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Writing Guides

History is about proof and persuasion, and persuasion requires good writing skills. Clunky constructions, wordiness, and puffy prose will blunt your argument. Writing cogently takes practice, but there are some 'tricks' that can be readily grasped and implemented. These books are worth purchasing.

  • Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. A classic. It is short but packed with tips for writing succinctly. It covers the basic rules.
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well. An entertaining and authoritative guide. The author has trained generations of well-known writers and journalists. The manual has been around since the 1970s, with new editions released every few years. It will sensitise you to good writing while helping you develop your own critical voice and style.
  • Student Essentials series, published by Trotman. The books are inexpensive (roughly two pounds each) and include guides on Essay Writing, Dissertations and Critical Thinking, and Exams.

Textbook for module

Other General Surveys

  • Bentley, Michael. Modern Historiography: An Introduction (1999). Focuses on broad trends in largely European history-writing from the Enlightenment period onwards.
  • Bentley, Michael. A Companion to Historiography (2002).
  • Berger, Stefan, H. Feldner and K. Passmore (eds), Writing History: Theory and Practice (2003).
  • Brown, Callum, Postmodernism for Historians (2005), explains it very well and has a super useful glossary of key terms!
  • Burrow, John, A History of Histories. Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus … to the Twentieth Century (2007).
  • Carr, E.H., What is History? (1961). A core text that you should read in full at the start of the year.
  • Claus, Peter and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (2012)
  • Collingwood, R.G., The Idea of History (1946). A classic!)
  • Duara, Prasenjit (ed.), A Companion to Global Historical Thought (2014).
  • Ermath, Elizabeth Deeds, History in the Discursive Condition: Reconsidering the Tools of Thought (2011). Examines the state of history-writing in the light of the postmodern challenge.
  • Green, Anna and Kathleen Troup (eds), The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-century History and Theory (1999). This is particularly useful for the way it introduces a theoretical and methodological vocabulary for studying twentieth-century historiography.
  • Hughes-Warrington, Marnie, Fifty Key Thinkers on History (2008). Provides short essays on fifty mainly European and US historians, historiographers, and thinkers who have had an impact on history-writing.
  • Hunt, Lynn. Writing History in the Global Era (2014)
  • Iggers, George G. and Q. Edward Wang, A Global History of Modern Historiography (2008). Examines history-writing as a global phenomenon, getting away from the Eurocentricity of much of the existing literature on historiography. Focuses on the period covered in this module (in contrast to Woolf, below).
  • Lambert, Peter and Schofield, Peter, Making History (2004). (very clear introduction to the topic)
  • Maza, Sarah. Thinking about HIstory (2017).
  • Munslow, A., The Routledge Companion to the Historical Studies (London, 2006) (library electronic resource) excellent glossary of key terms!!!
  • Poster, Mark, Cultural History and Postmodernity: Disciplinary Readings and Challenges (1997) (library electronic resources).
  • Rochona, Majumdar, Writing Postcolonial History (2010).
  • Smith, B. The Gender of History: Men, Women and Historical Practice (1998). Provides a particularly useful account of nineteenth-century developments in historical thinking and writing, and the professionalization of the discipline.
  • Shryock, Andrew/Smail, D.L., Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present (2001).
  • Southgate, Beverley, History: What and Why: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern Perspectives (1996).
  • Stunkel, Kenneth R., Fifty Key Works of History and Historiography (2011). Provides short introductions to key writings of fifty historians and thinkers who have had an impact on history-writing, from all over the world.
  • Walker, Garthine (ed.), Writing Early Modern History (2005). Provides a really helpful discussion relevant to all historians, not just early modernists.
  • Woolf, Daniel, A Global History of History (2011). Takes a broad sweep, with chapters on the different historical epochs of the past three millennia.

Terminology and Historiographical Schools

You may encounter some unfamiliar sociological and philosophical terms in your reading. Allan Bullock & Stephen Trombley (eds), New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (London, 2000) provides a useful glossary. You could retrieve Raymond Williams’ Keywords. A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976; 1984) from your ‘Making of the Modern World’ archive, though probably far more useful will be Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, Meaghan Morris (eds), New Keywords. A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society (2005). The Routledge Companion to Historical Studies (ed. Alan Munslow, 2000) (library electronic resources) aims to provide the same kind of conceptual help for students of history and historiography. The on-line version of the Oxford Dictionary of Social Sciences (ed. Craig Calhoun, 2002) was found useful by students taking Historiography last year. Find it at Also useful is the website on historiographical terminology: The Different Schools of Historiography: A Reference.

Keeping Up with Developments in Historiography

Get into the habit of running the names of historians through the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on-line (for British and former-Commonwealth historians only). Other national dictionaries of biography can often be located by simply searching the internet with the name of the historian you are interested in. Make it a habit to regularly check the Bibliography of British and Irish History to discover recent publications on the topics of historiography and history-writing. As with Historical Abstracts and the MLA Index (Modern Languages Association of America) this is a good way of discovering how much recent attention the historian you are interested in has received.

If you would like to compare Western historical thought with non-Western conceptions of history, see Prasenjit Duara (ed.), A Companion to Global Historical Thought (2014).

An important internet source is the Institute of Historical Research’s (IHR) website ‘Making History’. Find it at: It is dedicated to the history of the study and practice of history in Britain over the last hundred years or so, following the emergence of the professional discipline in the late nineteenth century. It contains cross-referenced entries for interviews with historians, journal articles, projects and debates. Its statistical pages allow you to analyse the profession as a historical enterprise within society. Also become familiar with ‘Making History’s’ host site, the IHR, at Here you can watch the IHR’s attempt to move out from the Anglocentric focus of ‘Making History’, and globalise historiography.

It is often said that historians leave thinking about history to the philosophers. The module team profoundly disagrees with this proposition! But if you want to see what philosophers of history are saying about history and historians, make it a habit to check (and browse the back issues of) History and Theory.

Otherwise, there is the bookshop, Library, SLC, connection to journals on-line (Blackwell-Synergie, Project-Muse, JSTOR …), digitalised course extracts …

Many of the basic texts studied in seminars are available in both the bookshop and the Library. Many of the key book-sections and articles listed below will also be found in the Photocopy Collection: always check there if you cannot find the journal on the shelf. The back issues of most journals are available ONLINE. Type the journal title into the Library catalogue search box, searching ‘Journals’. You will be taken to all electronic portals for the journal in question.

When a book/article extract has been scanned and is available online it is listed at:

Every Historiography extract that can be legally digitalised, has been digitalised. You should check this list regularly, as new extracts may be added throughout the year.

You can read seventeenth- and eighteenth-century (English-language) histories in their original form in Historical Texts, a text database available through the library. Literature On-line (LION) will give you access to full text versions of ‘English literature’, including histories. The Making of the Modern World (MMW) is a data-base of social and economic texts from the fifteenth- to the nineteenth-century. Much history-writing has ended up here. Access it, as above, via the Library pages