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Unit information: Rethinking History in 2018/19

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Unit name Rethinking History
Unit code HIST23101
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Hailwood
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This course is called 'Rethinking History' because we want you to rethink your understanding of the discipline of History. You will do this by developing a greater awareness of how and why historians are constantly rethinking the past. This is not only in terms of how they interpret it, but also how they approach it: the questions they want to ask about the past, and the concepts and methods they use to do so. It is, essentially, a course in historiography. This is not a dirty word. A unit on historiography requires you to explore the types of questions you explore in all other units: how and why do things change over time? What are the main causes of change, or of continuity? Who are the key individuals and groups driving change? It is just that in this unit we are not asking these questions of 20th century China, or Reformation Europe, but rather of the discipline of History itself.

The unit explores these questions through a focus on a number of key 'fields' within the discipline of History (e.g. social history and environmental history), and explores how and why these fields have developed their distinctive approach to the past. In the process, the unit introduces students to some of the main fields of scholarship that historians in our Department work within.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. articulate the methodological diversity and richness of historical studies,
  2. evidence and critically assess the development and character of varieties of historical writing over time
  3. discuss how historians use and apply concepts (e.g.gender) in historical debates
  4. evaluate historiographical debates, and to locate texts within their appropriate historiographical context
  5. characterise the relationship between history and cognate disciplines within both the humanities and the social sciences
  6. make historiographical and methodological connections between historical writing about different periods and places

Teaching details

  • Twice weekly 1 hour lectures
  • 4 x 1-hour seminars (groups of c.15 students) taken over the teaching block
  • Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor(s)

Assessment Details

  • 2-hour exam (100%) [ILOs 1-6]

Reading and References

John Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (2000)

Anna Green and Kathleen Troup, The Houses of History (1999)

Jo Guldi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto (2014, online open access)

David Cannadine (ed.), What is History Now? (2002)

IHR 'Making History' webpages (