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Unit information: Rethinking History in 2015/16

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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. Daniel Haines
Open unit status Not open




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


What is history for? Is history always destined to be present history? Is it possible to write a history of the Crusades that would satisfy audiences in London and in Tehran?

This unit introduces students to the rich debates that have occupied historians on how to practice the craft of history. As you may have realised following your first year's studies, there is little consensus among historians about the function, nature or practice of history today. History is always, and has always been shaped by contemporary discourses. Whilst the course cannot pretend to transcend these arguments, it does aim to supply students with a map of the main contours of debates and an understanding of the main reasons for such fundamental disagreements though a series of case studies of history writing in practice. It also guides students through some of the major movements that have shaped contemporary historical thought.


This unit is intended to familiarise students with the diversity and richness of historical writing today. The unit offers an introduction to a variety of sub-disciplines (eg, cultural history) that reflects the range of current and past historical study. The unit aims to equip students with the conceptual tools they need to develop further their understanding of particular topics and to strengthen their capacity to make connections between the different areas of their studies.

Intended learning outcomes

  • to appreciate the methodological diversity and richness of historical studies
  • to understand and critically assess the development of varieties of historical writing over time
  • to think historiographically
  • to understand the emergence and contested character of sub-disciplinary divisions
  • to understand how historians use concepts in historical debates
  • to understand critically and apply effectively key historical concepts (eg, gender)
  • to locate texts within an appropriate historiographical context
  • to understand and evaluate historiographical debate
  • to characterise the relationship between history and cognate disciplines within both the humanities and the social sciences
  • to make historiographical and methodological connections between historical writing about different periods and places.

All of these elements will contribute to the wider outcome of improving independent learning and research skills.

Teaching details

  • Twice weekly 1 hour lectures
  • Addition of 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

  • 24-hour written take-home examination (100% UAM)
  • 5 minute presentation (formative assessment)

Reading and References

A. Green and K. Troup (eds.), The Houses of History (1999)

John Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (2000)

M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969)

P. Burke, What is cultural history? (2004)

Eric Hobsbawm, On History (2000)

Lumilla Jordanova, History in Practice (2000)

Robert C. Allen, Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (2011)