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Unit information: Approaching the Past in 2020/21

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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. Rob Skinner
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

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

By the end of the unit students will be equipped to:

  1. understand what constitutes plagiarism
  2. work together in a group on a research project
  3. provide a short group presentation to students and assessors based on a research project
  4. employ Powerpoint or similar technology effectively in a presentation
  5. demonstrate an understanding of what is distinctive about the about the study of history and why historians study their subject in the ways they do.

Teaching Information

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 Information

Plagiarism test (students are required to pass this in order to complete the unit) [ILO 1]

10-minute Individual Project Presentation + 1200-word Critical Commentary (100%) [ILOs 2-5]

Reading and References

J. Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2000)

L. Jordanova, History in Practice [2nd edn.] (Hodder Arnold, 2006).

A. Munslow, The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies (Routledge, 2006).

J. Tosh, Historians on History (Pearson Longman, 2000).

J. Tosh, The Pursuit of History [4th edn.] (Pearson Longman, 2002).