Modern stream handbook

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Department of History

Module Director: Dr Claudia Stein

Cover illustration key

The portraits are of historians or thinkers who have influenced the study of history in important ways. They are all examined on this module. They are, from top left corner, and going left to right on each line as follows:

Leopold von Ranke Karl Marx Max Weber Marc Bloch

Walter Benjamin Fernand Braudel E.P. Thompson Carlo Ginzburg

Michel Foucault Edward Said Ranajit Guha Judith Walkowitz

Introducing the module

This is a core module counting for one 30-CAT unit in Finals. It is compulsory for all single-honours History students, optional for joint degree and other advanced students. As a core module it complements teaching in specialised History modules, by providing a broad context for understanding developments in the discipline of history during the modern period. It asks students to consider what form of thinking and writing (what kind of human endeavour) ‘history’ is, and to relate the historiographical developments discussed during the course, to the works of history they study on Advanced Option and Special Subject modules.

Historiography is also intended to develop students’ abilities in study, research, and oral and written communication, through a programme of seminars, lectures and essay work.

Historiography has been designed to complement the learning which students will have done so far in their work in the Department, both in core and optional modules. For all students taking it, Historiography provides an overview of ‘doing History’ from the later eighteenth-century onwards, the ideas that have underpinned historical research and writing, and of recent theories of history (many of them drawn from other disciplines), as they have been used by historians. It provides students with an opportunity to think reflexively about the nature of the historical enterprise. You are encouraged to link your studies in Historiography with your other third-year modules.

The syllabus has two major themes. There is a broad historical sweep encompassing the eighteenth-century origins of modern history, the founders of academic history, including Ranke, Marx, and Weber, and historians of the Frankfurt and Annales Schools. Then the course focuses on recent and contemporary developments in theories and practices of history from the 1960s to the present. The setting for European/Western developments in historical thinking is conceived of as global. The starting point is the later eighteenth-century because that was a period of more intensified encounters between historiographical traditions from different parts of the world.

Teaching and Learning

The module runs in Terms 1, and 2, and two weeks in Term 3. Teaching is through 20 x 1-hour lectures (9 in Term 1, 9 in Term 2, and 2 in Term 3). They are all taught on Tuesdays at 10-11 am in the L4 (Science Concourse). There are 20 x 90 mins seminars, attached to the weekly lectures. Seminar groups will normally consist of 12-16 students and will all take place on Tuesday afternoon. Times and venues will be arranged before the beginning of term and first lecture; they will be found on the History Department Third Year Notice Board, and on the Historiography webpage. There are individual tutorials to discuss feedback on three written assignments (non-assessed essays) over the course of the year. Tutors may allow students to substitute mock exam answers for the third and final essay.

Lectures and Seminars

Seminars follow the lectures and are always connected to them. Lecturers on this module aim to provide both an introduction to the topic in hand, and a series of propositions about it. The perspectives of the lecture and the reading assigned by your tutor make up the material discussed in the seminar. You are expected to read in advance the basic texts set for that week.

Seminar Preparation

In this Handbook each seminar is described in terms of reading Texts/Documents

/Arguments/Sources which, with the guidance of your seminar tutor, you should complete as preparation for the seminar. It is important that you always read the set text reading for the week, as familiarity with these texts forms one of the criteria in the awarding of marks in the summer examination. For each seminar there is a list of Questions to guide your reading and note-taking (some of these may also be adapted as short-essay titles; an extended list of possible titles will be also found at the end of this Handbook). Your seminar tutor may also assign additional or alternative readings from the Background Seminar Reading lists. Additional readings are listed under different headings to provide you with Bibliographies for essay-writing. Sometimes, these additional or further readings and the questions they raise may be the focus of your seminar group’s discussion. The summer examination paper is composed by the course team that conducts the lectures and seminars, bearing in mind the experience of each seminar group, as well as the lecture series.


General Surveys

  • Bentley, Michael, Modern Historiography: An Introduction (1999). Focuses on broad trends in largely European history-writing from the Enlightenment period onwards.

  • Berger, Stefan, H. Feldner and K. Passmore (eds), Writing History: Theory and Practice (2003)

  • Burrow, John, A History of Histories. Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus … to the Twentieth Century (2007)

  • Carr, E.H., What is History? (1961). A core text that you should read in full at the start of the year.

  • Claus, Peter and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (2012)

  • Collingwood, R.G., The Idea of History (1946). A classic.

  • Ermath, Elizabeth Deeds, History in the Discursive Condition: Reconsidering the Tools of Thought (2011). Examines the state of history-writing in the light of the postmodern challenge.

  • Green, Anna and Kathleen Troup (eds), The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-century History and Theory (1999). This is particularly useful for the way it introduces a theoretical and methodological vocabulary for studying twentieth-century historiography.

  • Hughes-Warrington, Marnie, Fifty Key Thinkers on History (2008). Provides short essays on fifty mainly European and US historians, historiographers, and thinkers who have had an impact on history-writing.

  • Iggers, George G. and Q. Edward Wang, A Global History of Modern Historiography (2008). Examines history-writing as a global phenomenon, getting away from the Eurocentricity of much of the existing literature on historiography. Focuses on the period covered in this module (in contrast to Woolf, below).

  • Lambert, P. and Schofield, P, Making History (2004), (note you can access this whole book online at )

  • Rochona Majumdar, Writing Postcolonial History (2010)

  • Bonnie Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice (1998). Provides a particularly useful account of nineteenth-century developments in historical thinking and writing, and the professionalization of the discipline.

  • Southgate, Beverley, History: What and Why: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern Perspectives (1996).

  • Stunkel, Kenneth R., Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography (2011). Provides short introductions to key writings of fifty historians and thinkers who have had an impact on history-writing, from all over the world.

  • Walker, Garthine (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (2005). Provides a really helpful discussion relevant to all historians, not just early modernists.

  • Woolf, Daniel, A Global History of History (2011). Takes a broad sweep, with chapters on the different historical epochs of the past three millennia.

Books to Buy?

We suggest you buy books for highly practical reasons, as the university library cannot (under copyright legislation) digitalise more than one chapter or one-fifth (whichever is the shortest) of a book. Many of the books on the ‘General Survey’ list are appropriate in this respect. Most focus on broad historiographical trends rather than the particular historians and theorists that provide the focus for this particular module. Such figures will however be covered in these books in more or less depth in passing (use the content-list and index). You will get your money’s worth out of purchasing books such as Troup and Green’s Houses of History, Hughes-Warrington’s Fifty Key Thinkers in History (2000), Bentley’s Modern Historiography (1999), Claus and Marriot’s History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (2012), and, for a more global spread, Iggers and Wang, A Global History of Modern Historiography (2008).

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