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Puritans & Players: Popular Culture in Early Modern England - HIS00062C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Emilie Murphy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into historical study of an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have practiced core skills identified in the Autumn Term Making Histories module, including historical analysis, note-taking, essay writing, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars: and,
  • Have delivered advanced level historical work in essays, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the module topics.

Module content

What was it like to live in early modern England? What did people listen to? What did they read? What did they watch? What did they eat and drink? What were the most extraordinary events of the age? How were these events remembered and memorialised? This module will start to answer these questions, and students will explore the impact of major events such as the invention of the printing press, the Reformations, and the Civil Wars, on popular beliefs and behaviours such as drinking ale and singing songs at local taverns.

Early historians of early modern culture viewed the past with a division between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ cultures firmly in mind. This polarity was a governing trope, for example, in Peter Burke’s influential monograph from 1978, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. Burke also argued that during this period Europe experienced a ‘reform’ of popular culture, where traditional rituals and beliefs were increasingly challenged by both ecclesiastical and secular authorities. This module will encourage students to critique this approach, while exploring the ways that attitudes and values held by early modern individuals were expressed performatively, symbolically, orally, and in writing. Students will get the opportunity to investigate early modern England through multidisciplinary primary source material such as art, architecture, music, and literature, alongside more traditional historical sources such as church court records held in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Teaching Programme:
Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over eight weeks. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  1. What is popular culture?
  2. Orality, literacy and print
  3. Beliefs
  4. Popular politics
  5. Music, plays and players
  6. Sexualities
  7. Food and drink
  8. The reform of popular culture?


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7.

Students will then submit 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. 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. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

You might like to look at the following:

Reay, Barry. Popular Cultures in England 1550-1750. London: Longman, 1998

Spurr, John. The Post-Reformation: Religion, Politics and Society in Britain, 1603-1714. London: Routledge, 2014.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

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