MSt and MPhil in History
The programme consists of:
Saints, alive and dead, played a central role in medieval society. This course examines the emergence of the cult of the saint in late Antiquity, and its remarkable spread over subsequent centuries. Live saints reinforced the Christian message and helped the faithful with the travails of daily life, but also represented a challenge to the authority of the established Church. Dead, their cults and their relics spread through the Christian world, encouraging, in a few notable cases, a steady stream of visitors to their graves. This course is centred around the rich, diverse, and often beautifully written hagiography of the fourth to ninth centuries, both from the Mediterranean region and from northern Europe. It offers an opportunity to examine, across several centuries, a wide range of themes: the fascination with martyrdom; different types of sanctity (such as those available only to bishops, or to women); the role of the saint within society and within the Church; the emergence of different styles of asceticism and spirituality, from Byzantium to Ireland; how a saint was acclaimed and accepted in a period without formal processes of canonization; the extraordinary power of relics, and the attraction of pilgrimage; the often underhand ‘translation’ of holy bodies; and, finally, even the existence of doubters.
The Twelfth-Century Renaissance is an interdisciplinary paper in intellectual history designed to give students a broad overview of the content and applications of learning in the twelfth century. It therefore covers a wide range of different curricular subjects from the perspective both of their sources (the classical textual tradition of ninth-century learning; the impact of newly translated texts; the consequences of personal contact with Muslim and Jewish scholars in Sicily and the Iberian peninsula; the influence of empirical discovery) and of their application through cathedral schools and royal courts to society at large. The course comprises eight classes, organised around the seven liberal arts (the trivium and the quadrivium) and the three higher faculties of the medieval schools.
This course is structured around two key questions: what can the study of global history bring to our understanding of the Middle Ages, and what can the study of medieval history bring to the evolving field of global history? Those taking the paper will be able to enhance their understanding of medieval history by thinking more about the history and culture of regions beyond Europe during medieval centuries, about parallels and contrasts between the approaches and evidence bases used by scholars of extra-European and European history in the centuries between 500 and 1500, and about the most productive ways to conceptualise that thousand-year period in global terms.
In recent decades the political history of early modern Europe has re-invented itself in dialogue with social, economic and cultural history. Analyses of state formation and political culture have aspired to replace biographies of statesmen, narratives of party struggle and genealogies of institutional development. This course examines a series of themes in the development of early modern states to test models of political change on a range of societies from the British Isles to Eastern Europe. It aims to equip those interested in reformations, counter-reformations, rebellions, courts, parliaments, towns, nobles, peasants and witches – and in statesmen, factions and institutions – with the ideas and comparators needed to frame a sophisticated research project in their chosen field. Class topics will include:
- the military-fiscal state
- clientage and faction
- justice and the law
- government, economy and social change
- household order
- communication, propaganda and magnificence
- communication, representation and revolt
Massacres of cats, heretical millers, village fraudsters and globe-trotting prophets: these have all been the subjects of ‘microhistory’ at one time or another. Yet despite the increasing use of the term in recent publications, it is not clear that historians are always writing about the same thing when they write about ‘microhistory’. What might the study of small, seemingly insignificant details, people and places reveal about larger historical trends, events and debates? This option will provide students with research training through the intensive reading and discussion of a number of outstanding examples of the 'micro-historical' study of individuals, families, communities, incidents, processes, rituals and more. The paper is not about microhistory per se, but rather about what microhistories have revealed about the early modern world. The readings will begin with a collection of theoretical and methodological reflections on microhistory in week 1 before proceeding to explore, in weeks 2-6, aspects of early modern history through examples of the genre from the 1970s until today. These examples will come mainly from the literature on early modern Europe, which has had an influential role in the tradition of microhistory, but we may also consider examples from early American, and modern European history depending on student interests. Among the questions we will consider, we will pay particular attention to the issue of sources and their potential in the hands of imaginative historians as well as how microhistories relate to alternative analytical and narrative techniques. We will explore what can be revealed about the early modern world by microhistory that is not available through other methods when it comes to the study of, for example, religion and reformation, the state and authority, political culture and bureaucracy, the history of family, rural life, and conversion. For the Option Essay, each member of the class will write a microhistorical study of a subject of his/her choosing (agreed in discussion with the instructor). This might be, for example, a microhistorical reading of an individual source, or a methodological essay exploring what microhistory offers for the understanding of otherwise relatively inaccessible aspects of the past. In doing so, students will gain direct experience of research, analysis and interpretation linked to their own interests.
This optional paper is designed to explore the global empires of Spain and Portugal in the early modern period as an entangled history that led to the emergence of the Iberian world. This approach allows for the study of interaction, emulation, and competition in the process of empire-building, as well as for a better understanding of the multiple reactions to the Iberian exploration, from coastal Africa to Central and South America, and South and East Asia. Special attention will be given to the many ways in which those living under the Spanish and Portuguese empires experienced, described, and opposed their rule, as well as to the external challenges that the Iberian powers faced in the age of Eurasian empires. The methods of comparative history and connected history will allow students to combine an appreciation of global trends across the Iberian world with a clear sense of the differences existing at local level.
The ‘globalization’ of history has been the most visible and significant development in historical scholarship of the past decade or so. Historians are increasingly aware of the need to place their work in a context that spills over national, regional, or civilizational boundaries. Some of the most exciting work has emerged from probing the global dimensions of the ‘early modern period’ before the rise of European world domination. This course will introduce the two principal methodologies involved in doing this new large-scale history – the connective and the comparative – through a series of seminars led by one European historian and a different specialist in cultures outside of Europe each week. In pursuit of the connective we will consider what happened when Europeans began to traverse the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and became entangled in a newly diverse range of societies. For example, what kind of architecture resulted when Portuguese ecclesiastical styles were transplanted to the tropics? Other weeks will take a more comparative approach. Considering the way in which Chinese intellectuals turned to classical texts in formulating ‘Neo-Confucianism’, for example, should help us see the over-familiar European themes of Renaissance and Reformation in a new light.
How have people understood the self in the past? How have they conceptualized emotions? Is there a self before 1700? How do different cultures conceive of the self and how do they understand spirituality? What is the relation between the individual self and the collective? This course seeks to understand ways of approaching the self and psychology in different times and places. It also seeks to explore ways of incorporating subjectivity and emotions of people in the past in how we write history; and to question the sociological, collective categories of analysis that historians often employ. Each session will take a particular example of a cultural context and explore how historians could write the history of subjectivity. The sessions will draw on different types of source material – diaries, letters, visual sources, material objects, travel writing, memoirs, court records, micro-historical material, oral history – and consider the problems and possibilities they offer. Four of the sessions will be on the early modern period; four will be on the modern period; however, in their assessed essay, students may concentrate on either the early modern or the modern period. The course deliberately bridges the early modern and the modern because the historiography itself does. This enables productive comparisons.
This option offers the opportunity to engage with a range of exciting new scholarship on the Enlightenment, covering the period from the second half of the seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century. It takes inspiration from recent rebuttals of the postmodern critique of the ‘Enlightenment project’, and addresses the subject in comparative and transnational perspective. We shall cover Enlightenment both as an intellectual movement and as a social phenomenon, examining how thinkers across Europe engaged with new publics. For the first four weeks we shall explore the major interpretative issues now facing Enlightenment historians, including:
- the coherence of Enlightenment – whether we should think in terms of one Enlightenment or several;
- the importance and duration of ‘radical’, irreligious Enlightenment;
- the relation between Enlightenment, the republic of letters, and the ‘public sphere’;
- the politics of Enlightenment: public opinion, reform, and revolution.
During the second half of the course, participants will be encouraged to set their own more precise study agenda, related to the topics of their course papers. They may explore in more detail the intellectual content of Enlightenment, its various contexts, its social framework, and its impact, within and across national and political frontiers. Topics which might be studied at this stage are:
- Enlightenment contributions to natural philosophy, and the ‘arts and sciences’;
- the Enlightenment ‘science of man’, as pursued in philosophy and political economy;
- writing sacred, civil and natural history in the Enlightenment;
- women, gender and Enlightenment.
Participants will also be encouraged to attend the research-oriented Enlightenment Workshop, which meets weekly in Hilary Term.
Creating the Commonwealth looks at the intersection of religion and politics in the work of three of the most important early modern intellectuals: Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The course begins with an examination of Grotius’s approach to the problems of religious and political division within Europe and the challenges brought by Dutch expansion in the New World. Grotius argued that political communities could be built upon principles which all human beings held in common, while allowing scope for different kinds of churches and religious groups. We will consider how he made this case, drawing upon classical, historical and religious arguments. Hobbes was a follower of the Grotian project, in that he recognised the foundational importance of natural law principles. But Hobbes was also critical of the thought that the Grotian scheme might be sustainable without a radical reconstruction of the natural law ideas that Grotius had proposed, and in the seminars on Hobbes we examine the character of his controversial response in De cive and Leviathan. Turning finally to Locke, we examine a thinker dealing with the legacy of the ideas of Grotius and Hobbes, and examine the ways that he sought to mediate their influence in the political theory of the Two Treatises of Government and his powerful work on religious toleration. Studying these three thinkers together reveals the dialogical features of some of the most important texts in the western intellectual tradition, and casts new light upon some of the ideas regarded as foundational to modern political thinking.
This paper will appeal particularly to those students who wish to pursue research in modern British and Irish history but also to those who wish to study the challenges faced by multi-national states in a comparative perspective. We have strong research and teaching interests in English, Irish and Scottish history in the Faculty, and would like to draw together those students who wish to specialise in the national histories of the United Kingdom and in the comparative history of the British Isles. This paper allows to draw on our expertise in these fields and to expose graduate students to new scholarship in this area.
This paper will be taught in eight classes organised around the following topics:
- Varieties of Unionism
- Varieties of Nationalism
- The Confessional State
- Mass Politics
- Political Violence
- State Intervention and Social Reform
- National Cultures
There will be a core bibliography, mainly consisting of key monographs, as well as a series of case studies and detailed bibliographies for each week’s topic. Each student will be expected to lead class discussion at least once during the term. The case studies will form the basis of class presentations. Given the breath of this paper, we will encourage students – particularly those presenting their research at each class - to select a variety of case studies so that a diversity of experiences from around the British Isles may be discussed.
The field of this paper is the history of 19th and early 20th century Europe and America, as seen through the eyes of leading political and social theorists. The central intellectual tradition represented here is that of 19th century European liberalism. It is central because it enjoyed an undoubted cultural hegemony — although Anglophone liberalism, a rather different set of ideas, also comes into view. It hinged around the development of ideas of ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ in constitutional, political and civil law; in religion; and in academic ‘science’. Concomitantly it promoted all that was ‘bourgeois’ at the expense of what was ‘feudal’. This major tradition is represented above all by Hegel, Durkheim and Weber. Standing outside it there were of course a number of alternative points of view: most obviously radicals, romantics and socialists who dissented from, but inevitably engaged with, the hegemonic liberal position, as well as the semi-detached Anglophone tradition already noted. Notwithstanding the hiatus inflicted by Fascism, Nazism and world war, and later talk ca.1990 about ‘post-modernity’ and the ‘death’ of Marx, attempts by later 20th and 21st century writers to theorise society and politics without substantial reference to their 19th and early 20th century forebears have proven largely unsuccessful hitherto. The period covered in this course remains the starting point for an understanding of modern social and political theory.
So far as the method of study is concerned, the paper is designed for theoretically concerned historians rather than pure theorists. This historical approach should not be seen as anti-theoretical – quite the reverse – but it should be understood as a distinctive and (as we like to think) more accurate, more realistic and lifelike path to theoretical understanding. Its outer limit is the understanding of the place of ideas and intellectual tradition within societies taken as a whole, i.e. something much larger than the world of texts alone. However, its pragmatic starting point is the study of individual texts and authors deemed to be of outstanding merit and rich in meaning. The class programme tries to capture both the macro- and microscopic perspectives.
The overall aim of the course is to gain a broad understanding of the subject as a whole: let us elevate our sights just as the thinkers under study would have expected us to do. To this end there will be five “core” classes with a specified programme (as below). In the last three weeks of term you are then required to write one essay of 6-7,000 words, when class meetings are intended to service the needs raised by essay-writing. The title of the essay must be submitted to, and agreed with, the course convenor by the end of 6th week of Hilary term; the essay must be submitted on Monday of 9th week. Essay subjects need not be confined to topics covered by the “core” programme; the essay must however take in at least two distinct subject areas or bodies of literature (for examples of which see the bibliography below), which may be treated either comparatively or sequentially (or both). Of these subject areas at least one must be taken from Continental Europe. This course makes no linguistic requirement, and the use of sources in translation is entirely legitimate. However, command of a European language or languages will expand the range of materials open to you, while awareness of linguistic difference is at all times a fundamental datum of historical study.
This option paper equips students with the interdisciplinary methods to rethink familiar themes in early North American and U.S. history with the environment at their centre. Our focus will be on processes of colonisation, knowledge production, and resource extraction. We will read both classic and new work in order to trace historiographical developments and identify important research questions. Throughout, we will interrogate what is “natural” and what is political, and consider the intersections between ideas about sex, sexuality, gender, race, and the environment. Proceeding chronologically, the paper will, for instance, examine ecological change and the commodification of nature within narratives on European colonisation of the Americas; the ecological impacts of indigenous and Euro-American empires; historical practices meant to manage scarcity and promote sustainability; and the ideas about natural abundance and wilderness that have shaped American society. In this effort, we will operate on both large and small scales. Analysis that draws on the natural sciences, historical geography, and economics helps to understand great shifts in American environments and economies, while work that draws more from the theoretical tradition of science and technology studies engages closely with lives ranging from sixteenth-century enslaved pearlfishers to nineteenth-century immigrant miners.
Time and acceleration are among the defining features of the long nineteenth century. They are also, in fundamental ways, interlinked. As the pace of life quickened due to a series of technological innovations (among which the telegraph and the railways take pride of place) the need for shared time conventions (whether regional, national, or global) and for greater accuracy of timekeeping, grew accordingly. By the century’s end, standard time set on the Greenwich meridian had replaced local (solar) time in Europe, North America and many other parts of the globe. The spread of a world time standard has commonly been portrayed as a logical, and even an inevitable, by-product of modernization.
This MSt/MPhil option foregrounds a problem that has received much less attention from historians – namely, how nineteenth-contemporaries experienced time and acceleration, and how they constructed temporal schedules in accordance with their own needs and expectations. Its main concern is thus not with time as formal homogenization, but with the surprises, conflicts, and emotions that rendered time the central referent of modern life. While most of the empirical examples to be discussed relate to Europe and Britain, the focus of the eight classes is thematic and transnational. The weekly readings will consist of two essential texts of secondary literature, an extract from a primary source, and a series of further secondary readings. Other types of documents to be used include cartoons, images, and songs. The course combines the close study of particular phenomena (including the social and cultural significance of clocks, telegraphs, and railway communication) with theoretical reflections (on, among other things ‘modernity’, ‘time’, and ‘emotions’). The eight classes address the following topics:
- The nineteenth century as an age of ‘modernity’
- ‘Time’ as concept and experience
- Speeding up: from the stagecoach to the railways
- One time fits all: the spread of standard time
- Time-keeping: clocks and the telegraph
- Time-tables and other kinds of schedules
- Competing social rhythms
- Time: a nineteenth-century emotion?
This option approaches the history of 20th-century Europe by testing the concepts of national, transnational and international history and their possible interactions. It will not compare the history of individual European countries, but rather explore how notions of regional, national, transnational and international history have been used to organize and interpret the history of 20th-century Europe. While the course is firmly rooted in the empirical history of Europe and its relationships to the wider world in this period, it will foreground questions of interpretation. These will include exploring the scope and limits of approaches to political, economic and social history based on concepts of the national, transnational and international, and assessing the advantages and disadvantages of destabilizing the dominant conventions for writing the history of Europe in the last century. The course is intended both for students who want an introduction to this history and for those who want an opportunity to extend and reconsider their existing knowledge of it. Among topics that may be covered are:
- The History of a Transnational Continent
- Political Geographies: Regions, Nations, Empires
- Internationalism and Rights
- Varieties of Political Representation
- Consumption Regimes
- Boundaries and Identities
- Environmentalism and Transnationalism
- International wars and Civil Wars
The narrative of the period between 1890 and 1990 is a history dominated by wars – total, colonial, civil, cold – waged on the local, national, regional and global scale. The course explores institutions and individuals who strove to find practical ideas to the seemingly endless threat of war in the modern world. It focuses on peace societies and international and regional institutions, such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the EU and NAFTA. The course highlights the importance of actors often excluded from an active role in the study of international relations: young people, women, children, war veterans, scientists, layers offering a bottom up – or possibly sideways - approach to the history of peace. The course gives particular prominence to economic and social issues, and also takes a global approach to the history of peace – exploring why certain spaces and territories were the deemed especially suited to a ‘security’ approach to peace by international agency. The course literature connects what have become two discrete fields of historical writing. The first is ‘diplomatic’ history focused on the origins of the two world wars and the Cold War that largely presents states as marbles bashing in a bag. The second, the self-declared ‘new’ international history, focuses on the history of rights, and processes of transnational exchange and globalisation in relation to questions of race, gender and class. Bringing these two literatures together, drawing on key primary texts and secondary studies, the course will seeks to provide new tools to think about the relationship between war and peace in the international history of 1890-1990 in ways that may enable us to better interpret the 21st century.
Everyone is familiar with the iconic images of young men throwing stones at riot police in Paris in May 1968. But what was the significance of these images, what was their place in postwar politics and culture, and how did what was happening in Paris relate to developments in Great Britain, Europe and the United States?
This option will explore a number of interlocking themes using conceptual, comparative and transnational approaches, and a range of documentation, including memoirs, oral testimony and film. These themes will include:
- the concept of generational revolt/conflict, and whether this is a helpful way of understanding cultural and political changes after 1945
- the youth culture which developed in Britain, Europe and the United States after the Second World War around music, fashion, drugs and attacked on the conventional nuclear family, and the notion of cultural or lifestyle radicalism
- the political radicalism which exploded in Europe around 1968, in the context of wider struggles such as the Cold War peace movement, the Civil Rights movement in the USA, the Algerian and Vietnam Wars, revolution in Latin America and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, asking what the relationship was between political and cultural/lifestyle radicalism
- the link between faith and political radicalism, since many political radicals came from a religious background – Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim – and recast their religious aspirations in political guises
- the issue of violence and non-violence, civil disobedience or armed struggle, hotly debated in radical circles as alternative ways of achieving their ends, and how different approaches were adopted in different contexts
- the sexual politics of young people in Europe and America, especially the emergence of feminism and the gay rights movement
- ways in which transnational connections were made between activists in different countries, from study abroad to revolutionary tourism, and from political exile to the work of political intermediaries
- the significance of these years of revolt, explored through the subsequent trajectories of activists and how they remembered this moment, both individually and collectively, in a variety of media.
Interest in human rights has exploded in recent years, as human rights has emerged as one of the most prominent international trends following the end of the Cold War. The early 1990s sparked renewed debate about the role and mission of the United Nations as a global mediating force in matters of war and peace, and human rights became for many a new yardstick with which to assess post-Cold War international politics and proper state formation. Yet this idea of what Hannah Arendt has called "the right to have rights" is a relatively recent historical development. This course endeavours to trace the origins of human rights as a modern political ideology from the French Revolution to the present day.
It will explore the extent to which the idea of human rights underwent radical transformation over the 19th and especially 20th centuries, entangled as it was in shifting notions of civilization, empire, sovereignty, decolonization, minority protections and international justice. It will also investigate to what extent human rights arose as a direct response to the legacy of man-made mass death associated with World War I and World War II, and in particular to the Third Reich's genocidal politics and destruction of unprotected civilians.
What is more, the course will also pay particular attention to how these new norms of justice were globalized over the course of the second half of the century. Just as non-Europeanists interpreted Wilson's notion of self-determination in broad ways to suit various emancipatory causes beyond Europe in the interwar years, rights activists from India, South Africa, the United States and later Eastern Europe seized on human rights after 1945 as something that went far beyond simply internationalizing American New Deal policies. From this perspective, this course aims to locate the history of human rights at the very heart of the broader story of modern moral politics and changing international perceptions of the relationship between law and citizenship, war and social justice.
We sometimes think of "woman" as an unchanging category of identity with a fixed meaning. This course, however, will explore the historical evolution of women’s roles in American history in order to better understand the range and diversity of both women’s experiences and also cultural ideas about gender. Moving chronologically from first contact between Europeans and Native Americans through to the late twentieth century, we will consider a range of topics, including the intersection of race and gender in the American South, the role of women in reform movements, battles over reproductive control, and the historical evolution of women’s work.
This course is an introduction to the history of warfare since ca.1780, taking the emergence of revolutionary warfare and the military divergence between Europe and the rest of the world as its starting-point. The course is organised both thematically and chronologically. Students will be asked to assess whether the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries saw the emergence of a new epoch in warfare, one marked within Europe by the emergence of mass conscript armies, and beyond it by a recent but rapid European military divergence from the rest of the world. They will explore the topics of war and empire – wars of colonial conquest in Asia, America and Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries – and be encouraged to explore whether this was enabled or facilitated by the developments of the military revolution. They will explore the distinctive forms and functions of warfare which emerged in the 19th century, notably the relationships between war and the various nation-building projects at the time, and the racialized violence of colonial warfare. ‘War and Technology’ will look at how certain types of technological advance – notably rifled weaponry, steam-powered, iron-hulled armoured warships, and later air power and land armour – transformed the way wars were fought, and the international relations surrounding them, while also exploring the role of medical science in warfare. The topic of Life, Death and the experience of war will ask if historians can recreate the subjective experience of the battlefield, and the medical and psychological consequences of warfare. ‘Total War’ will explore the total mobilisation of societies to meet the demands of 20th-century warfare, focusing on the First and Second World Wars.