Module
descriptions

for Liberal Studies (History)

Introduction to Western History

A survey of aspects of the political, social and cultural history of Western Europe in the classical and mediaeval periods. This will include discussion of Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic; classical art and architecture; epic, drama and philosophy; classical slavery and mediaeval feudalism; the rise of Christianity and Islam; mediaeval art and architecture; university cities and mercantile towns; Renaissance and New Learning.

Study of History

The course will cover the skills and ideas that we need to use as historians. We will survey a range of ‘primary evidence’ – the building blocks of history. The range of evidence will include official documents, private letters, paintings, oral history and literature. We will also study how historians have written history, beginning with Greek historians such as Herodotus and continuing into the twenty-first century, looking at theories and approaches such as Marxism, the French Annales school, post-colonial history… And we will brush up our historical skills: how do you use footnotes, how to write a bibliography, how to research historical literature online and how to handle numerical data.

The World’s Religions

This module will introduce students to a number of major religious traditions of the world. The primary aims of such an exploration will be to introduce students to the methodologies, issues, and challenges surrounding the academic study of religions and religious histories and to foster a greater appreciation for the many ways of living in this world other than our own. We will focus first on religions emanating from the Indian matrix of South Asia, then consider religion within the sphere of the influence of Chinese civilization, before finishing with a look at the so–called ‘Abrahamic’ traditions. This cross–cultural investigation will attend primarily to the histories and key ideas, movements, personalities, and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Other elements found within each tradition – such as diaspora communities and gender issues – will also be examined.    

The Formation of Modern Europe

In this module we engage with the two revolutions that shaped modern Europe: the French revolution and the industrial revolution. It then examines the politics and society of the nineteenth century. We look at liberalism, constitutional and social change in a number of European countries with a particular focus on France, Italy and Germany. We also look at the growth of socialism and emergence of modern idea of social class. A further major theme of the course is nationalism and the forging of the modern nation state, particularly in the progress of Italian and German unification.

History of London

We will study the history of London and Londoners by looking at the varied historical evidence, with different types of evidence being more appropriate or informative for different periods. For Roman London, for example, we will look at the primary evidence of Roman artefacts (discovered by archaeologists). For medieval London we will consider the religious beliefs of the day and visit a surviving medieval church. To understand the Great Fire of 1666 we will read contemporary accounts and go and look at buildings from before and after the Fire. For London in the twentieth century we will look at images and film of the Second World War and consider the impact that war had on ordinary Londoners.

Medieval and Early Modern England

Topics covered on this module will vary from year to year. One topic will be the life and times of Henry VIII, who ruled England in the turbulent years of the early sixteenth century (1509–47). The module will think about themes of change and continuity. Under the umbrella of ‘change’, we will look at the beginnings of the English religious Reformation and consider the new forms of architecture of the period. For ‘continuity’, we will think about England’s foreign policy (alliances with and against France) and the continuing challenges and experience of rural life for ordinary English people. We will get to grips with the complicated chronology of Henry’s marriages, and see how this personal history illuminates the political and religious events of his reign.

20th Century Britain

We begin by introducing ourselves to the geography and politics of Britain and by briefly examining the legacy of the major events which shaped British politics and society before 1900. We then start our survey in Edwardian Britain amidst labour unrest, the suffragettes, constitutional struggle over the House of Lords and threatened civil war over Ireland. From there we examine Britain’s role in the First World War and the ways in which this affected British society. The next part of the course examines the political struggles of the inter-war years, the role of Britain in the Second World War, and the road to Labour’s election victory in 1945. We also look at decolonisation abroad and party politics in the ‘age of consensus’ at home. The later part of the course examines the Thatcher revolution, the making of New Labour and the nature of British society at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Throughout the course, we will intersperse our study of ‘high politics’ with an investigation of social and cultural developments over the decades.

20th Century Europe

In this module we look at the world crisis of the early twentieth century: the origins and consequences of the First World War, the Russian revolution and Stalinism, European fascism, and the Second World War. We also examine the major developments of the second half of the twentieth century including in the cold war, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the rise of European integration. The module also considers the nature of social and cultural change over the century in a number of European countries. We also look at the historical controversies that have informed our understanding of these events and processes.

20th century US International History

This course surveys twentieth century United States history. The class will focus on foreign policy, but also spends time with social and political history of the US. The course aims to explain how foreign policy shaped the conditions, attitudes, and values of present-day America. The class will provide students with an incredible opportunity to understand the present by looking at the important historical events that made the United States one of the most powerful nations in the world.

Topics in International History

The content for this module will vary according to the expertise of the tutor delivering it. It could for example focus on African History: Africa over the last two centuries. Students would explore the pre-colonial period, examine the impact of slavery, and explore the legacies of colonialism on nationalism and the African state. Drawing on comparative methodology and independent research, students will further develop regional expertise and in-depth understanding of Africa’s complex history.

Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Topics covered on this module will vary from year to year. One topic will be the European Reformation of the sixteenth century. From about 1517 to 1570, the religious landscape of the West was in turmoil: old ideas were challenged, radical new ideas were emerging and a new religion, or religions, of Protestantism gradually came into being. We will examine the leaders of the Reform movements – including Luther, Zwingli and Calvin – as well as studying the strengths and responses of traditional Catholicism. We will also consider some of the ways that ordinary Europeans experienced the Reformation: obedience, crises of faith, changes to their local churches, closure of monasteries, religious persecution and war.

Advanced Topics in History

The content for this module will vary according to the expertise of the tutor delivering it. It could, for example, look at the ideological origins of both Communism and Fascism separately and in a comparative context and critically analyse the various theoretical, philosophical and historical interpretations of these ideologies both and the time and later. Alternatively it might study the major diplomatic problems of the second half of the twentieth-century: the origins and course of the Second World War; decolonization; Cold War diplomacy; and the fall of the Soviet Empire. Other possible topics include literature and politics in Britain, and landscape history. The key point is that you will build on the skills you have learned earlier in the degree to apply to a more focused period or subject, developing your critical analysis of both primary sources and the ways in which various historians have interpreted them.

The History of Modern China: Imperialism and Recovery

The course opens with a short survey of Warring States and Early-Imperial China (China through the Ming dynasty) before examining closely the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the last major dynasty in Chinese history. We will then explore the forces, internal and external, that drove China toward a major revolution in the twentieth century. This section of the course will pay particular attention to external interests (British, Russian, Japanese, etc.) in China and how this led, first, to imperialism and, second, to strong Chinese nationalism. After surveying the nationalistic rivalry between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Guomindang Party, the course will focus on the emergence of the People's Republic of China, from the Mao years through the Deng Xiaoping-Jiang Zemin era. While the course focuses primarily on mainland China, i.e., traditional China geo-culturally speaking, attention is devoted to exploring "Chinas" at other levels, such as the Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas Chinese communities where Chinese history and culture remain strong forces (e.g., Malaysia, Hawaii, and San Francisco).

Philosophy of History

This module explores the central philosophical topics relevant to the study of history. These topics include evidence, knowledge, explanation, interpretation, language, time and truth. Philosophers studied may include Hegel, Oakshott, Collingwood, Hempel, and Dray. In addition the course may explore the relevance of Bayesianism, the epistemology of testimony, social constructivism, and dialogical hermeneutics to the study of history.

Major Capstone (Dissertation)

The purpose of this module is to bring together the breadth of a Liberal Arts student’s learning and experience to bear on a major project. Starting from the student’s major area of study the project will reach out to incorporate elements from the totality of learning on the programme and the realisation of the breadth that a Liberal Arts graduate has achieved. The Capstone can take the form of a reflective practice-based project or a traditional written dissertation subject to meeting the word-length equivalencies below. The Capstone will run over two semesters and will be supervised by a minimum of one supervisor although two may be allocated depending on the nature of the work.