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Approaches to Early Modern History - HIS00029M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Emilie Murphy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This core module explores the history of Britain, Europe and the world, 1500-1800. It introduces students to key problems and debates in the existing scholarship, and to a range of methodological approaches taken by historians. The module allows students to read material from across geographical boundaries on topics such as crime and punishment, and religious and supernatural beliefs. Students will explore the full range of primary sources available to historians produced by, and representing, early modern individuals from across the social spectrum, including popular song, art and material culture, alongside court records and other written sources in both print and manuscript. Finally, students will be encouraged to consider how this era has been periodised by scholars of differing traditions.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Examine key themes in the historiography of the early modern period
  • Consider Britain as part of Europe and the impact on European identity of exposure to those differing cultures found on Europe’s frontiers and overseas
  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of primary source material
  • Develop students’ powers of historical argument

Module learning outcomes

After successfully completing this course students should:

  • Be familiar with recent and classic debates in early modern history;
  • Have broad knowledge of the range of documentary and other sources available to early modern historians, and how they have been interpreted;
  • Be aware of how and why the history of this era has been periodized;
  • Have sharpened their skills of critical analysis and presentation;
  • Have begun the process of identifying a dissertation research topic.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

Seminars may include:

Week 1 Briefing session

Week 2 Writing the Reformation

Week 3 Globalization

Week 4 Credit and the Social Order

Week 5 The Supernatural

Week 6 Crime and the Law

Week 7 Material Culture and Dress

Week 8 Magic and Science

Week 9 Representing Power


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

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000 word essay for formative assessment, due in week 6, for which they will receive an individual tutorial.

Students taking the module as a core module will submit a 4,000 word assessed essay in week 10 of the autumn term. For those taking the module as an option module, a 4,000 word assessed essay will be due in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.


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

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. They will also receive verbal feedback at an individual tutorial. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. Supervisors are available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

Indicative reading

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

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry. What is Early Modern History? London: Polity, 2021.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700. London: Allen Lane, 2003.

Roper, Lyndal. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge, 1994.

Brook, Timothy. Vermeer's Hat: the Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. London: Profile, 2008.

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.