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Unit information: Approaches to History in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Approaches to History
Unit code HISTM2009
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Jones
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)


Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


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

Unit Information

Why is this unit important?

As our core TB1 unit, Approaches to History is designed to allow students to build their understanding of history as a dynamic and ever-changing discipline. What historians study reflects the evolving values, concerns and politics of their own societies. Likewise, philosophies, methodologies, and theories, often emerging from other disciplines and stimulated by technological or scientific advancements, have allowed historians to ask new questions and answer them in novel ways. In this unit we will introduce you to some of the key theoretical and methodological developments that have shaped academic history in recent decades.

Understanding our discipline, its boundaries, strengths and limitations - why it is the way it is - is a key step to becoming a historian yourself.

How does this unit fit into your programme of study?

Across TB1 students will take units designed to introduce them to new areas of study, and a variety of methodological approaches to the study of the past. The aim of Approaches to History is to provide all MA students with the core competencies required to identify and analyse existing historiographical fields through a study of the methods, sources, and approaches that historians have adopted. This provides students with a thorough foundation for TB2, where they will be expected to begin developing their own research projects and undertaking source analysis of their own.

Your learning on this unit

An Overview of Content:

The aim of this unit is to explore the factors that drive new approaches to historical research. Why do historians ask particular questions and not others? How does this influence their choice of research methods and sources? And how have advances outside the discipline impacted on our own? What, in short, is the relation between theory and practice, between methodology and research?  On this unit students will be introduced to a range of historical approaches from areas such as political and social history, through to oral history, sensory history, memory studies, and much more besides.

You will also be invited to use the approaches you have studied to analyse a wide range of materials, particularly as they relate to your own emerging research interests.

How will you be different as a result of taking this unit?

This unit will encourage you to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches, both for the historical profession as a whole, and for your own work. This should lead you to think about your own approach to history. As well as asking big questions about the nature of the discipline, this unit is also designed to help you with the transition to MA study. Help and advice on essay writing, using the library, electronic resources, and so on, will be available throughout the unit. It will assist you in formulating clear and effective questions and methodologies for both your essays and your dissertation.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of key historiographical developments and some of the major types of history which academics undertake;
  2. Evaluate critically different approaches, sources, and methodologies that historians have used;
  3. Develop and justify their own independent opinions and arguments relating to established historiographical traditions;
  4. Express these opinions at length in written work which deploys high level skills in selecting, applying, interpreting and organising information.

How you will learn

This unit will be taught through a combination of weekly seminars and asynchronous activity designed to help support your assessment.

The seminar will be based around discussion of key texts, historiographies, methodologies, and approaches. This will serve both to increase your familiarity with the core historical issues and to build your confidence in communicating your own ideas. The asynchronous activities are designed to build your confidence in reading, thinking and writing independently, providing structured tasks to be completed on your own.

How you will be assessed

Tasks which count towards your unit mark (summative):

One 2,000-word Essay (ILOs 1-4) [40%].

One 3,000-word Essay (ILOs 1-4) [60%].

When assessment does not go to plan:

When required by the Board of Examiners, you will normally complete reassessments in the same formats as those outlined above. However, the Board reserves the right to modify the format or number of reassessments required. Details of reassessments are confirmed by the School/Centre shortly after the notification of your results at the end of the year.


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. HISTM2009).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.