Accessibility statement

Performing, Playing, and Re-enacting the Long Eighteenth Century - HIS00166M

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Elizabeth Spencer
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The long eighteenth century (c.1680-1830) has been represented again and again across different media and through diverse practices, raising important questions about whose and what pasts are foregrounded as well as how public understandings of the period have developed over time. Over the past twenty years, scholarship has become increasingly interested in the role of the body, affect, emotion, and individual experience in historical understanding, spawning several ‘turns’ including the ‘affective’ and ‘embodied’ turns. In this module, we will draw these two areas of study together, exploring these developments through a focus on the individuals, groups, and organisations who ‘embody’ the long eighteenth century in the present. We will interrogate what happens when living beings embody the past, either as a leisure activity, a scholarly pursuit, or for performative or interpretive means, looking at the forms of knowledge they generate as well as their place in broader debates.

We will focus primarily on examples from the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but will also take a broader view to consider how forms of embodiment draw on earlier practices like historical pageants. Moving between wider scholarship and examples specific to the long eighteenth century, we will draw them together to consider what we can gain. We will look at a wide range of case studies from re-enactment and living history museums, to reality television, to video games and virtual reality. In doing so, we will explore a range of issues relating to the representation of, ownership over, and uses of the eighteenth-century past.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of a specialist historiographical literature;
  • Present findings in an analytical framework derived from a specialist field;
  • Solve a well-defined historiographical problem using insights drawn from secondary and, where appropriate, primary sources.
  • Set out written findings using a professional scholarly apparatus.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing (RAW) weeks during which there are no seminars, and during which students research and write a formative essay, consulting with the module tutor. Students prepare for eight seminars in all.

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

  1. Introduction: Theories, approaches, and the historical pageant
  2. Re-enactment and Living History 1: Authenticity, the body, and material culture
  3. Re-enactment and Living History 2: Difficult and contested pasts
  4. Reality History TV: A Regency House Party?
  5. The Long Eighteenth Century on Screen: Bridgerton and beyond
  6. The Jane Austen Festival, Bath: A case study
  7. Performance: Music and theatre
  8. Video games, VR, and beyond


Task Length % of module mark
Long Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay in week 9.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Long Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

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 deadline. 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 reading during the module, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Agnew, Vanessa. “History’s affective turn: Historical reenactment and its work in the present.” Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice 11, 3 (2007): 299-312.
  • Bloom Gevirtz, Karen. Representing the eighteenth century in film and television, 2000-2015. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.)
  • Edwards-Ingram, Ywone. “Before 1979: African American Coachmen, Visibility, and Representation at Colonial Williamsburg.” The Public Historian 36, 1 (2014): 9-35.

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.