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Assignment 2: Essay

The second assignment for the module is an essay of 2000 words maximum (exclusive of footnotes and bibliography).


For your essay question, you should choose one of the listed ‘Seminar Questions’ from any of the weeks of the module (other than Term 1, Week 1). You are not restricted to topics that we have already studied at the time you are writing the essay, though you should bear in mind that it may be more challenging to tackle a topic area that has not already been covered in lectures and seminars. It is permissible to set your own question for the essay, but if you decide to do so you must clear this with your seminar tutor first.


The principal aim of this exercise is for you to demonstrate that you can present and develop a historical argument. There is no exact or universal ‘template’ for a good history essay, but it should always involve assessment and evaluation, rather than just narrative or description. The online Undergraduate Handbook contains a useful ‘Essay Writing Checklist’ (see here). Do please read this, and spend some time thinking about the advice it offers.


In addition to the argument and conclusions of the essay, its presentation is really important. Historians follow an agreed set of conventions about how to put forward and reference their work; adhering to these shows precision and professionalism, and an ability to participate effectively in a wider scholarly conversation. The Undergraduate Handbook has an extensive section on Presentation and Referencing (see here), including directions such matters as how to lay out a bibliography, how to format footnote references, how to distinguish between titles of books and articles. Some of this may seem a little convoluted at first, but the ability to present written work appropriately is a skill you will be using constantly throughout your undergraduate career. The department requires you to follow a recognised scholarly citation style, such as that of the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) or the Chicago Manual of Style, and links to these are provided. The important things are that you do not simply make up your own citation conventions, and that you are consistent throughout the essay. References should be given as footnotes, rather than as in-text citations , and there should be a bibliography provided at the end of the essay. The majority of published work in history follows MHRA, Chicago or another recognised style, so it can also be helpful to look closely at, and copy the style of, the footnotes and/or bibliography of books and articles you are consulting.


In preparing the essay, you should consult at least six items – books (or chapters from books), journal articles, or essays from edited collections – and list these in your bibliography. The suggested reading (including the further reading) for each weekly seminar provides sufficient resources for answering any of the seminar/essay questions. You are not restricted to consulting only these works, but if you draw on additional materials try to ensure that they are relevant and appropriate (are they, for example, cited as important points of reference in the footnotes of another of your books or articles?) If you decide to include online material, stop to think about how trustworthy or reliable it is likely to be, and whether it will have undergone any kind of vetting or review before being published on the internet. Note that when you are using a digitalised version of a book or article – ie, an electronic copy with the same pagination as the corresponding print version – this does not count as a website or internet resource. It is not necessary to give a URL, and it can be cited exactly as if you had consulted a paper copy.