Historical Approaches to the Modern World

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Taylor Sherman SAR M.10


This course is compulsory on the BA in History and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available on the BSc in Politics and History. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides a foundation to allow first-year historians to come to grips with the many different ways in which historians pursue their craft. The year begins with a critical discussion of the two institutions at the core of History: universities and archives. Students examine the power relations they sustain and the possibilities for change in the twenty-first century. Next students consider scalar and spatial approaches to history, and then they turn to global, international and transnational history. In the second term, the course explores approaches to identity, and then social history including commodities, sport and the history of clothing. Finally students explore non-textual sources. As students encounter these different methodologies, they maintain a critical approach to the work historians do and the archives they use for their research. While exploring these themes, the course also introduces students to key skills required of a historian: navigating a reading list; taking notes; composing reading summaries; identifying & using historiography; approaching essay questions; developing an argument; structuring essays; footnoting and evidence; avoiding plagiarism; and critically engaging with archival materials.


Each subject is taught across two sessions per week. Large-group learning engagement includes short recorded lectures, external content, small group meetings and live Q&A sessions. Students will engage with small-group class content in a variety of ways, including one-hour sessions, small group meetings, and asynchronous moodle posts.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay and 1 other piece of coursework in the MT and 1 essay in the LT.

Regular moodle posts are a component of the coursework for this course.

Indicative reading

  • Armitage, David, Alison Bashford, and Sujit Sivasundaram (eds), Oceanic Histories (2017).
  • Bentley, Jerry H., ‘Sea and Ocean Basins as Frameworks of Historical Analysis’, Geographical Review, 89, 2 (1999): 215-24.
  • Berger, Stefan, Heiko Feldner, Kevin Passmore (eds), Writing History: Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. (2010).
  • Briggs, Laura, Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and US Imperialism in Puerto Rico (2002)
  • Burke, Peter, What is Cultural History?, 2nd ed. (2008).
  • Clavin, P. and G. Sluga (eds), Internationalisms:  A Twentieth Century History (2017).
  • Conrad, Sebastian, What is Global History? (2016).
  • Davis, Natalie Zemon, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (1987).
  • Elmore, Bartow, Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism (2014).
  • Jordanova, Ludmila, History in Practice, 3rd edition (2017).
  • Kelly, Marian Patrick, Sovereign Emergencies: Latin America and the Making of Global Human Rights Politics (2018).
  • Loughran, Tracey (ed.), A Practical Guide to Studying History: Skills and Approaches (2017).
  • McNeill, J. R., The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945 (2015).
  • Paine, Lincoln, The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (2013).
  • Presnell, Jenny (ed.), The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students, 3rd ed. (2018).
  • Putnam, Lara, Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age (2013).
  • Schlotterbeck, Marian, Beyond the Vanguard: Everyday Revolutionaries in Allende’s Chile (2018).
  • Stoler, Anne Laura, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (2010).
  • Tosh, John, Why History Matters (2008).
  • Tosh, John, The Pursuit of History:  Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of History, 6th ed. (2015).
  • Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 2nd ed. (2015).
  • Tsing, Anna, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (2015).


Essay (25%, 2000 words) in the MT.
Essay (40%, 2000 words) in the LT.
Take-home assessment (35%) in the ST.

The take-home essay will be unseen, 1500 words and to be completed within a specific number of hours. No footnotes or biliography will be required for this essay.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills