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Historiography I: Methods and Theories in their Historical Context, 1750-c.1990 (HI2E1-15)

Module Convenor: Dr Claudia Stein

This 15 CATS second-year module is compulsory for all single-honours History students, and is not available to students of other courses. In 2019/20 it is also available to 3rd-year students (optional).


Historiography, taught in the Department since 1968, has been designed to complement the learning which students will have done so far in their work in the Department, both in core and optional modules. For all students taking it, Historiography provides an overview of ‘doing History’ from the later eighteenth-century onwards, the ideas that have underpinned historical research and writing, and of recent methodologies and theories of history (many of them drawn from other disciplines), as they have been used by historians. It provides students with an opportunity to think reflexively about the nature of the historical enterprise. You are encouraged to link your studies in Historiography with your other second- and third-year modules.


The 15 CAT module introduces students to some of the central ideas about the purpose and practice of history writing since the 18th century to the 1990s. It is important to this module that such theories and methodologies did not float in ‘empty’ space but were expressions a specific wider socio-cultural and political context at a particular moment in time. The central message of this module is: methodologies and theories of academic history writing always reflects the values, morals and norms of the specific society in which it is written. They did not float in 'empty' space but were expressions of wider socio-cultural and political concerns.


Teaching and Learning

The module runs in Terms 1. Teaching is through 9 x 1-hour lectures. In Term 1 all lectures take place on Tuesdays at 10-11am and are repeated at 12-1 (both are on the SAME topic - you only need to attend one of them). The Tuesday lectures are followed by 9 x 1 hour seminars. Seminar groups will normally consist of 12-16 students. Times and venues for the seminars will be arranged before the beginning of term and first lecture.


Lectures and Seminars

Seminars follow the lectures and are always connected to them. Lectures will provide the historical context for a specific methodology/theory discussed and will introduce into the method/theory itself. The narrative and perspectives of the lecture and the weekly reading assigned on the Historiography website make up the material to be discussed in the seminar. You are expected to read in advance the basic texts set for that week.

If you require assistance for taking lecture note taking, please arrange this through the relevant University services.


Seminar Preparation

For each seminar you should prepare the readings mentioned in 'Texts/Documents/Arguments/Sources’ and ‘Seminar Readings’ for each seminar. For each seminar there is a list of questions to guide your reading and note-taking. Your seminar tutor may also assign additional or alternative readings from the ‘Further Reading’ lists, if you wish so. The ‘Essay Gobbets’ are suggestions for the two assessed essays. You can certainly ‘design’ your own gobbets as long as you have the approval of your seminar tutor.

CANCELLED (no room availability): A voluntary 2-hours writing workshop (Week TBA) will help you to understand how to structure the two ‘gobbet’ essays. We shall also discuss essays in the seminars. Please note that academic history writing is no longer ‘school’ history! To mention the ‘correct’ facts is not enough to achieve a high mark. The ability to express your views in comprehensible prose, a fluent writing style which follows a logical argumentation is equally important.


Core Textbook for Module

There are many textbooks on historiography. We think that Lloyd Kramer and Sarah Maza, eds., A Companion to Western Historical Thought (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002) is most useful for our purposes. The library has an electronic copy and several hard copies.

See Resources for further surveys and resources.



Formal Assessment

Deadlines here.

Assignment 1: Oral participation/engagement (10%). For marking criteria, 'Seminar Contribution Guidelines'.

Seminar participation will be assessed across all classes according to the following criteria:

            • Preparation - Evidence shows preparation for the seminar (has prepared notes and/or recalls the readings without the use of the open text).
            • Engagement and Initiative - Quality of engagement is active, respectful and inclusive; participation in discussions; engagement with others; taking own initiative ask questions
            • Response and Discussion - Quality of response reflects knowledge, comprehension and application of the readings; Quality of response extends the discussion with peers and reflects analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

 Self-Evaluation form, due by 12pm on Monday of Week 11.


Assignment 2: short essay (30%): a short gobbet answer (1500 words)


Assignment 3: Long Essay (60%): a long gobbet answer (3000 words)


Gobbet essays

Gobbets are short passages drawn from the texts. The ones you will find on the webpages are selected because we think they capture key conceptual or methodological points. You should feel free to select your own short passage from one of the assigned texts, if you prefer, but please clear this with your seminar tutor in advance. You should use these quotes to develop an essay in which you address AT LEAST the following elements.


  • Unpack the gobbet, explaining what it refers to -- philosophy of history, methodology, historical concepts, etc.
  • Contextualise the historical approach: what was so pioneering about it? How did it develop in response to shortcomings of older approaches? What social, cultural, intellectual factors influenced the historian in question to approach the craft in a new way?
  • Critiques and legacies: what impact did the historical approach in question have? How was it received and how was it critiques or modified over time?
  • For the longer gobbet essay, you should try to develop your own argument about the approach in question or the historiographical debates to which it gave rise.


Coursework and Assessment Regulations

For guidance on format, footnotes, quotations, and bibliography refer to the style guide in your history undergraduate handbook, or see the online style guide.

Written feedback on formative work will be received within 20 working days of submission (unless submitted late). Seminar tutors will provide individual feedback tutorials to support written feedback.