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Module HPH-4005:
Themes and issues in History

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Peter Shapely

Overall aims and purpose

This course will introduce students to a range of approaches, methodology, interpretations and key debates that are relevant to the study of History. It will encourage an understanding of current ideas and debates through in-depth and critical discussion. It will also engage with the theoretical and philosophical context of different approaches. The discussions will be grounded, where appropriate, in specific examples and students will be encouraged to apply the ideas and critiques to a range of different case-studies. The module will develop skills in critical thinking and the ability to participate in debates on issues of interpretation and methodology.

Course content

The module will introduce you to current debates and important areas of research in historical discipline. These will include themes such as cultural history, gender, class, urban history, national identity and secularisation. It will look at how historians have taken a variety of methodological approaches and intellectual influences. Individual members of staff will usually focus on their particular period or topic of expertise, using it as a case-study; however, in the list of reading you will have a broader selection of literature that covers earlier and modern periods.

Assessment Criteria


A/70%: To gain a distinction, students will, in addition, demonstrate originality in their interpretation of the evidence.


C/50%: To pass students must show a basic competence based on the above criteria. They will demonstrate an appropriate depth of knowledge in at least parts of the relevant evidence; they will make at least partially successful attempts to analyse the material showing some knowledge of current debates and interpretations; they will present their written work in a way which demonstrates a serious attempt to structure and present it clearly and correctly.


B/60%: Students will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria in the above paragraph.

Learning outcomes

  1. A broad knowledge of interpretations and key debates relevant to the study of History, and an ability to place these in their historiographical context.

  2. A close familiarity with the theoretical frameworks that are particularly relevant to the student¿s chosen course of study and research interests.

  3. Recognize that representations of the past can be produced using a range of different methodologies, philosophical and theoretical approaches.

  4. Present a clearly structured argument in the form of a 4500 word essay, on an aspect of the approach and interpretation of history that critically engages with current debates.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay 4,500 words 100

Teaching and Learning Strategy


10 x 1-hour seminars


Seminars discussing individual topics based on students' reading.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • 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.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Caring - Showing concern for others; caring for children, people with disabilities and/or the elderly
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • 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
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • 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
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Ritter, Harry: Dictionary of concepts of history (Westport, 1986). Tucker, Aviezer (ed.): A companion to the philosophy of history and historiography (Chichester, 2009).

Bloch, Marc: The historian’s craft (Manchester, 1954). Burke, Peter (ed.): New perspectives on historical writing (Cambridge, 1991). Burke, Peter: History and social theory (Cambridge, 1992). Burke, Peter: What is Cultural History? (2nd ed. Cambridge, 2008). Cannadine, David (ed.): What is History now? (New York, 2002). Collingwood, R.G.: The idea of history (Oxford, 1994). Day, Mark: The philosophy of history: An introduction (London, 2008). Doran, Robert (ed.): Philosophy of history after Hayden White (New York, 201 Jenkins, Keith (ed.): The Postmodern History Reader (London, 1997). Lemon, M. C.: Philosophy of history: A guide for students (London, 2003). Macfie, Alexander Lyon: The philosophy of history: Talks given at the Institute of Historical Research, London, 2000-2006 (Basingstoke, 2006). Marwick, Arthur: The nature of history: Knowledge, evidence, language (Basingstoke, 2001). Stern, Fritz (ed.): The Varieties of History: From Voltaire to the Present (London, 1970). Tosh, John: The pursuit of history: Aims, methods, and new directions in the study of modern history (2nd ed. London, 1991).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: