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Travel - HIS00133H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Simon Ditchfield
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

In this age of Ryanair and EasyJet, notwithstanding the rude, recent interruption of the pandemic, travel has never been cheaper and easier. However, the relative ease of present-day travel and communication has arguably debased the experience and trivialised its purpose so that it has become merely the occasion for picturesque backdrops for selfies to send to your friends and family to envy. In the past, by contrast, travel was almost always difficult and dangerous. It was therefore not undertaken lightly and its various motivations - from curiosity to conquest; pilgrimage to politics; trade to tourism - have as much to tell us about the societies from which the travellers come as they do about the societies being visited. Here lies the particular fascination with travel narratives, which will form the focus of attention in seminars each week. Lectures will provide historical and literary context so as to enhance understanding of the texts themselves which will range chronologically from Herodotus to Lonely Planet guide books.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

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

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1, then a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in each of weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of the semester. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Introduction: two archetypal narratives (Herodotus & Tacitus)
  2. The Travellers’ eye: journalists and anthropologists
  3. Travel as Exploration
  4. Travel as Conquest
  5. Travel as Trade
  6. Travel as Pilgrimage/Mission
  7. Travel as Tourism
  8. Conclusion: thinking with travel


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Travel
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment work, students will produce an essay plan relating to the themes and issues of the module.

For summative assessment students will complete an Open Exam in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Travel
5 hours 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback, which may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss their feedback 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 25 working days of the submission. For semester 1 assessments, the tutor will be available during student hours of the following semester for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester 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:

  • Tim Youngs, The Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
  • Emily Thomas, The Meaning of Travel: philosophers abroad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
  • Lucy Lethbridge, Tourists: how the British went abroad to find themselves (London: Bloomsbury, 2022).

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.