What is History? Methods and Debates
This information is for the 2021/22 session.
Dr Timothy Hochstrasser SAR 2.14
This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.
What is history? How and for what purposes do we study the past? What kinds of debates and controversies result from historical study? The purpose of this course is to provide undergraduate students with an introduction to these important issues. We will discuss the history of history from ancient times to the present and how it has changed as an intellectual pursuit over the years. We will think about different types of history – for example, international history, intellectual history, social history, economic history, cultural history or the history of religion – and we will discern their different concerns and priorities. We will analyse some of the most important themes in modern historical study: empires and colonialism, war and conflict, nationalism. We will outline different ideological frameworks for conducting historical research, for example Marxism, postmodernism, and gender studies. We will debate some of the key philosophical questions surrounding historical research: for example, how historians determine facts, and whether or not historical study can ever be truly objective? Finally, we will look at different ways of presenting the past, from traditional history books to museums and TV history. The course is highly recommended for students who may wish to continue studying history beyond batchelors level.
The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision if and where necessary. The first hour will be a recorded introductory lecture.
There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent terms.
Students will be expected to produce one formative essay in the MT and one formative essay in the LT. There will also be a mock exam.
A full reading list will be provided at the start of the course but will include the following introductory surveys: Berger, Feldner and Passmore, Writing History; D Cannadine (Ed), What is History now?; L Jordanova, History in Practice; R Evans, In Defence of History; J Tosh, The Pursuit of the Past; M Bloch, The Historian's Craft; R G Collingwood, The Idea of History; T. Garton Ash, The File.
Exam (80%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Class participation (20%) in the MT and LT.
Course selection videos
Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.
Important information in response to COVID-19
Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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.
Department: International History
Total students 2020/21: 9
Average class size 2020/21: 10
Capped 2020/21: Yes (15)
Value: One Unit