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'World of the Tavern' - Module Information & Assessment

Module Tutor

Prof. Beat Kümin

Office L03.036. Tel: (024 76 5) 24915


Times and venues

  • From week 1: 2-hour face-to-face (regulations permitting) seminars, Mondays 11-13 (H0.56) and 2-4 (F4.79) except weeks 6/16.
  • One field trip in the spring term, pandemic permitting (confirmed for 5 March 2022, Saturday of week 18).
  • A revision session will be offered early in the summer term.


'The Pub is an indispensable part of the national landscape,
whether in town, city or countryside' ('Icons of England')


Aims and Objectives

Like other advanced options, this module involves the study of a broad-ranging theme in a comparative and interdisciplinary context. It will examine developments in a number of different European countries (mainly the German lands, France and England) and draws on insights from neighbouring disciplines such as art and legal history, anthropology, theology and sociology. Compared to second-year options, there is a greater emphasis on historiographical debate, active student input in seminar organization and engagement with primary sources. Students are encouraged to suggest their own topics for public house projects and dissertations. All written work should engage with primary sources and/or historiography/neighbouring disciplines from a comparative perspective. Tavern studies are an emerging field and your research can help to shape it - several former students have gone on to publish articles based on their module work (see the entries for James Brown and Catherine Dent in the module bibliographyLink opens in a new window).

The module uses one of the most prominent social centres in early modern Europe to illustrate key themes and processes of the period, such as patterns of sociability, the growth of regulation, communication networks, confessional identity, incidence of crime, gender roles and alcohol consumption. It approaches pre-modern social conditions through the analysis of an ubiquitous leisure activity and highlights tensions between religious doctrines, secular laws and popular culture.

After an introductory section on scholarly approaches and contextual issues, seminar sessions explore the legal, socio-economic an cultural dimensions of commercial hospitality and the status of the people who worked in the trade. Themes will be explored through student presentations and debates rather than lectures by the tutor. A concluding part widens the perspective to examine the relationship with local, national and ecclesiastical authorities as well as the potential for interdisciplinary approaches.

Evidence from a broad chronological and geographical range is used to encourage long-term comparative views of early modern history. It shall become clear that basic similarities characterised the trade in Central and North-Western Europe, in spite of marked differences in the constitutional and confessional frameworks.


Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • demonstrate enhanced study, writing and oral communication skills;
  • identify key processes and debates in early modern history;
  • understand the multifunctional role of early modern public houses;
  • examine relevant issues in a range of European case studies;
  • engage with works from other academic disciplines;
  • display greater expertise in making individual and group presentations;
  • write an informative book review;
  • develop an individual project / dissertation topic, based on appropriate materials;
  • critically evaluate a range of primary and / or secondary sources in comparative perspective.

    The university's 'Teaching & Learning Showcase' 2011 presented an opportunity for reflection on the interdisciplinary aspectsLink opens in a new window of this module.

    In the spring of 2016, James Haworth won a URSSLink opens in a new window bursary to research the relationship between inns and music in eighteenth-century England (poster summaryLink opens in a new window).

    Several former module students went on to publish tavern-related research (James Brown on drinking houses as sites of surveillanceLink opens in a new window; Catherine Dent on inn signsLink opens in a new window).


    Teaching and Learning Methods

    Weekly meetings usually take the form of seminars, with some introductory mini-lectures. Participants are expected to prepare seminar reading in private study (see the respective seminar pages and the library's Talis Aspire reading list), to offer a number of (individual / group) presentations in class (facilitated by the Learning GridLink opens in a new window in University House) and to take an active part in all discussions. Handouts with additional materials, esp. (translated) extracts from sources will be available for most sessions.

    Written and/or oral feedback will be offered on all assignments and seminar performance.

    A revision class early in the summer term will help with exam preparation.

    A field trip to historic public houses in the region also forms an important part of the programme.



    General information on online submission, marking scale / criteria, deadlines and related regulations can be found on the departmental assessment page.

    The final result for this 'assessed & examined advanced option' will be composed of the following FOUR elements:

    • A book review of 1,500 words (worth 10 % of the overall mark), due towards the end of the Autumn Term by the deadline specified on the assessment page (under final year advanced option 3) and on Tabula;
    • A public house project of 3,000 words (worth 40 %), due towards the end of the Spring Term by the deadline specified on the assessment page (under final year advanced option 3) and on Tabula. This can take the form of EITHER a classic essay OR a research report (with the choice of topic / project to be finalized in consultation with the tutor by the end of the Autumn term);
      • While entirely optional, the department encourages the use of foreign languages in all written work. French and German are particularly appropriate here, but Italian can also be accommodated (see the relevant section under ‘resources’ for details of appropriate literature);
      • Please note that in any case there can be no significant overlap with exam questions / essays in any modules.
    • Oral participation (worth 10 %), with two thirds of the mark based on personal contribution to the Autumn Term group presentation (considering aspects such as reading/research, structure, contents, media use, delivery skills & audience response) and general input into our classes (in terms of preparation, quality of contributions, methodological / historiographical observations, listening skills & engagement with other points of view) counting for the final third. At the end of the teaching cycle early in the summer term, students will be asked to self-assess both components and propose a resulting oral participation mark to be validated / adjusted by the module tutor. This should take the form of a piece of reflective writing on presentation as well as general seminar performance of close to (but not more than) 500 words to be submitted by the Tabula deadline;
    • A 2-question 'take home exam' (worth 40 %) to be scheduled in line with departmental guidelines at any point between weeks 4-9 in the Summer Term. Recent papers for this module can be found onlineLink opens in a new window.


    Dissertations & Publications

    Students are very welcome to attach their dissertation to this advanced option. There are many thematic possibilities and ample primary resources. For those choosing to do so, there will be supplementary group / individual meetings in line with departmental guidelinesLink opens in a new window. Do discuss your ideas / options with relevant module tutor(s) before you make a final decision.

    Several students have used the Tavern module as a springboard for subsequent publications. Examples include James Brown (on spatial dimensions of Southampton public houses, 2009), Catherine Dent (on the function of inns signs, 2011) and Luke Holloway (on the drinking habits of an 18thC vicar, 2022).

    Spread Eagle at Thame (Oxon.)

    The Spread Eagle inn at Thame in Oxfordshire [Photo: BK]