Accessibility statement

Family - HIS00096H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jeremy Goldberg
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Family is too familiar a concept. It is a basic building block of society. Modern, western families are small and nuclear. Politicians (and others) praise ‘traditional’ family values and bemoan the ‘breakdown’ of family. Comparative history challenges and problematises these givens. The western, nuclear family is not modern. For North American Indian peoples the ties of kinship extend far beyond the co-resident group, but the traditional Japanese family may welcome unrelated strangers as heirs if biological children are not considered up to the job. This course is about challenging preconceptions, opening minds, and trying to make sense of the apparent diversity of cultural understandings of who may live together, what makes a home, how children should be raised, who controls marriage, how family values are nurtured, or how to set up a household.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22 to Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the practice of comparative history;
  • To enable students to acquire skills and understanding of that practice by studying a particular topic or theme; and
  • To enable students to reflect on the possibilities and difficulties involved in comparative history

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp the key approaches and challenges involved in comparative history;
  • Understand a range of aspects of the topic or theme which they have studied;
  • Be able to use and evaluate comparative approaches to that topic or theme; and
  • Have learned to discuss and write about comparative history
  • Have developed skills in group work

Module content

Teaching Programme:
Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term, and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars.

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

  1. What is Family?
  2. Household and Household Structures: Nuclear
  3. Household and Household Structures: Stem and Complex
  4. Kith and Kin
  5. Houses and Households
  6. Childhood: Socialisation
  7. Childhood: Neglect
  8. Taking in Strangers
  9. Marriage Making: Family, Church, State
  10. Marriage: Men, Women, Peers
  11. Sex, Sexuality, and the Family
  12. Sex outside the Family
  13. The Family at Work
  14. The Widowed and the Elderly
  15. Family Past and Family Future: Family Compared


Task Length % of module mark
Project 4000 words
N/A 33
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
24-Hour Open Exam
N/A 67

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For procedural work, the students will make group presentations towards the end of the autumn term. In addition, they may choose to submit an optional 2,000 word formative essay between weeks 7-9 of the autumn term. Essays should not be submitted in the same week as group project presentations are scheduled.

For summative assessment students will complete a 4,000-word group project due in week 6 of the spring term -- this will account for 33% of the final mark. They will then also take a 2,000-word 24-hour open exam during the common assessment period in the summer term, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. The open exam will be worth 67% of the final mark.


Task Length % of module mark
Project 4000 words
N/A 33
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
24-Hour Open Exam
N/A 67

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive feedback that will include comments and a mark. If this takes the form of live feedback in class it will be supported by a written comment sheet.

All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural 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. 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:

Arensberg, C.M. and S.T. Kimball. Family and Community in Ireland. 2nd ed., Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Segalen, M. Love and power in the peasant family: rural France in the nineteenth century. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.

Hamabata, M.M. Crested Kimono: power and love in the Japanese business family. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1990.

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.