Intercollegiate Modules 2021-22

The UCL History modules below are available to students from University of London colleges that participate in the History intercollegiate sharing scheme. All requests for places should be made through your home college.  Please get in touch with your home college's programme administrator for more information.

Group 2 modules/Thematics (Thursdays, 2pm to 4pm)

Asia, the Aegean, Europe: Dividing the World in Ancient Greece

Dr Paola Ceccarelli

The binary opposition between ‘West’ and ‘East’, Europe and Asia, is a standard trope of world history. Usually traced back to Greek responses to the Persian Wars in the fifth-century BC, this geopolitical division (and its attending ideologies) is one of the most influential legacies of ancient Greek history. In this module, we shall explore when, how, and why the ideas of ‘Asia’ and ‘Europe’ (as well as related geographical entities such as ‘Hellas’) emerged – as part of a more general investigation of how the Greeks (and their neighbours) imagined, mapped, and divided their world. Reconstruction of these ‘spatial imaginaries’ from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period will yield fascinating insights into the interaction of (military) power, (geographical) knowledge, and the cultural construction of (geopolitical) space – and, not least, reveal the Europe–Asia divide as in various ways fluid and contingent.

Religious Reformation and Popular Piety, 1450-1650

Prof Ben Kaplan

This year-long Thematic module examines the sweeping changes in religious life in Europe between the late Middle Ages and the seventeenth century.  It concentrates on the upheavals associated with the Protestant and Catholic Reformations (the latter known also as the Counter-Reformation), but places these in a much broader context, examining the role of religion in the social, cultural, and political world of early modern Europe.  The course does not treat religious issues primarily in theological or ecclesiastic terms, but in terms of piety – the `varieties of religious experience’ Europeans had, and community – the social and spiritual bonds formed by religion.  It pays attention to the `common folk’ as much as to famous leaders, and looks for long-term shifts behind the era’s revolutionary events. 

The first half of the module has a largely narratival structure, tracing the events and movements conventionally associated with the Reformations of the 16th century.  After setting the context, it begins with reform efforts prior to Luther, and ends with the consolidation of rival `confessional’ churches by around the end of the century.  The second half of the course is organized thematically.  Each week a phenomenon – i.a. Ritual and Community, Sin and Confession, The Holy Household – is considered over the entire chronological scope, more or less, of the course.  In this way we will trace changes in the way religion was experienced and practiced by Europeans of all confessions between 1450 and 1650, comparing the new, early modern forms of Christianity both to one another and to the late medieval religion they supplanted.

Rome, 300-1000, Portraits of a City, Reflections of a Changing World

Dr Antonio Sennis

This module explores the changes that occurred in Rome between AD 300 and 1000, exploring a number of themes of key importance in the general history of late antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.  Through a focus on the city of Rome, we will explore a number of themes of key importance in the general history of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. These include: the end of the imperial world; the relationship between Pagan and Christian élites; the rise of Papal authority; the effects the structural changes in the Mediterranean trade had on the city’s market system; the intellectual and artistic productions; the relationship that the Popes had with the city’s aristocracy and the main powers of the time (Byzantine emperors, Lombard kings, Frankish kings and emperors); the Carolingian renaissance; the Ottonian empire. During the year we will use a wide range of written sources (available in translation) and archaeological evidence from excavations carried out in Rome in the last 15-20 years. During the year we will see how the structures of the antique Mediterranean world survived for longer than commonly thought and then transformed, declined and eventually collapsed. Moreover, we will study the physical, socio-economic, political, cultural and religious transformations that occurred in a city that, in spite of time, wanted to continue being celebrated as eternal.

Enlightenments and Revolutions

Dr Alessandro De Arcangelis

Recent years have witnessed the proliferation of innovative scholarship on the Enlightenment, which invited historians to rethink the spatial and chronological coordinates of this complex intellectual movement. Traditionally regarded as a predominantly Franco-Prussian event, the Enlightenment is now conceived in an increasingly polycentric and pluralistic fashion. This course therefore seeks to introduce students to a more nuanced understanding of this cultural and philosophical movement, in line with the recent historiography. It does so in various ways: first, it relies on the resources of transnational history to illustrate the permeability and interconnectedness of the contexts in which the Enlightenment developed; second, it employs a variety of historiographical approaches (e.g. intellectual, political, cultural, economic and social history) to interrogate a broad range of ideas, authors, texts, as well as their circulation within the continent; third, it engages more substantially with voices and narratives commonly regarded as “peripheral”, such as the Scottish, Neapolitan and Spanish-speaking Enlightenments; fourth, it also considers the global dimension of the Enlightenment, focusing on its reception in the wider world and its ability to shape experiences of political change and Revolution across the Atlantic.  

Furthermore, just as it seeks to deconstruct the conventional map of the European Enlightenment, this course also attempts to rethink its chronological boundaries, outlining an increasingly splintered and multi-directional narrative that disrupts its teleological association with the French Revolution. It will do so by shining a light on experiences of Revolution taking place in the European and global “peripheries”, and by reviewing its links with the Napoleonic era. Overall, this course encourages students to embrace a critical approach to the canonical historiography on the Enlightenment and consequently develop a more accurate and engaging understanding of this movement, and of its role in European, as well as world history.

The Industrial Revolution in Britain


The 'industrial revolution' was one of the three or four most important transformations in human history, and Britain was the first society to experience it. At heart that transformation was economic, a profound increase in both outputs and productivity. But crucially it had important social, cultural, intellectual and political dimensions: class, gender and generational relations changed considerably; new attitudes towards risk and consumption were forged; radical new ideas proliferated about the economy and the environment, the individual and the collective; and both state and empire played important roles in this 'great transformation'. This course, therefore, locates economic developments within a wider framework and explores how dramatically yet uncertainly Britain changed in the 130 years or so before 1830. The course is based on secondary sources, including plenty of tables and graphs. It is taught via weekly seminars. In addition to assessments, compulsory non-assessed coursework, such as book reviews, may also often be set.

Group 3 Modules/Special Subjects (Mondays 2pm to 4pm)

Cultures of War in Ancient Greece

Prof Hans van Wees

This course investigates all aspects of war in its social and cultural context in archaic and classical Greece - from the causes of conflict, via the question of how to train, raise, maintain, and control citizen and mercenary armies, to the range of forms of warfare from ritual clashes to campaigns of annihilation. In particular, the course tackles some of the myths current in modern scholarship: the notions that war was the 'normal' state of international relations in Greece; that the citizen army was an essentially 'middle-class' body; that warfare was restricted to a game-like competition in the archaic period but underwent a major cultural shift to become a destructive 'total' conflict in the classical period; that the Athenian navy drove the development of radical democracy; and that the 'mercenary explosion' of the fourth century was a result of economic and political crisis in the Greek city-states and marked another fundamental change in military culture. How the Greeks fought has been much-debated in recent research, and this too will be the subject of detailed study. A crucial aim of the course is to provide an understanding of how Greek warfare was shaped by the social, economic, and cultural constraints of its time, how it developed, and why wars were so common in ancient Greece. A second aim of the course is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to tackle this challenge, by enabling them to study the sources as coherent narratives while analysing their implications for any and all aspects of Greek war, society and culture.

Soul and Body in Renaissance Thought

Dr Angus Gowland

This module explores theories of human nature in the European Renaissance—an era when traditional teachings were revised and displaced by newly revived classical ideas, contested by philosophers, doctors and theologians amidst religious and political controversies, and, eventually, rejected in favour of radically scientific doctrines.  Its main focus is on the rich corpus of philosophical, religious, and medical works composed between the late-fourteenth and the early seventeenth centuries—by famous authors such as Francesco Petrarch, Marsilio Ficino, Andreas Vesalius, Michel de Montaigne and Francis Bacon, as well as such less well known figures as Johann Weyer, Jacques Ferrand, and John Abernethy. Students are also encouraged to delve into the abundant literary and artistic sources that illustrated and contributed to views of what it was to be human in this period.

The main territories covered include the physiology of the body and soul in medicine and natural philosophy; the ethical and spiritual aspects of the soul and its passions in moral and religious works, before and after the Reformations; the incorporation and refinement of conceptions of human nature in works of social and moral thought; and the expansion of geographical and ethnological knowledge resulting from missionary enterprises and the colonisation of the ‘new world’. Within these areas, particular attention is given to debates about the dignity or misery of man and the immortality of the soul, theories of sexual difference, theories of melancholia and dreaming, the status of the occult sciences of astrology and demonology, discussions of the geographical relativity of customs and values, ideas about 'civility' and civilisation, and, most broadly, historiographical claims about the secularisation of knowledge and the growth of modern individualism. Emphasis throughout is on the close reading of primary texts, but always in relation to the contemporary political, religious and social contexts that informed them.

Ivan the Terrible and the Russian Monarchy in the Sixteenth Century (1)

Dr Sergei Bogatyrev

Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584), the first Russian ruler who assumed the title of tsar, is known as one of the most controversial figures in Russian history. Was Ivan's reign essential for the transformation of the principality of Moscow into a multiethnic empire? Or was this period just a series of sporadic acts of a madman? Was Ivan running the show or was he a puppet in the hands of influential court clans? What do we know about Ivan's personality and how do we know what we think we know? This course will introduce students to the political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of Ivan's reign. To put Ivan's rule in a wider historical and cultural context, we will also examine the reigns of his immediate predecessors and successors, Vasilii III (1505-1533) and Fedor Ivanovich (1584-1598). Care will also be taken to examine Russia's place in the sixteenth-century international system and to compare the development of the Russian monarchy with contemporary early modern European states. The latter part of the course will concentrate on various interpretations of the reign of Ivan the Terrible offered by historians, writers, and artists. We will examine how the image of Ivan IV evolved from the sixteenth to the twenty first century, from Western Renaissance travel literature and the ideologists of early Romanovs, through Stalinist historiography and the famous film of Sergei Eisenstein, to the latest revisionist and post-modernist interpretations and the extravagant attempts to canonize Ivan. The set texts for the course, all available in English translation, include chronicles, legal codes, edicts, administrative records, polemical works, legal charters, household rules, proceedings of church councils, epistles, diplomatic papers, foreign accounts. The sources utilised during the course will also include a large amount of visual material, like works of iconpainting, architecture, portraits, engravings, and films. Students are expected to contribute actively to classes in the form of tutor- and student-led discussions, class presentations, seminar papers, short reports and a long essay.

Monarchs and the Enlightenment in Russia and Central Europe

Prof Richard Butterwick-Pawlikowski

This course requires students to relate two bodies of primary source material, studied in English translation. The first comprises major texts in the history of European political ideas, beginning with Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws (1748) and encompassing classic works by Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments (1764), Rousseau, Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772), Voltaire, Diderot and Kant. The second body of sources concerns Enlightened reforms pursued by the five monarchs covered by the course: Catherine the Great of Russia (r. 1762-1796), Stanisław August of Poland-Lithuania (1764-95), Frederick the Great of Prussia (r. 1740-86), and two rulers of the Habsburg or Austrian Monarchy: Maria Theresa (r. 1740-80) and her son Joseph II (r. 1765-90). How far, and in what ways, did these monarchs draw on Enlightened ideas in shaping their reforms? How far is it plausible to think of a unitary model of ‘Enlightened despotism’? The approach throughout is comparative, exploring, in particular, the relationship between crown and nobility, the question of serfdom, favouritism and its critics, religious toleration, and judicial and educational reform.