A (dis)united Kingdom? Early modern perspectives on the makeup of Britain, 1485-1707 2023-24
School Of History, Law And Social Sciences
Module - Semester 1
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. In this Special Topic we will be undertaking a ‘four nations’ assessment of the early modern expansion of the English state and the cultural and constitutional creation of Britain.
In the module we will focus on issues of identity, 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. We will proceed 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 ‘legacy’ sessions tracing the evolution of key themes, issues and questions from 1707 to the present day. We will continually assess how an understanding of the early modern context can contribute towards contemporary debates about the nature and future of post-Brexit Britain. You will find this module especially engaging if you are interested in the early modern period generally, the interconnectivity of cultural and political history, or the formation of nations and identities.
Week 1 - Today’s context: competing versions and visions of Britain and Britishness in global perspective
Week 2 - Introduction: a) Key dates, debates and definitions; b) The medieval background: kingdoms and cultures
Week 3 - Wales, the Tudor and Stuart state, and the Cambro-British inheritance, 1485-1707
Week 4 - Ireland and the Tudor state: Catholicism, conquest and colonisation
Week 5 - The kingdom of Scotland and Anglo-Scottish relations before 1603
Week 6 - Reading Week
Week 7 - Imaging the nations: identities, languages and cultures
Week 8 - England and its regions: crown, government and locality in the 16th and 17th centuries
Week 9 - British consciousness and identity pre-1707
Week 10 - The War of the Three Kingdoms and its aftermaths, 1639-1662
Week 11 - Restoration, Revolution and Union, 1660-1707
Week 12 - Legacies: The United Kingdom(s) from 1707 to the present day
• Threshold students (D- to D+) will demonstrate an appropriate range or depth of knowledge and understanding of at least parts of the module, and will make partly-successful attempts to develop skills which correlate with the requirements of History undergraduate work. The structure of the essay and coursework tasks may be rather opaque, and the discussion ambiguous, lacking in clarity and articulacy at times. The coursework portfolio may be incomplete, or include one or more elements which lack focus on core themes and issues, or address the problems/questions with imprecision. The essay and coursework tasks may display cursory intellectual engagement and some confusion of source material. Little attempt is made to engage with secondary or primary evidence. One or more of the coursework tasks may not be correctly formatted. The essay / one or more of the coursework tasks may have an unclear structure and the portfolio overall may contain insufficient well-presented, well-chosen material.
• Good students (C- to C+) will show evidence of solid reading and understanding in both the essay and coursework portfolio, but parts of their work will still remain superficial; cover most of the important aspects of the field, but lack depth or accuracy; have an argument, but only employ limited evidence. There will be lack of engagement with source materials. The coursework portfolio may include one or more elements which lack a precise focus on core themes and issues, or address the problems/questions with sketchiness. Tasks may demonstrate some intellectual engagement with relevant primary and secondary evidence. Lines of argument may not be as clear as they could have been. The tasks generally conform to the correct format but may display anomalies. One or more of the coursework tasks may have an unclear structure. The portfolio overall contains some well-presented, well-chosen material.
• Good students (B- to B+) will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria outlined in the paragraph above, and will exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical evidence and historiographical controversies. Ideas and arguments will be communicated effectively in both the essay and across the coursework portfolio. The coursework portfolio will always retain a precise focus on the core themes and issues, and address the problems/questions with accurate and relevant material. Tasks will demonstrate good intellectual engagement with relevant primary and secondary evidence. Arguments are presented and almost all lines of argument are supported and illustrated with appropriate evidence. The tasks conform to the correct format and are mostly presented in an accurate fashion, with some engaging elements. All of the coursework tasks will have a clear structure. The portfolio overall contains material which is mostly well-presented and well-chosen.
• Excellent students (A- and above) will show depth of achievement across the criteria outlined above, combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge, sophistication and/or subtlety of analysis across the essay and coursework portfolio. Work will exhibit a sophisticated engagement with core themes and issues, and address the problems/questions with reference to an impressive selection of illuminating material. Tasks will demonstrate in depth and detailed intellectual engagement with relevant primary and secondary evidence. Coherent and convincing arguments are presented, which are comprehensively supported with appropriate evidence. All of the tasks conform to the correct format and are presented in an accurate and engaging fashion. All of the coursework tasks will have a clear structure. The portfolio overall contains material which is always well-presented and well-chosen.
- Analyse primary sources, assess them in the historical contexts in which they were produced, and to use them to construct arguments relating to the themes and issues of the module.
- Critically analyse competing scholarly interpretations relating to the construction, character and composition of the British state and British identities
- Demonstrate an ability to articulate sustained, informed and analytical historical arguments.
- Evaluate the connections and differences between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales across the period 1485-1707 and the short- and long-term effects of these interactions.
Logbook Or Portfolio
Module Portfolio For this task students will be required to submit a portfolio of reports and reflections associated with two of the weekly themes and issues. Each report should feature a) a referenced summary of the historiography relating to the weekly theme; b) reflections on the workshop discussion; c) a critical analysis of one primary source associated with the theme; d) a short bibliography. Each report should be c.1,000 words, excluding references and the bibliography. Further details to be provided in the module handbook.
3,000 word essay based on questions provided in the module handbook, or agreed in advance with the module convenor.