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Historiography II: Recent and Emerging Trends in History Writing, 1990 to today (HI2E2-15)

Lectures: Tuesday 9 am, FAB 0.03


Module Convenor: Dr Charles Walton

This 15 CATS second-year module is compulsory for all single-honours History students, and is not available to students of other courses. Due to the curriculum change in the academic year 2019/20, it is exceptionally offered as an optional module to 3rd- year students.


Introducing the module

While Historiography I introduced students to key methodological and theoretical approaches in history writing from the Enlightenment to roughly the 1990s, Historiography II explores such themes from the 1990s to the present. However, unlike Historiography I, the 9 lectures/seminars do not proceed chronologically. Instead, each week focuses on a different important theme/theory/methodology which is currently hotly debated among academic historians. Each lecture is therefore presented by a member of staff specialised in the week’s theme. While each lecture will start off with a brief introduction into the historiography of the subject, the bulk of it will concentrate on the individual lecturer’s methodological and theoretical approach. Historiography II aims to offer students a clear idea of what is currently exciting and important in Anglo-American academic history writing. It will develop students’ abilities in study, research, and oral and written communication, through a programme of seminars, lectures and essay work. Students are encouraged to link their studies in Historiography II with their other second- and third-year modules. Historiographical knowledge will help students to choose a dissertation topic and supervisor in year 3.



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 I and II provide an overview of ‘doing History’ from the later eighteenth-century to today. Both modules allow to understand the theories and methodologies, underpinning historical research and writing in the past and present. The central message of both modules is that the changing theories and methodology used in academic history writing since the 18th century are intellectual expressions of and engagements with the wider socio-cultural context of the time and place. The reconstruction of the historical ‘context’ of a historian or a particular piece of historical writing is therefore vital. All history writing, past and present, necessarily reflects the values and norms of the time in which it is written.


Teaching and Learning

The module Historiography II runs in terms 2. Teaching is through 9 x 1-hour lectures. All the lectures take place on Tuesday 10-11 and 12-1 (room TBA). The 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 the first lecture.


Lectures and Seminars

Seminars follow the lectures and are always thematically connected to them. Lectures will provide the historical context for a specific methodology/theory discussed and will analyse the method/theory itself. The narrative and perspectives of the lecture and the weekly reading assigned on the Historiography II 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.

Note: Please make sure that you arrange for assistance to take lecture notes if necessary. Please contact the History Department office for further assistance in these matters.


Seminar Preparation

Students must 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 assessment in Historiography II focusses primarily on analysis of primary sources. Students should think about where they might look to find primary sources related to each week's methodological approach.

Essay structure will be discussed in the individual seminars.

UPDATE: The workshop on writing mentioned below was moved to the lecture of Week 1: 'Thinking about Writing'.

Note: While the attendance of the workshop is voluntary, students are strongly recommended to attend it. The workshop will help you to understand better the structure of ‘academic’ history writing. Particularly in Historiography II essays it will be important to be able to present a strong own thesis, followed by a logical and clear organisation of the supporting argumentation. Moreover, the style of writing is essential to achieve a high mark. After all, history writing is an empirical ‘science’ of collecting and evaluating facts and an art of writing, as the founder of modern history writing, Leopold von Ranke famously stated.


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 hardcopies.

See Resources for further surveys and resources.


Formal Assessment

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

Download Self-Evaluation Form.

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. Attendance is taken into consideration as well, aside from authorised absences.
  • 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.



GUIDANCE FOR THE TWO WRITING ASSIGNMENTS: Please use double-spacing and 12 point pitch. Be sure to quote, cite and format correctly. See the Student Handbook for orientation. For referencing and style, the Department recommends the MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association) style guide.

For a brief description of what a primary source analysis, see Mary Lynn Rampolla's description

Assignment 2: a short essay of 1500 words (10%)

Find a primary source of interest to you from any historical period and analyse it engaging with a methodology treated thus far in the module. Be sure to contextualise the source before teasing out its significance. You may refer to secondary literature, but the principal focus should be on applying the questions and perspectives of the methodology to analysing the source.

See tips on structuring assignment 2 essay.

Assignment 3: an essay of 3000 words (80%) UPDATED (see below)

Find a primary source of interest to you from any historical period and analyse it engaging with at least two of the methodologies treated in this module. Both the source and the methodologies should differ from those of the previous essay. (UPDATE: YOU MAY ENGAGE WITH THE SAME METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH AS IN YOUR FIRST ESSAY BUT THE PRIMARY SOURCE SHOULD DIFFER.) Again, be sure to contextualise as you apply the questions and perspectives of the two methodologies chosen. The aim of this assignment is to appreciate how a source can be analysed in multiple ways. You may engage with the historical literature on your topic, but focus primarily on analysing the source. Do not duplicate any analysis you have provided for other modules.

See tips on writing assignment 3.



1st essay is due in Week 4: Wednesday, February 2, 12 pm (via Tabula).

2nd essay is due in Week 10: Wednesday, March 16, 12 pm (via Tabula)


Coursework and Assessment Regulations

All students (except visiting exchange students) MUST complete the relevant formative assessment(s).

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.


The module, and its companion module complement teaching in specialised History modules, by providing a broad context for understanding developments in the discipline of history from the Enlightenment to today. The overall aims is to introduce students to the important idea that the different methodologies and theories used in history writing to explain human individual and collective agency and historical change do not exist in ‘empty space’. Since the Enlightenment they have been reflecting wider explanatory trends in a society and culture, its politics and economic structures, ethical values and morals. Powerful history is not simply written by clever women or men but requires a deep engagement with and sensitivity to the present, its possibilities and challenges. Since the Enlightenment, the past has been continuously ‘re-written’ by historians to ‘make meaning’ of an every-changing present.

The module introduces students to these on-going changes in which the past has been understood by exploring key theories and methodologies within their specific historical context from the Enlightenment to the present. 'Historiography I' concentrates on methods and theories which dominated history writing roughly between 1750-1990. 'Historiography II' focusses on more recent and emerging trends in history writing since the 1990s in order to offer students a clear orientation as to what is at stake in history writing today, what is considered important in the world in which we live but also what is ‘left out’ or silenced.

It asks students to consider what form of thinking and writing (what kind of human endeavour) ‘history’ is, and to relate the historiographical developments discussed during the course, to the works of history they study on Advanced Option and Special Subject modules. The more recent concepts and methods encountered in the module may be helpful in crafting dissertations.

Historiography is also intended to develop students’ abilities in study, research, and oral and written communication, through a programme of seminars, lectures and essay work.