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Unit information: Thucydides and the Idea of History in 2015/16

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Unit name Thucydides and the Idea of History
Unit code CLAS30025
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Morley
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Thucydides was one of the first to write what we now call 'history'; his work has in many ways defined the genre – not least because he set out to do precisely that, and to establish his approach to understanding the past as a template for future generations. The aim of this unit is to explore different aspects of Thucydides’ historiography, from its methodological and critical principles to its narrative structure and rhetorical techniques, and to consider how these have influenced more modern conceptions. Thucydides has regularly been put forward as a model for contemporary historians – but the reasons for this, and the way his historical work is understood, have changed significantly over time. To understand his achievement, we also have to understand the way it has been interpreted and debated in the context of changing ideas of historiography as a whole.


To understand the nature of Thucydides’ approach to studying the past, and to explore the ways in which he develops and presents his findings;

To understand the history of the reception of Thucydides’ work, and the ways in which it has been interpreted as a model for modern historiography;

To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials;

To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to

(1)describe, explain and interpret the key aspects of Thucydides’ approach of writing history, and the way it has been understood by later readers.

(2)analyse passages of Thucydides’ work critically, and show how they illustrate these key themes and relate to wider debates about historiography.

(3)compare different interpretations of his work and its significance, and construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments based on their knowledge and understanding.

Students will also be expected to show:

(4) skills in critical thinking and in written communication appropriate to level H.

Teaching Information

2 hours per week (seminar)

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of 2 hour (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILOs (4).

Reading and References

Connor, W.R. (1987) Thucydides, Princeton

Greenwood, E. (2006) Thucydides and the Shaping of History, London

Harloe, K. & Morley, N., eds. (2012) Thucydides and the Modern World, Cambridge

Morley, N. (2014) Thucydides and the Idea of History, London

Rengakos, A. & Tsakmakis, A., eds. (2006) Brill’s Companion to Thucydides (2006)

Rusten, J., ed. (2009) Thucydides (Oxford Readings in Classical Studies, Oxford