Perspectives on history (1980). Elton, G.R., The practice of history (1979). Ermath, Elizabeth Deeds, History in the Discursive Condition: Reconsidering the Tools of Thought (2011), Finlay, M.J.,The use and abuse of history (1975). Galbraith, V.H., An introduction to the study of history (1964). Gardiner, J., What is history today? (1988). Green, Anna and Troup Kathleen, eds., The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-century History and Theory (1999). Hexter, J.H., Doing history (1971). Hughes-Warrington, Marnie, Fifty Key Thinkers on History (2008). Iggers, George G. and Q. Edward Wang, A Global History of Modern Historiography (2008). Lambert, P. and Schofield, P., ed., Making History (2004) Marwick, Arthur., The nature of history (1989). Plumb, J.H., The death of the past (1969). Ritter, H., Dictionary of concepts of history (1986). Southgate, B., What is history? (2005). Bonnie Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice (1998). Kenneth R., Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography (2011) Speigel, Gabrielle, ed., Practicing history : new directions in historical writing after the linguistic turn (2005). Tosh John, The pursuit of history: aims, methods, and new directions in the study of modern history (5th ed., 2010) (core text). Walker, Garthine (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (2005) Woolf, Daniel, A Global History of History (2011).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: