Offering a choice of 20 subjects, this paper is based on the study of selected primary texts and documents, and provides the opportunity to engage with a range of more specialist approaches to understanding the past:
No understanding of Western history is complete without knowledge of the ideas which have fundamentally shaped social and political life; and it is as theories of the state that these ideas have been given their clearest expression. Built upon such constantly reinterpreted concepts as justice, liberty, authority and community, theories of the state have ranged far beyond the institutions of government to consider the position and power of the church, the role and responsibility of the individual and the interests and conflicts of the social classes. This option provides the opportunity to study these theories through reading works by four major political thinkers: Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau and Marx.
Inspired by a timeless conviction of the value of political life, Aristotle's Politics provides a detailed account of the first European state form, the city republic of ancient Greece. Written in the midst of civil war, Hobbes's Leviathan is not only a remarkable attempt to construct a science of politics on an analysis of individual motivation; it is also a classic of the English language, offering readers an unforgettable and often provoking experience of sustained, rigorous argument. Rousseau's Social Contract, by contrast, is a vision of what men might achieve in politics – and a radical critique of what they have been forced to put up with. Finally, Marx's Communist Manifesto and other works illustrate his pioneering theory of the relation between the state, economic forces and class conflict, and his hopes for a communist revolution.
The paper requires candidates to show knowledge of the prescribed texts of at least three of these authors; making connections and drawing comparisons between them will be encouraged. You will have the advantage of working with an unusually coherent and self-contained set of texts, and there will be the opportunity both to place them in historical context and to consider their subsequent relevance and lasting value. Theories of the State provides a natural introduction to the Further Subjects in the history of political thought in Schools, but its interest and relevance go much wider: it will illuminate and enhance your understanding of societies and states in all periods.
The seventh and early eighth centuries were a time of fundamental change for the English, in which conversion to Christianity was only one element. Influences from Ireland, Gaul and the Mediterranean operated on the warlike, aristocratic society of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to create a rich and innovative culture.
During the few generations between the 660s and the 730s, Britain produced works of learning, literature and art which were pre-eminent in Western Europe. These changes can be approached through a well-integrated group of original sources, mainly but not exclusively from the golden age of Northumbria, notably the historical works of the Venerable Bede. Undergraduates can also study the spectacular manuscript illumination, metalwork and sculpture of the era. The Paper is therefore an introduction both to the aristocratic society, learning and culture of early England, and to the genesis of English historical writing.
The first half of the twelfth century in northern France and Flanders was a period of startling economic growth, extraordinary cultural creativity, violent aristocratic competition, new political and religious practices, all set in the context of a bitter struggle among the region’s leading powers. All of this is recorded in some of the most memorable and vivid literary works of the medieval west. Those taking the paper meet such extraordinary figures as Heloise and Abelard (intellectual star and self-publicist, and a warning to tutors not to seduce their pupils -- he was castrated by her kinsmen), Abbot Suger (political fixer and artistic patron extraordinaire, credited with the invention of Gothic architecture), the charismatic, hugely influential, admired and loathed Bernard of Clairvaux, and Orderic Vitalis, the exiled English boy turned Norman monk and obsessive chronicler of his age.
Looking at a number of sources, takers of the paper read the first-hand accounts of love affairs, murders, political crises, spiritual adventures, intellectual discoveries, and hair-raising violence. They look at wonderfully impressive cathedrals and castles, gold treasures and stained glass, as well as the ordinary detritus left behind by people’s everyday lives. Why was this time and place so creative? The paper throws takers into a highly contested debate. But beware. Many innocent modernists, taking the paper as an adventurous dip into the middle ages before getting back to the twentieth century, have been too gripped to give it up.
The reigns of the first three Angevin kings – Henry II, Richard I, and John – provide the first opportunity to look in some documentary detail at the impact of the English on the countries we know as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The story is, in part, one of military conquest and confrontation, as the English tightened their grip on Wales and for the first time (in 1169-70) began to bring Ireland under their control. But it is also a story of economic, cultural, and institutional change, as the impact of English models and practices came into contact with native societies, cultures, and polities. The results could range from close imitation (as in the governance and law of Scotland) to an entrenched duality of cultures (as in Wales and Ireland).
The sources for studying these processes are exceptionally rewarding on the English side: notably the splendid accounts of the Welsh and of the conquest of Ireland by the irrepressible Gerald of Wales and a vivid and lively Anglo-Norman poem on the conquest of Ireland. These English sources can be illuminatingly complemented by Irish, Welsh, and Scottish annals and poetry.
This subject focuses on the history of the fourteenth–century phase of the Hundred Years War between England and France, and on the social, military, and political preoccupations of the knightly sector of English society that was so deeply involved in it. This period, which witnessed the great victories of Edward III and the Black Prince at Crécy and Poitiers, the foundation of the Order of the Garter and Richard II’s distribution of his famous white hart livery badge, has been hailed as England’s Age of Chivalry. Though concentrating on the English side, the subject necessarily has a continental dimension.
The prescribed texts have been chosen in order to open up and illuminate a series of major themes, and it is expected that those studying the subject will want to concentrate more heavily on some of these than on others, according to individual choice and taste. A wide selection from the principal chroniclers introduces the basic narrative history, and includes detailed accounts of the major campaigns and battles. There is a substantial body of material chosen to illustrate the cultural history of the period, the ideals of chivalry and of courtly love, the contemporary concern with heraldry and with tourneying and the abiding interest in the crusades; this includes both literary and iconographic evidence, selections from Chaucer and from alliterative poetry, and artefacts such as the Wilton Diptych, the Black Prince’s tomb and some monumental brass.
Another theme is the organization of war: the problems of recruitment, discipline, provision of horses, the sharing of spoils; and the problem of soldiers’ pay, and of raising of taxes to meet war expenditure. Diplomatic history, naturally, has its place too and the selection here is designed to introduce questions about the making of truces and treaties and also to open up some important related topics: war propaganda, contemporary views of the morality of war, and of the value as well as the means of making peace.
By looking at the definition, prosecution and punishment of crime, historians can learn a great deal about how a society comprehends itself. The records of crime are records of social breakdown, personal moral failure, and economic or political desperation. They provide a negative image of shared values relating to public order, morality, and good citizenship. The world of medieval crime and punishment bears some comparison with our own – much in our systems of law and morality was born in this period – but there are also striking differences, such as the frequent use of capital punishment, the heavy involvement of local communities in defining and dealing with crime, and the class, gender and ethnic disparities underlying medieval thinking about morality and crime. This course will allow students to research individual crimes or groups of crimes including: homicide, infanticide, theft, prostitution, rape, abduction, heresy, treason, defamation, noble disorder, criminal gangs, and economic crimes such as piracy and poaching.
Case studies in these crimes can be linked to thematic studies on the role of the local community, the influence of class and gender, the aims of punishment, crime in literature, concepts of public order, and the use of legal records to study social relations. The prescribed texts include an exciting mixture of legal records (from royal, urban, church and manorial courts), outlaw and prison literature (including the Robin Hood ballads), letters and chronicles. This is a major topic in current historical research, with a vibrant and developing secondary literature.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the term ‘art’ covered a field far broader than the ‘fine arts’ or ‘visual arts’ do in modern usage. The Renaissance ‘artist’, understood in broad contemporary terms, occupied a central place in the cultural landscape in which the manual or ‘mechanical’ arts (typically the domain of the ‘artisan’) met the liberal arts and shaded off into the natural sciences.
This Option offers students an opportunity to explore this unfamiliar landscape, with a particular focus on the many ways in which the ‘arts’ developed new means of understanding and intervening in the world of nature. This is a world in which artists rose from the company of artisans and craftsmen on the strength of new techniques for imitating nature, where artist-engineers invented machines and perfected the arts of war, where astronomers joined forces with sailors to improve the art of navigation, where mathematical practitioners of great variety devised instruments which triggered major intellectual breakthroughs, where new species flooding in from the new world raised hopes of perfecting the art of medicine, where alchemists and natural magicians sought new arts to manipulate the deepest hidden forces of nature, and where iconic figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, and Paracelsus rub shoulders with nameless tradesmen.
In addition to representative contemporary texts from across Europe, students will be exposed to a rich variety of visual sources, from classic works by major Renaissance artists to maps, charts, instruments, machines, and the wonderful natural and artificial objects avidly collected by princes and patricians in this period. No technical or special linguistic background will be assumed.
The early modern witch-hunt, a feature of the same age that produced Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and Montaigne, took the lives of at least 40,000 women and men. The study of witchcraft offers historians an alien and therefore exceptionally valuable entry point into the culture of Renaissance and Reformation Europe.
This course aims to give students an understanding of the emergence and decline of witchcraft belief on both the popular and elite level. The early modern period was characterised by economic, social, and religious upheaval, so the witch-hunt needs to be placed within the context of wider contemporary fears and anxieties about the demonic, as well as increased pressures on the structures and fabric of social life. Witchcraft history has consequently given rise to a plethora of methodological approaches. Literary and gender theories jostle with readings inspired by anthropology, and psychoanalysis. Students will be encouraged to engage with these critically, comparing case studies and using a rich variety of sources.
The primary source material offers views of witches as they were seen by visual artists, from the pulpit, and on stage. The material will also introduce students to the views of demonologists and sceptics, and to the voices of the accusers and accused themselves. Accordingly, the study of witchcraft persecution and beliefs not only offers crucial insights into the early modern period more generally but it also provides historians with rare access to mental worlds and emotional states, whether at village level or among ruling elites.
Making England Protestant was a formidable task. Pre-modern societies tended to be conservative in the sense of valuing traditions, myths, and memories. Innovation was dangerous and often unpopular in such a conceptual world. Hence the frequent Catholic jibe to Protestant reformers across Europe: ‘where was your church before Luther?’ The response of Protestant reformers was to ‘build the Temple’ anew: traditional ideas of the destination of the soul after death were shattered by the propagation of daunting new ideas of salvation. The rituals, ceremonies and rhythms of everyday life were remodelled, the sounds and senses of traditional religion transformed and England’s history was re-imagined and retold to provide a definitive answer to Catholic attacks on the disreputably novel origins of the Church of England.
This course examines the ‘howling success’ of the Protestant Reformation in England from the Elizabethan Religious Settlement to the outbreak of Civil War in 1642, through an exploration of a wide variety of sources: sermons, cheap sensational print and polemic, drama, music, art and architecture. These will be studied alongside liturgical and legal sources, correspondence and diaries. Protestant reformers in England succeeded in creating both a Protestant state, but also in fostering a deep-seated culture of Protestantism, manifest in the remarkably visceral fear of popery and the antichrist that exerted such immense influence on seventeenth-century society and politics. The problems of this ‘Protestant project’ will also be addressed. How were reformers to mediate new doctrines to the laity without blunting the purity of their message? To what extent did emphasis on a doctrine of election and reprobation divide communities into a self-regarding ‘godly’ and a reprobate multitude? Over time Protestantism was prone to fracture into competing agendas and priorities as clerics and communities developed different ideas about what mattered in the English Reformation: a key determinant of allegiance – parliamentarian or royalist – during the English Civil Wars was the dispute over the identity of the true Protestant church in England.
The course will locate English religious change within broad contexts, as well as looking closely at key texts, material, visual and aural sources, and individuals. Unusually for an Oxford history course, integral case studies are located in the University itself: we will examine the architecture and interior of St Mary’s, the University Church, and the chapels of several Oxford colleges. The course may be approached without prior knowledge of the period, or chosen to complement outline work in British IV and General III
This subject concerns the confrontation and contact between the Spanish and American Indian peoples of Central and South America from the first landing of Columbus in 1492 until the end of the sixteenth century. It involves some study of the social and political background of the Iberian peninsula; but the main emphasis lies on the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, the Maya country and Peru. The principal topics for study include the native societies of these regions; the story of the conquests; the nature of colonial society and the policy of the Crown. We will also discuss the contemporary debates on the treatment of the Indians and the impact – demographic, social, economic and religious – of the Spanish upon the Amerindians.
The period is particularly rich in primary material. The texts which have been chosen illustrate both European and native views: they include narratives of the conquests of Mexico and Peru and descriptions of Aztec, Maya and Inca society.
A knowledge of Spanish is not necessary for taking this course.
There is little need to emphasize the importance of this period in the transformation of the political and social system and consciousness of France and of the wider European world. The protracted wars of 1792-1815 and the almost continuous Anglo-French conflict similarly had far-reaching effects on the military and economic development of European states. The period thus provides an excellent subject for an option in the Preliminary Examinations as it introduces undergraduates to some general issues and themes that they are likely to encounter elsewhere in the syllabus.
The emphasis of this option is on the nature of the conflicts that brought instability during the 1790s and on the character of the Napoleonic settlement after 1799, particularly focusing on the relationship between these two phases. Undergraduates will also study the multiple threads of the revolutionary political discourse, exploring the emergence of liberal, radical and conservative systems of thought, as well as examining the elements of Bonapartist and Imperial ideology. The paper examines the process of revolutionary politics and the mechanisms of the Napoleonic system. Furthermore, it raises the practical difficulties experienced in trying to give stable political and institutional form to theory and ideal. One central issue here is the emergence of revolutionary and Napoleonic myths and the dichotomy between ‘myth’ and ‘reality’. Finally, undergraduates will be asked to assess the degree, nature, and significance of the changes undergone by France between the Ancien Régime and the Bourbon Restoration.
With these aims in view, the prescribed texts include the famous polemical writings of the Abbé Sieyès and Edmund Burke, a selection of French revolutionary documents (acts, speeches, proceedings, and the like), selections from Napoleon’s letters and from the Memorial of Saint Helena by the Count de Las Cases. Such texts will enable undergraduates to measure contemporary perceptions against those of historians since that time.
This paper will consider the ways in which ideas of gender structured and influenced notions of citizenship in Britain in the period 1789-1825. Beginning with the dramatic consequences of the French Revolution for British culture, the pioneering feminist writings of Mary Wollstonecraft will be examined in depth, as will the counter-revolutionary texts of Hannah More. The significance of changing notions of masculinity will also be investigated, with a particular focus upon the impact of war. A central text in this regard is Jane Austen's Persuasion.
The paper also provides the opportunities to consider the specific literary and intellectual cultures of Scotland and Ireland, and the 1789 Irish rebellion will be a particular focus. In addition, the gendered contours of imperial activity will be traced through debates over colonial slavery and widow-burning in India. The challenges facing labouring families in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars are a further theme can be traced through incidences of industrial and political protest. Meanwhile, the emergent ideas of political economy, as shown in Malthus's influential, An essay on population will serve to illustrate a growing tendency to conceptualise working-class women in their domestic capacities rather than in their role as labourers.
An investigation of the Queen Caroline affair (1820) through a range of contemporary cartoons provides a vehicle for exploring the inter-connectedness of the themes of gender, national identity and citizenship. Finally the paper examines one of the most extraordinary feminist texts of the nineteenth century: An appeal of one half the human race; women, against the pretensions of the other half, men... (1825), the joint production of two Irish radicals, William Thompson and Anna Wheeler.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Europe rediscovered its oral culture. Popular culture combined with Enlightenment interest in the ancient and the primitive, as philosophes and revolutionaries sought new sources of cultural and political legitimacy in an era when ‘the people’ emerged as a political actor. From the desire to know the people would emerge the new subject of folklore. Folk culture would prove the source of inspiration for writers, painters, and musicians, and would leave its mark on all aesthetic movements from romanticism to modernism. This cultivation of culture would spawn schools of national music and architecture, but would also have political implications as cultural distinctions led to calls for regional autonomy and national independence. However, the concept of the ‘folk’, and the validation of plebeian culture, could also be invoked by those on the left of the political spectrum. Folklore mirrored the intellectual changes of the century, developing from an antiquarian interest, via a Romantic evangelical phase, to a positivist would-be science in the later nineteenthcentury, before finally being co-opted to the reaction against posivitism.
Students will have an opportunity to study the key thinkers that influenced the development of folklore. The course opens with the late-eighteenth century forebears of romanticism, Herder and Macpherson’s Ossian. It will consider the pioneers of the folklore collecting, the Grimm brothers and their intellectual and political influence.
Students will also engage with key texts including the Grimms’ Household Tales, the Finnish Kalevala, and Moe and Asbjørnsen’s Norse Popular Tales. They will also consider the influence of folklore on writers and musicians such as Ibsen, Yeats, Grieg, Sibelius and Stravinsky. Students will consider the intellectual developments in folklore, and the links to other emerging areas of intellectual excitement in the nineteenth century, including subjects such as philology, anthropology and, psychology.
“Restored to our primitive dignity, we have asserted our rights; we swear never to yield them to any power on earth.” With these words, which followed the only successful slave revolt in the modern era, the black people of Haiti created the western hemisphere’s second republic. Haiti’s former slaves defeated French, British and Spanish attempts to re-enslave them, forcing Napoleon Bonaparte to abandon his western design and sell Louisiana to the United States – the first republic created in the western hemisphere. Haiti’s black Jacobins drew some inspiration but little support from revolutionaries in France and America. They might have expected that their revolution would have weakened the institution of slavery in the Americas, in fact they strengthened it.
This paper introduces students to the first, and one of the most powerful, world systems of the modern era – the Atlantic vectors that sustained and profited from the production of sugar using slave labour in the greater Caribbean. That the French, Haitian and American Revolutions were interconnected is a staple of the so-called “Age of the Democratic Revolution”. That this interconnection centred on slavery as much as on the power of revolutionary ideas, and that such interconnection renewed the power of despotism in Europe (in the process isolating America from an Atlantic trading world) is less often considered. The rise and fall of slavery and abolition in the United States and the West Indies was not, the course demonstrates, determined by national factors alone. Neither, most dramatically, was the western and southern expansion of the United States of America pre-ordained, an act of American volition or of “manifest destiny”. Doubling the size of the United States at a stroke, while increasing demand within it for slaves, set in train events that would transform the continent and the Caribbean.
The prescribed texts for this course will be in English though students with French language skills are welcome to consult Francophone original and collateral documents where appropriate.
The ‘New Woman’ divided intellectual and popular opinion in Britain and Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To some commentators, she promised political, economic and sexual liberation. To others, she represented a threat to British standards of decency and even to the country’s standing as a Christian nation. There was no single New Woman, nor even an agreed set of characteristics which defined her. The term itself was coined in 1894 and came to encapsulate a number of representations of the modern woman. These included ‘the girl graduate’, the popular novelist, the feminist and the ‘bachelorette’, all of whom were featured and dissected in a variety of novels, political expositions and newspapers and journals.
This paper will consider the many ways in which debates about the New Woman reflected contemporary anxieties about the social, political and economic position of women in Britain and Ireland at the fin de siècle. Beginning with an introduction to the ‘Woman Question’ and the ‘New Woman’, we will explore the broad areas of education and paid work, family and marriage, literary and cultural life, sex and society, and political engagement. The prescribed texts include a rich and representative mixture of journal articles, novels, autobiographies and propaganda pieces which engaged with ideas about the New Woman and reflected the growing desire among middle-class women for greater autonomy in their public and private lives. Students will be encouraged to consider how aspects of the New Woman debate differed between Britain and Ireland and will explore how particular debates reflected broader social and political shifts in the United Kingdom.
Karl Marx in his life time was an obscure theoretical scribbler, and his death in 1883 received barely a mention in the London Times. By the turn of the century however, millions of European workers subscribed at least rhetorically to his doctrine of revolutionary socialism. Even socialist ‘reformism’ anticipated no mere tinkering but a complete transformation of society. Real democracy was widely understood to be incompatible with the continued existence of capitalism. The working masses, so long despised and abused, seemed ready to ‘storm heaven’. Liberals were astonished and disturbed to find themselves no longer in the vanguard of ‘progressive politics’. The mighty executive states of Europe swung between concession and repression as they grappled with the radicalism of a politicised working class. When war and revolution did finally shatter the stability of the old order, socialists found themselves, not coming into their inheritance, but plunged into division and retreat.
This paper examines the federation of socialist parties that sprang up from the 1880s across Europe and even further afield. Within this ‘Second International,’ political debate was passionate. There were few discussions of abstract principles: almost the entirety of core socialist belief had already been developed by intellectuals and idealists in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Second International instead grappled with practical problems: Would a naturally expanding proletariat bring socialists to power on a majority vote? Was there any need for, or hope in, revolutionary insurrection? How might women or oppressed nationalities be appealed to? Was militarism a harbinger of capitalism’s decline, or a brutal strengthening of the elites? What would a socialist government actually do, the day after the ‘revolution’? We shall be looking at how an international, messianic movement played out in particular and national, even regional, contexts. The anarchist challenge to mainstream socialist assumptions, both in terms of intellectual libertarianism and of dramatic terrorist assassinations and bombings, will be examined as well as the response of liberals, conservatives and – ultimately – fascists to the socialist challenge.
This is not a paper discussing the socialist movement in isolation: as such it provides an insight into an entire era in history, one very different from our own but, with the strains of globalisation apparent. Most sources are short and all are accessible and non-technical. The aim here is not intensive examination of classic texts. We seek instead to get a broad feel for the cut and thrust of vibrant debate in the period. While the Second International was in formal existence from 1889 to 1916, we shall cover the period c. 1881 to 1921, so as to trace its emergence and demise. No prior knowledge of political theory will be assumed.
This paper will offer students an introduction to contemporary international and transnational history by considering a series of major global themes in the twentieth century through the prism of the remaking of world order in the aftermath of the First World War. Beginning with a conventional starting point in international history—the world situation in 1919, the politics and diplomacy of peace-making, and the shape of the international arena at the beginning of the interwar period—the course will progressively expand its focus to consider a number of themes from a transnational perspective, i.e., considering actors, institutions, organisations and arguments emerging at this time outside, in between, and across the apparatuses and jurisdictions of nation-states.
In particular, the course will examine problems of international governance (both political and economic), the nature and impact of internationalism and humanitarian activism, and the problematic relationship between the Wilsonian principle of self-determination, minority protection and imperialist realities. The chronological scope of the paper will be quite narrow, with documents focusing on the events of 1919 and their immediate consequences into the early 1920s. Broader contextualisation (occasionally as far back as the 1890s) will be provided wherever necessary by the accompanying lectures. Readings will focus on case studies drawn from a variety of regions, institutions, or international debates. Specific issues covered include the nature of the League of Nations; peace, disarmament and arbitration; markets, money and labour; emergency relief efforts, the international women’s movement, children’s rights and ideas of racial equality; the Jewish question in Eastern Europe and Palestine; the small nations of Eastern Europe; imperialism and anti-colonial nationalism in Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.
The ‘new left’ flourished in Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With faith in traditional soviet communism waning in the aftermath of the USSR’s suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, new forms of radicalism took root. Many of them originated in the universities, where student radicalism found a voice in the Vietnam Solidarity and Anti-Apartheid movements, as well as in campaigns against the conditions of student life. In Britain, as in the United States and much of Europe, 1968 marked the high point of protest against the Vietnam War and other supposed manifestations of capitalist imperialism. In the years that followed, however, the voice of radical protest in Britain moved from the universities and from international campaigns to a community-oriented concern with domestic issues and the politics of the community, taking shape in new-wave feminism, sexual politics, squatting, claimants’ movements and other forms of urban protest, as well as in enhanced industrial militancy.
This paper looks at this web of radical movements. It uses not only primary and secondary printed literature but also the forty or so interviews gathered from the oral history project ‘Around 1968: Activists, Networks, Trajectories.’ Extracts from the transcripts of some of these interviews are included among the set texts, and students are encouraged to make wide use of the ‘Around 1968’ online database of interview recordings and transcripts. In addition to examining the movements themselves, students are asked to consider the methodological strengths and weaknesses of oral history in the context of this type of study
This subject covers the epic poems of Homer and the didactic poetry of Hesiod which are our main literary evidence from early Greece before the city-states or the art of writing became widespread. Although neither poet is a straightforward source of historical evidence, their poems do convey a range of institutions and social and religious attitudes which are too specific or coherent to be dismissed as uncontrolled literary fiction. To study them is not only to enter into the delicate relationship between social history and the imagination: it is also to appreciate values which these great poems made central to the upbringing, religion and self-consciousness of the educated Greek-speaking public for more than a thousand years. Knowledge of Homer helps us to go on to understand aspects of the work of the first historian, Herodotus, and the great Athenian dramatists. It also helps us share the culture of many of the great men of ancient history, whether Alexander the Great or the pagan Emperor Julian.
The poems have been keenly discussed by recent historians and sociologists, who have thrown new light on the poems’ marriage-customs, ideas of justice and gift-giving, the notions of honour and a shame-culture, kinship and social relations and the distinction between fledgling ‘proto-states’ and ‘semi-states’. This world is central to the subject, giving scope for criticism of particular social theories (the world of Odysseus), insights from social anthropology, comparative studies of ‘heroic ages’ in other literatures and cultures and of the poems as oral poetry, illumined by its place in other societies.
Both poets also describe a material culture which has been widely compared with the known archaeology of particular periods. Nobles and palaces, death and burial, trading and travelling, warfare and weaponry are among the topics with which a growing body of archaeological evidence connects. No one date for the Homeric epics will be presupposed between c.1000-700 B.C., but candidates will become aware of the merits of the various theories, perhaps even reaching a reasoned preference of their own.
The paper will include passages from the poems for comment, focussing on these issues. Essays will give a choice from an agreed range of social questions and there will also be an optional question to allow detailed use of archaeological evidence on agreed aspects of the poems’ material setting. The poems themselves are set in English translations. Although no translation can hope to be Homer or Hesiod, their readers will still catch something of Hesiod’s art and something, too, of the pathos, nobility and imagination of the great Homeric epics.
Rome is “the Eternal City“, because throughout European history she has played a central role. This subject looks at the city of Rome and its culture at its highest point and at its crucial period of transition. Augustus, the first emperor, sought to renew the institutions of an ancient city state to fit it to its status as ruler of the Mediterranean world. The governing class, the senate, was purged and prepared for the transition from political élite to imperial bureaucracy; the other orders and the people were depoliticized. Of the monumental centre, Augustus said ‘I found a city of brick and left a city of marble’; great complexes of public buildings were created, and a network of civic amenities was established. The religious institutions were revived according to a conscious programme. Patronage of literature created the first “Augustan Age”, and an independent canon for Latin literature. In art, Rome was the centre of public and private patronage. Beyond Rome lay Italy, and the ideal of a country life based on a revived agriculture.
But there were many tensions: Civil war was not easy to forget, the loss of political liberty was resented among the traditional leaders and the changes in the countryside reflected widespread confiscations. The new moral standards were the product of an ethical conservatism widely resented by the literary and social élite.
Archaeology, art history and literary criticism are relevant to this subject, as well as traditional historical techniques. The texts have been chosen to reflect the various official and unofficial views of the period, to allow the study of its greatest literature within an historical context, and finally to introduce the historian of culture to those classical works which have been the basis of European cultural history from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century – notably Virgil, Ovid, Horace and Vitruvius.
This subject in comparative economic history is concerned with the main relationships involved in the industrialisation of Britain and France from 1750 to 1870. It will provide an introduction to modern economic history and candidates will be encouraged to think thematically and systematically about the problems of why some countries (e.g. Britain) developed modern industry and an urbanized society before others (e.g. France). They should become more familiar with the corpus of theory and elementary quantification that inform modern approaches to economic history, basically by detailed study of such topics as the connections between industrialization on the one hand and demographic change, agricultural productivity, capital formation, entrepreneurship, technical progress, education, transportation, foreign trade and governmental policies on the other.
In selecting two major European economies for detailed study this option also introduces students directly to the problems of comparative history. Thus the texts have been selected to exemplify contemporary British commentaries on the strengths and weaknesses of the French economy and the perceptions of well-informed Frenchmen of the progress and desirability of industrialisation and urbanisation as they proceeded across the channel from 1750 to 1870.
Teaching: 6 classes or tutorials, held over Trinity Term.
Assessment: A 3-hour written examination takes place at the end of the Trinity Term. This accounts for 25% of the overall mark.
Please note that the options listed above are illustrative and may be subject to change.