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Unit information: Approaching the Past in 2021/22

Unit name Approaching the Past
Unit code HIST13015
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. James Watts
Open unit status Not open




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


In this unit we will be introducing you to some key skills that will carry through your degree, and in some cases into the world of work. But perhaps the most important aim of the unit is to encourage you to read, write and think as an historian and to introduce you to the challenges and the excitement of actually exploring the discipline yourself. This unit will be constructed by a series of lectures and workshops. Everyone attends the lectures, which amount to 20 hours in total. You are then divided into smaller groups, and will attend a total of 10 workshops. By the end of the unit you should understand what is distinctive about the study of history and understand why historians study their subject in the ways they do. You should also be able to reflect upon the complex relationship between evidence and interpretation, and to think about the nature of academic debate.


This unit is designed to prepare students for degree-level study in history by equipping them with the skills they will need. It focuses upon fostering the practical and interpretive skills required by those studying history, and upon developing students' sense of what being an historian involves. It thus aims to introduce students to the challenges and the excitement of studying this subject, with a particular emphasis on how to read, interpret and discuss historical texts and objects.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of what constitutes plagiarism
  2. Identify a topic for historical research and demonstrate an understanding of how to conduct and frame that research
  3. Demonstrate skills in critical analysis of primary sources
  4. Develop skills in oral presentation appropriate to level C/4
  5. Employ PowerPoint or similar technology effectively in a presentation

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

  • 2 x 600 word source commentaries (25% each) [ILOs 2-3]
  • 1 x 10 minute individual presentation (50%) [ILOs 2-5]
  • Plagiarism test [ILO 1]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HIST13015).