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Unit information: Outlaws in 2020/21

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Unit name Outlaws
Unit code HIST20120
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stone
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

We have always been fascinated by those who live outside the law: Robin Hood, the pirates of the Caribbean, the smugglers of eighteenth-century England, the cowboys of the American West. These, together with countless other groups, lived outside or beyond the law. All were a problem for the lawmakers of their time but often also elicited popular appeal and sympathy. This unit will explore the figure of the ‘outlaw’ in all guises, considering both those who chose ‘social banditry’ and those who became ‘outlaws’ when other nations claimed their land.

In this unit will address questions that go to the heart of nationhood, belonging and social justice. Why do people become ‘outlaws’? Should we see outlaws as ‘Social Bandits’, forming a counter culture in direct opposition to the dominant regime? Where does the divide lie between legal warfare and illegal plundering? How and why have the authorities responded to outlaws? Why do historic outlaws persist so powerfully in modern ‘collective memory’?

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of outlaws and their impacts on society

2. Discuss and evaluate the key historiographical debates surrounding outlaws

3. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points

4. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I.

5. Demonstrate skills in oral presentation appropriate to level I.

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

1 x 10-minute Individual Presentation (25%) [ILOs 1-2, 5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (75%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

Peter Andreas, Smuggler Nation: How illicit trade made America (Oxford: OUP, 2013)

Pauline Croft, 'Trading with the enemy, 1585-1604, Historical Journal, 32 (1989)

Shannon Lee Dawdy and Joe Bonni, ‘Towards a General Theory of Piracy’, Anthropology Quarterly, 85, 3 (2012).

Peter Earle, The Pirate Wars, (London: Methuen, 2004).

Erik Hobsbawm, Bandits, (London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1969).

Grace Moore (ed.), Pirates and Mutineers of the Nineteenth Century: Swashbucklers and Swindlers, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).