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Unit information: Language and Power: Introductions to German History in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Language and Power: Introductions to German History
Unit code GERM10039
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Havinga
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit introduces students to key aspects in the history and development of the German peoples and the German language, and to the study of the German past through the disciplines of history and linguistics. It aims to help students develop their skills of critical analysis and synthesis, informed discussion and the written as well as oral presentation of ideas. It consists of:

  • a lecture series on key aspects of the history of Germany and Austria, and on the development of the German language;
  • weekly seminars to explore the themes of the lectures in greater detail and to develop skills of analysis and formal written and oral presentation.

The unit thus aims:

  • to develop critical understanding of key developments in the history of Germany and Austria, and in the history of the German language
  • to impart a broad knowledge of selected key concepts and turning points in the political and linguistic histories of the German peoples
  • to develop students’ sensitivity to key principles and tools for the analysis and understanding of the German past
  • to inculcate good practices and attitudes in study at university level, including: precision, curiosity, creativity, independence and imagination
  • to enhance students’ capacity to engage closely and critically, in oral and written form, with primary material and with scholarship
  • to develop key technical skills for university study, notably in research, close reading, independent and collaborative analysis and reasoned debate.

Intended learning outcomes

Students who complete the unit successfully will be able to:

1) outline knowledge of the political and linguistic history of the German-speaking world, and of key critical concepts in understanding that world

2) apply close textual reading skills, engaging independently with primary works, at a standard appropriate to Level 4

3) identify relevant primary and secondary literature (via library and IT resources) to inform their understanding of key concepts and developments in the history of the German-speaking world

4) turn their knowledge to critical analysis, formulating arguments orally and in writing at a standard appropriate to Level 4.

Teaching details

One 2hr lecture per week

One 1hr seminar per week

The seminar hours will include informal student presentations and will provide students with opportunities to prepare for the summative assessment.

Assessment Details

1) Two 500-word close textual analyses (one on linguistics and one on history), each counting 30% of the overall unit mark and testing ILOs 1, 2, and 4.

2) One group presentation, including a written preparatory proposal to be submitted for discussion in advance, counting 40% of the overall unit mark and testing ILOs 1-4.

For the group presentations, students will be given a choice of presentation titles, which will aim to bring aspects of history and linguistics together. The students will present their work at a mini-conference at the end of the unit. This format will enable students to feel part of a scholarly community, offer the chance of a significant event to mark the end of the semester or the year, and give students more insights into academic research work.

Reading and References

Allinson, Mark. 2014. Germany and Austria since 1814. London: Routledge.

Fulbrook, Mary. 2004. A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge: CUP.

Horan, Geraldine, Nils Langer, and Sheila Watts (eds). 2009. Landmarks in the History of the German Language. Bern: Peter Lang.

MacGregor, Neil. 2016. Germany: Memories of a Nation. London: Penguin.

Salmons, Joseph. 2012. A History of German. What the past reveals about today’s language. Oxford: OUP.