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Evidence & Methods - HIS00088C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tom Johnson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This course introduces students to the way that academic historians use, interpret, and debate the value of historical evidence. It is a vital step in the transition between school- and university-level history, enabling students to understand evidence as the most fundamental building block of historical argument. Students will learn how potential historical “sources” – from shopping lists to state papers, novels to Netflix – can become historical evidence; they will learn to weigh the significance of a piece of evidence and assess how to deploy it to construct an argument; and they will come to be familiar with some of the key concepts through which historians understand evidence. The course not only provides a foundation for historical understanding, it also gives students the tools to enable critical thinking. By the end of this course, students will have acquired skills and knowledge that will remain vital throughout their degree and beyond.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

- To teach students the relevance and significance of evidence in historical argument

- To familiarize students with historical methodologies relating to evidence

- To introduce students to historiographical debates about the nature of historical evidence

- To show students how to interpret a range of sources and deploy them as evidence

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

- understand and explain the difference between sources and evidence

- Show the relevance and significance of evidence within historical arguments

- Be able to recognize and critique the ways that historians deploy evidence

- Have practised interpreting sources as evidence and deploying evidence as part of an argument

Module content

Teaching Programme:

There is a 1 hour briefing lecture in Week 1. Teaching will take place in 9 x 1 hour Lectures and 9 x 2 hour discussion-seminars in Weeks 2-10 of Spring Term.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

Week 2. Sources and Evidence
Week 3. Culture and Mentality
Week 4. Fictions and Narratives
Week 5. Archives
Week 6. Writing the Self
Week 7. Voices
Week 8. Images and Objects
Week 9. Numbers
Week 10. Silences


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

- A short (1000-word) essay, making a short critique of a single piece of historical writing (chosen from the seminar readings). It will analyse and evaluate the way that the historian has used evidence in their arguments. To be submitted in week 6.

Summative work:

- A 2000-word essay in response to a question submitted in Week 1 of Summer Term. The essay will:

a) broadly characterise a particular methodological approach (pick a group of readings from any of the topics from weeks 3-10, e.g. “Silences”. You may draw on readings from outside this week, but ensure you focus mainly on one topic.)

b) evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this approach (e.g., what does studying images allow us to do, what does it leave out)

c) appraise the success of historical arguments which deploy it (e.g., focus on one or two case studies and make an argument about how well they work)


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Tutors will mark the formative essay and provide a written summary to each student within 10 working days. 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

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:

Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (2000).

Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives (1987).

David Armitage and Jo Guldi, The History Manifesto (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.