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Unit information: Rethinking 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 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. We want you to develop a greater awareness of how and why historians are constantly rethinking the past. We want you to reflect on how and why historians’ interpretations of the past are constantly changing, but also how and why their approaches to it have changed, and continue to change, over time. What questions do historians ask about the past, and what concepts and methods do they use to do so? What influences these things? 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 twentieth century China, or Reformation Europe, but rather of the discipline of History itself.

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

1 x 2-hr Exam (50%) [ILOs 1-6]

1 x 2000-word Portfolio (50%) [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 (