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A Global History of Food (HI2A7): Assessment and Contact Hours

Workload and Assessment

The assessment for this second-year module is as follows:
  • 4,500 word essay (45%)
  • two-hour exam (45%)
  • commonplace book (10%)

You must keep a commonplace book, in which you record notes, questions, quotations, analyses, thoughts, descriptions, diagrams or drawings, newspaper clippings, photographs and other material inspired by the module. The commonplace book will also be used to document the progress of the practical experiments assigned in class. The thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the materials curated in the book will constitute 10% of the mark for the module.

What is a Commonplace Book?

A commonplace book is a scrap-book of words and images. Choose a notebook or journal to collect quotations and other ideas, or create a blog, or an electronic document. Both in and outside of class, fill these pages with notes, questions, quotations from readings, analyses, thoughts, descriptions, dreams—any ideas that you find stimulating in relation to food. Add diagrams or drawings, doodle, paste photographs or postcards or newspaper clippings.

Here is a good description of how to use a commonplace book, from the late 18th century:

"You will find it a good method to collect and write your thoughts upon any subject that occurs; for by repeatedly arranging and revising your expressions and opinions you may daily improve them, and learn to think and reason properly on every occasion. By this mean you may likewise provide yourselves with a fund of matter for future use which, without this assistance, the memory would not retain. It will be of great service to note down in your common-place book such particulars as you may judge worth remembering, with your own observations upon them. This will be a kind of an amusement which will exercise your thinking powers at the time, and, by recurring to it afterwards, it may afford you many useful hints."

The Boarding School, by a Lady of Massachusetts (Boston, 1798).

You can also, for general interest, take a look at Lucia Dacome, ‘Noting the Mind: Commonplace Books and the Pursuit of the Self in the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the History of Ideas 65/4 (2004). (You'll need to sign in to access this article.)

For full details of examination and assessment, please see

Unassessed Essays

You must also complete one essay plan and one unassessed essays of 2,000 words OR two unassessed essays of 2,000 words.

These will allow you to develop your ideas and explore the themes discussed in the modules.

These are due on these days:

2,000-word essay OR Essay plan: Friday of term 1, week 8, at 17.00

2,000-word essay OR Essay plan: Friday of term 2, week 8, at 17.00.

Light-touch and Full-Service Marking for unassessed essays

This year I am experimenting with a new format for marking unassessed essays. I am offering both a 'full service' or 'heavy touch' marking, in which I will provide tons of feedback on your syntax, use of punctuation, written expression, and the like, together with detailed commentary on the essay. I am also offering a 'light touch' feedback, which does not descend into so much detail on your use of commas and the like, while still providing a written, detailed comment at the end of the essay on its strengths and weaknesses.

Please indicate which one you would prefer on your essay at the time of submission by writing LIGHT TOUCH or FULL SERVICE on the top. Your choice will have no effect on how I evaluate the essay, but will allow me to give you the level of feedback that you think you will find most helpful on that essay.

Some Areas You Might Explore in Essays

These are some topics and general areas you might wish to explore in both your long and short essays.

These suggestions are IN ADDITION to the questions posed for each seminar, which you may also use as the basis for an essay.

Please arrange a meeting with me to develop the structure of your short and long essays once you have thought of some possible topics.

-- A history of baby food

--Use Barbara Wheaton's five-pronged approach to analyse a particular cookbook

--the history, politics or ethics of 'geographical indicators' such as Stilton, or Champagne

--the politics of the school dinner

--a 'commodity history' of a particular food such as codfish, or milk, or bananas

--what explains the current 'obesity epidemic'?

--Is the popularity of 'ethnic' foods indicative of positive attitudes towards immigration/multi-culturalism?

--can we use paelo-botany to analyse the early history of agriculture?

--food rationing

--food museums

--analyse the historical significance of a cookbook of your choice

--the history of institutional foods (hospitals, prisons, armed forces, orphanages . . . )

--Which formulation do you prefer: food sovereignty or food security?

--the place of food in political and cultural movements (Black Power, Indian nationalism, 1960s Counter-Culture . . . )

--food and war (sieges, feeding armies, civilian provisioning)

--historical data on height and weight as a tool for analysing how well-nourished a people were in the past

--has fast food conquered the world?

--analyse a television cooking programme, past or present

--food in literature

An Idea

If you are particularly taken with a topic and wish to explore it further, beyond the possibilities offered by a short or long essay, consider applying for to the Undergraduate Research Support Scheme (URSS). The URSS provides funding and other support for undergraduates to undertake an extended research project over the summer vacation. It might fund you to travel to Mexico to research local restaurant culture, or to Portugal to study the workings of a vineyard, or to Preston to interview your primary-school dinner lady . . .

Contact Hours

Student contact hours for this second-year option module are as follows:
  • Module duration: Twenty-two weeks
  • Lectures: Nineteen one-hour lectures
  • Seminars: Nineteen one-hour seminars
  • Revision: A one-hour revision lecture and a one-hour revision seminar
  • Tutorials: Four hours of presentation feedback, essay feedback, and long essay preparation
  • Total: Forty-four hours