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Approaches to Modern History - HIS00010M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Chris Renwick
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This module provides an introduction to some of the most important and recent historiographical developments in modern history, covering works concerning the period from c.1750 to the present day. By focusing on a selection of key works by modern historians, it will show the range of modern historical practice and develop an awareness of the intellectual context of study of history in the present day.

Students will be encouraged to read closely and think reflectively, developing their own critique of individual texts. It will provide an essential methodological background to the MA. The texts chosen will cover the range of subdisciplines of political, cultural, social, economic and international history.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • Develop knowledge of key concepts and debates which structure the historiographies of the modern period
  • Develop students’ powers of historical argument

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

Have an understanding of the scope of modern historiographical practice;

  • Be able to read closely and comprehend core texts;
  • Have an understanding of the range of sources and methods used by scholars of the modern period;
  • Be able to contextualise core texts, placing them within their fields of enquiry;
  • Have learned how to conduct and write a literature survey;
  • Be aware of how and why the history of this era has been periodized;
  • Have sharpened their skills of critical analysis and presentation

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Modernity
  2. History as Power
  3. New histories of capitalism
  4. Environmental history
  5. Colonial and post-colonial history
  6. The history of migration
  7. The history of emotions
  8. The history of things


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay at the end of the first Reading and Writing week.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.



Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Bayly, C. A. The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.(
  • Historians and the question of modernity: roundtable’, American Historical Review, 116, no. 3 (2009).
  • Nan Enstad, ‘The “Sonorous Summons” of the New History of Capitalism, Or, What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Economy?.’ Modern American History 2, no. 1 (2019): 83-95.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.