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Aims, Objectives, and Assessment

Aims and Objectives

  • To gain an understanding of the historical dynamics that connected the three British kingdoms and the emergent empire in America.
  • To explore the relationship between religion, politics and national identity.
  • To examine the ‘British problem’ comparatively, alongside the experience of other European states, empires and kingdoms.
  • To develop enhanced research, writing and communication skills through essays and oral discussion in seminars.
  • To provide a strong foundation for students undertaking special subjects featuring seventeenth and eighteenth-century political and religious themes.

Assessment, 2023-4

For details of examination and assessment, along with information about deadlines and extensions, please see the 'Assessment' pages of the Undergraduate Handbook opens in a new window.
Please refer to Tabula for your deadlines.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries about these assessment methods. Please also refer to the descriptions below.

Marking criteria

For information about the marking conventions used when assessing your work, please see the 'Marking' section of the Assessment pages in the undergraduate student handbook opens in a new window.

Marking follows the University 20 point scale. Specific history department marking descriptors are available here: opens in a new window

Contact Hours

Contact hours for this 30 CATS second-year option module are as follows:

  • Module duration: Twenty-two weeks
  • Lectures: Twenty one-hour lectures
  • Seminars: Twenty one-hour seminars
  • Tutorials: Essay feedback, long essay preparation, and revision session


Written feedback (via Tabula) and optional individual tutorials (via Teams, in office hours or by appointment) will be provided to all students taking this module.

Visiting Exchange Students

Please refer to the department visiting student webpages for information regarding assessment requirement, submission instructions and deadlines: opens in a new window

1,500 word primary source commentary (worth 10%)

This assignment requires you to write a commentary on a primary source, or two linked sources. You can take any of the documents set out for the classes on the weekly reading lists (whether or not we have discussed them in class) or choose another document from the primary source databases and collections listed on the 'Early Modern Primary SourcesLink opens in a new window' page.

Why a primary source commentary? Each week we discuss primary texts, so this assignment builds on the skills and the type of analysis you routinely conduct in class. This assignment is intended as an opportunity for you to engage deeply with a source or group of sources and to get feedback and advice on approaches to incorporate primary material into your analysis. It will also help you prepare for both your long essay for this module (and others) and your final year dissertation, where close engagement with primary material is a basic requirement.

What question shall I use? As this exercise is intended as an extended commentary, you do not need a question, unless you would find it useful to do so. If you feel you would like a question to give an angle on your sources, please discuss this with me.

What makes a good commentary?

You should aim to provide a critical appraisal of the text, informed by your knowledge of the subject and wider reading. Focus on text, context and significance. This means that you may need to do some research around the author and source itself rather than just taking its contents at face value. This will help you to understand its broader significance and intended purpose.

Some questions you might want to consider when approaching your sources (not all will be applicable to all sources, but many will be):

  • Text. What are the essential or notable features of what is being said [this might have to do with the language/wording used as much as the content]? What keywords, phrases or concepts are involved? Why are they important?
  • Context. Who wrote this and what do we know about them – is it important? What do we know about the aims of the author(s)? When was it written and is this significant? In what ways is it significant to know the historical context in which it was written?
  • What is the significance of what is being said? Is this text part of a larger series of texts and if so, does this larger corpus have significance? How does the piece relate to other texts and to the period as a whole? Was it representative? innovative? unusual? Influential? What is its broader historical significance? How might readers react?
  • Historiography. In assessing the significance of the source, it is worth considering this in relation to the wider historiography. Does the piece raise historiographical questions or relate to a historiographical debate? What are the key debates to which this relates? How have historians interpreted it or documents like it?

It is expected that you will consult at least 3 other items of secondary scholarship which can help to provide context and perspective on the text.

How should I present it? This assignment should be presented in the same way as any other written essay - written in continuous prose and divided into paragraphs. There is no set format for the structure of the essay, though you might want to begin with an overview of the source and its main ideas/arguments before proceeding to discuss particular aspects of the source in more depth.

Please ensure that you include full details of the source/s you are analysing at the top of the essay. If you have chosen to focus on a visual image, please also include a copy of the image either in the main body of the essay or as an Appendix.

All primary and secondary works cited, should be listed alphabetically by author in a bibliography at the end of your review.

How do I reference my primary source? I have put together a short guide for referencing primary sourcesLink opens in a new window, which includes 'best practice' for different types of primary material you might encounter. If in doubt, do feel free to email your seminar tutor, as primary material can be difficulty to cite correctly. In most cases, it will require you to provide a link to direct the reader to where you originally accessed the source.

What marking criteria will be used? The marking criteria are the same as for any other written piece of work, which will be connected to the specific departmental marking descriptors.

Guidance and support. Every seminar will have an element of primary source analysis built into the curriculum, so you will become familiar with the types of questions and ideas you can use when approaching your sources. You are encouraged to meet with me by appointment or in office hours to discuss your ideas, and/or to email with queries.

There is an excellent collection on essays by Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis (eds), Understanding Early Modern Primary SourcesLink opens in a new window (2016). This is aimed at students and goes through seven categories of primary material, e.g. legal records, diaries, literary works, visual sources etc. Also addresses the types of sources to explore major themes.

3,000 word essay (worth 40%)

This assignment assesses your ability to engage with an extended historical discussion on a topic of your choice related to the module. It gives you the chance to showcase your research skills by enabling you to answer a more specialised essay on an aspect of the course that is of personal interest to you. This can be a topic we have covered in classes, a topic related to your own research interests, or a topic later in the module that we have not covered.

Where do I find the question? I have provided a list of possible questions hereLink opens in a new window, but you will be encouraged to devise your own question in consultation with me. The point of this assignment is for this to be research-led and directed by your own ideas and interests. All questions must be approved to ensure that you are meeting the objectives of the course.

What should I include? Please combine elements of historiography [how historians have approached this subject] with primary source analysis. Aim to cite a range of secondary readings in relation to the topic. Don't just rely on texts available electronically - make use of the library. Avoid material taken from websites and blog posts that are not written by professional historians, as these have not been peer-reviewed and therefore are not subject to the same scholarly scrutiny as those texts on your reading list.

Please refer to the referencing primary sources Link opens in a new windowdocument for guidance on presentation, formatting, style and assistance with primary source citation.

What marking criteria will be used? The departmental essay marking criteria will be applied to this assignment. It follows the University 20 point scale and is available here: opens in a new window

You can find the specific history department marking descriptors hereLink opens in a new window.

Feedback. Written feedback (via Tabula) and optional individual tutorials (via Teams, in office hours or by appointment) will be provided to all students taking this module.

Guidance and support. You are encouraged to meet with your seminar tutor by appointment or in office hours to discuss your ideas, and/or to email with queries.

Summer examination (worth 40%)

This assignment will be in the form of a 'take-away', 2-question exam. You will choose from 10 topics. You will be expected to answer 2 questions of your choice. You will be assessed on all 20 weeks of the course, so please be prepared for some topics you have revised not to come up.

All past papers for this module are available hereLink opens in a new window.

Please be aware that topics for the course have changed slightly. In 2017-2018, I was on leave, so the 2018 exam was devised by a different convenor.

There is a new topic on 'Race' for 2022-23. In 2019 the topic on 'Wales' replaced a topic on literature.

Participation / Engagement Mark (10%)

This aspect of the module's assessment will be based on your contributions to seminars over the whole year. The mark is decided by your seminar tutor assessing your contributions in weekly seminars throughout the year.

The best preparation you can do for this part of the module assessment is do the seminar reading, turn up to seminars, and contribute to the discussion in class (this can be small group as well as whole-class discussion). Participation might also include following any instructions you are provided by your seminar tutors, e.g. contributing to a module forum.

What marking criteria will be used? The departmental 'seminar contribution' marking criteria will be applied to this assignment. It follows the University 20 point scale and is available here: