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Unit information: Borderlands: People and Places at the Periphery (Reflective History Unit) in 2018/19

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Unit name Borderlands: People and Places at the Periphery (Reflective History Unit)
Unit code HIST30079
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Daniel Haines
Open unit status Not open




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


Borders and frontiers are key sites of historical analysis. North American pioneers crossed the Great Plains to find new lands in the West; incursions by Indian and Pakistani soldiers over the ‘Line of Control’ in disputed Kashmir regularly threaten to turn into a major conflagration. But while borders between countries seem ‘natural’ in the modern world, they are as often conduits as barriers: witness the Basque communities that straddle the Pyrenees. Frontiers can also separate ‘human’ from ‘natural’ domains, marking out the limits of civilization. Combining case studies with conceptual readings, this unit will reflect on the diverse borderland histories that have grown out of American, European, Asian, African and imperial contexts. It will also explore the multiple methodologies and theoretical frameworks that scholars are developing for understanding borders, bringing history into dialogue with political geography, international relations, and anthropology.


Reflective history is identified in the Subject Benchmarking Statement as an important skill. Whilst students will reflect on their work in all of their units the aim of this unit will be to focus on that reflective practice and to enable students to carry it forward in conjunction with a particular historical subject matter which will fit in with their overall portfolio of subject/period/theme-based units.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

(1) a broad understanding of the development of borderlands in the early modern and modern eras;

(2) the ability to assess historiographical and interdisciplinary approaches to borders and frontiers;

(3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments;

(4) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and to form and express an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

2-hour exam (100%) which will assess ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, ‘From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, nation-states, and the peoples in between in North American history’, The American Historical Review 104:3 (June 1999): 814-841.

Richard M. Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1706 (Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 1993)

J. R. V. Prescott, Political Frontiers and Boundaries (London: Unwin Hyman, 1987).

John F. Richards, The Unending Frontier: An environmental history of the early modern world (Berkeley; London: University of California Press, 2003).

Peter Sahlins, Boundaries: the making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley; Oxford: University of California Press, 1989).

Frederick Jackson Turner, ‘The Significance of the Frontier in American History’ (1893), in ‘The significance of the frontier in American history’ and other essays/ with commentary by John Mack Faragher (New York: H. Holt, 1994).