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Second Year Research Seminar

The Second Year Research Seminar is be taught over two terms and will be worth 30 credits.

The Research Seminar involves students studying a particular topic in small seminar groups of no more than 15 students and some of your teaching may also be organised around independent study and one-to-one tutorials with your seminar leader, who will be a specialist in the area of study. The seminars focus on the examination of a specific set of source materials organised around a topic, and are designed to develop students’ capacity to work independently and to use primary and secondary sources in the construction of a historical argument, including writing and speaking for non-academic consumption (‘public history’). You will then go on to identify a research topic you are passionate about within the broader subject area, ultimately producing a research essay and a public history piece for examination.

Second Year Research Seminars running in 2020/21:

Please note: These module descriptions are accurate at the time of publication. Amendments may be made prior to the start of the academic year.

Emotions and the Ancient Greeks

DR RIET VAN BREMEN; DR JULIETTA STEINHAUER

Over the past decades, the study of emotions has been a growth area in historical studies. How do we study emotions as a historical subject? More specifically, how do we study ancient emotions? Is ‘emotion’ a pan-cultural category or is it socially constructed? We will discuss what use can be made of models developed by neuroscientists, psychologists, anthropologists and philosophers. Historians of the ancient Greek world have an extra dimension to cope with: that of translation. Do our terms and theirs cover similar experiences? This has been a preoccupation of those who have written on Aristotle’s discussion of the emotions in the Rhetoric. But studies of ancient emotions should never be reduced to a study of terminology; instead, we should aim to uncover their explanatory potential.

After four initial sessions we will identify what evidence lends itself to being analysed. Subjects can range from the use of emotions in the speeches of the Greek orators to their use as an explanatory device in historical writing, the expression of emotions in funerary epigrams or the diplomatic language of decrees and royal letters. Emotions in Greek religion are a challenging field, while visual evidence also has great potential.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Article for the popular Classical Association's OMNIBUS magazine on chosen research topic

Soldier and Society: Documenting the Roman Army

DR BENET SALWAY

The Roman army is without doubt the best documented element of Roman imperial society. This research seminar will examine the relationship between Roman military personnel and wider society in Rome and in the provinces through the lens of the various different categories of evidence surviving through the documentary record. These survive in various media (stone, pot sherds, papyrus, bronze, and wooden tablets) and represent a wide range of genres: official reports, registers, and records produced by clerical staff (e.gg. Dura papyri, Vindolanda tablets, Mons Claudianus ostraka, Panopolis papyri); religious calendars and dedications (e.g. Feriale Duranum, Housesteads altars); certificates of discharge benefits (bronze military diplomas); the private correspondence of unit commanders (e.g. Abinnaeus archive), individual soldiers (e.g. Claudius Terentianus), and family members (e.g. Vindolanda tablets); and last, but not least, memorial stones. All source material will be read in translation but in parallel with the original language so that students will be exposed directly to the ancient material with the minimum of mediation.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Book review; Exhibition catalogue entry

Assyrian Imperialism in Ancient Iraq: Palaces of Nineveh and Nimrud

AME TEACHING FELLOW

In the 9th to 7th centuries BC the Assyrian cities of Kalhu (Nimrud) and Nineveh in northern Iraq formed the powerful urban core of the largest empire the world had yet seen, stretching from the mountains of northwestern Iran to the eastern Mediterranean coast and even, at times, into Egypt. They became objects of antiquarian investigation in the mid-nineteenth century, as part of British and French imperial adventures in the eastern end of the Ottoman empire. In spring 2015 the ISIS propaganda videos of destruction at these archaeological sites were just the latest documentation of nearly two centuries of appropriation, excavation, and looting.

Many of the monuments and inscriptions removed from Nineveh and Nimrud since the early 19th century wound up in the British Museum just a stone’s throw from UCL; others were dispersed to collections across the world while much remained in situ. We can therefore study these artefacts as imperial self-representations both ancient and modern. On the one hand, you could research  ancient visual and textual images of battle, conquest and submission, to investigate how the Assyrian Empire wished to present itself to the world. On the other hand, you can also investigate the modern afterlives of these same words and images in the self-fashioning of empires and states, from Britain to the Middle East.
 

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: podcast script, online exhibition, book review, magazine article

National Identity in Britain Since 1940

DR MICHAEL COLLINS

This research seminar involves firstly asking what national identity is and secondly thinking through different ways that national identity has manifested itself as a historical problem in ‘these islands’ since 1940. The meaning of ‘Britain’ is itself open to interpretation and has been challenged by nationalism from within the archipelago (Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English) as well as regional, local and transnational identities. National identity waxes and wanes over time, and is shaped by a range of actors and forces: economic and social change, political ideas and leadership, decolonisation and the loss of empire, European identities, Americanisation, immigration and ‘race thinking’. This research seminar will equip you with the theoretical tools required to examine a historical case study of your choosing and then help you to identify an appropriate archival basis and research methodology for your essay.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Radio transcript and recording.

Britons Abroad: The British Experience in Continental Europe, 1689-1800

PROFESSOR STEPHEN CONWAY

Thousands of Britons lived and worked on the neighbouring Continent – temporarily or permanently – in the eighteenth century, just as they do now.  The Grand Tour took elite men and women across Europe, but particularly to France, Italy, and Germany. Students attended continental universities, academies, and religious houses in the Dutch Republic, France, Germany, Italy, and the Iberian states.  Artists and musicians completed their training in Italy and Germany. British gardeners and domestic servants found employment in French and Russian noble households. Architects and engineers from Britain worked in many different European countries.  British (especially Scottish) doctors practiced in Russia.  Expatriate communities of British and Irish merchants lived in places such as Livorno, Cadiz, Lisbon, Bordeaux, Ostend, Rotterdam, Hamburg, and St Petersburg. British sailors visited continental ports, and crewed continental merchant ships and naval vessels.  Britons and Irishmen served as soldiers on the Continent – both in the British army and in the armies of other European states.   

This research seminar uses primary sources to illuminate the activities of these Britons abroad.  Students will be encouraged to develop their own research questions, but a theme running through the course, which could be explored in many different ways, is the impact of the Continent on our subjects of study: did it make them feel more British, or more European?

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: TBC

Conscience and Authority in the Age of Chaucer

DR EMILY CORRAN

This course allows you to study late medieval religion in England through the lens of literature. The second half of the fourteenth century and the first half of the fifteenth was a period in which England underwent extreme climactic and political pressures: the Black Death, and the smaller epidemics that followed, killed many and forced those who lived reflect on death and social change. Political unrest and war, as well as turbulence in the Catholic Church, was a spur to profound religious thought.
Whereas in previous centuries, most genres of religious texts were written exclusively in Latin, late medieval England saw a blossoming of the vernacular. This was thus a period in which the mainstream church became accessible to lay people to an unprecedented degree. There were more sermons in English recorded, more works intended for personal devotion and, increasingly English guides for parish priests. On the other hand, criticism of the church only grew throughout this period. New heresies emerged, most significantly the Lollards.  This course focuses on vernacular writings as a source for religious culture in late medieval England. You will study a variety of texts, including fiction (such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Langland’s Piers Plowman), normative texts, (such as Robert Mannyng’s Handling Synne), and texts produced by lay men and women intended for personal devotion. The questions we will address include the relative role of ecclesiastical authority and lay enthusiasm in this period, explanations for extreme religious enthusiasm, the relationship between orthodoxy and heresy, and the reasons for the rise and flourishing of the vernacular in England in this time.
You will be encouraged to read texts in the original Middle English, but there is no obligation to rely on untranslated text for your final assessment, since many of these texts are available in in modern translations. However, Middle English can be picked up reasonably easily and you will be given the opportunity and teaching to do so.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Audioguide / Podcast / article / teaching dossier

Black Atlantics in the Global South

DR CHLOE IRETON

In this research seminar, we consider whether “Black Atlantic,” originally coined by Paul Gilroy, is a useful conceptual term for the early Southern Atlantic. We explore the concept of the Black Atlantic by paying particular attention to the relationship between Africa, Southern Europe, the early Spanish Americas and the Caribbean, exploring the roles that Africans and the African Diaspora played in shaping historical trajectories, transatlantic cultures, and intellectual thought in the Atlantic world between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, students consider the impact of Africa on the Atlantic world and European Atlantic empires, and develop an understanding of the histories of West and Central-West Africa in this period.

The primary focus of the module is for students to develop advanced skills for independent historical research. To that end, we assess a broad range of primary sources that will orient students to the types of sources available to explore the histories of Africans and the African Diaspora in the Iberian and African Atlantic worlds in this period. The seminar readings focus on key caches of primary sources in translation into English, including, royal decrees, Inquisition cases, cases in Real Audiencias in the Indies and Council of the Indies in Castile, House of Trade travel license applications, official and private correspondence, in addition to travelers’ chronicles, slave-trade shipping records, testaments from notarial documents, and digital repositories of primary sources such as the Slave Voyage Database and Freedom Narratives. Students in this seminar will develop advanced skills in social history research methods, especially a critical sensitivity for the fragmentary nature of tracing the lives and experiences of free and enslaved black Africans in the early Iberian Atlantic world.

Students will be encouraged to design a 5000-word research essay project that will allow them the scope to develop advanced historical research skills in particular historical methods and perspectives that suit their interests and intellectual ambitions, and importantly that they find intellectually stimulating and interesting. Students with reading knowledge of languages other than English may devise research essays that draw on primary source research in languages other than English. Students do not need to have any prior knowledge of Colonial Spanish, Portuguese, or Anglo American History, African History, or early modern European history, although prior experience in any of these subjects will be helpful.

Previous student research essay projects have included: urban histories of women and race in a particular city in colonial Spanish America; an analysis of Africans’ views of the legality of the slave trade in the sixteenth century; African Diaspora and Catholicism in sixteenth century New Spain; an analysis of an eighteenth-century African slave trader’s diary; an analysis of a Jesuit’s theological treatise on slavery; analysis of notions of freedom in runaway slave maroon communities in the Spanish Caribbean; analysis of a particular aspect of the slave trade based on research in digital repositories of primary sources, such as Slave Voyage Database; a reconstruction of race and gender in a urban particular site by weaving together fragmentary pieces of evidence.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Primary source analysis blog post titled Historical Sources in Conversation that will be published on a public history website Black Atlantics in the Global South: Historical Sources in Conversation, available at https://blackatlantics.wordpress.com/ ).

The Occupation in French History, Culture and Memory

DR IAIN STEWART

This module focuses on the German occupation of France from 1940 to 1944 and how this most controversial of episodes has been treated by historians, writers and filmmakers from the Liberation to the present. We begin by studying the history of the Occupation from the perspectives of everyday life, state collaboration, and resistance before moving on to explore how and why its place in French collective memory has changed since the 1940s. Having established a basic grounding in the history and memory of the Occupation, students will prepare a short commentary on a primary source of their choice to be uploaded to the module’s dedicated blog. Potential sources include diaries, public monuments, everyday objects, memoirs, and government documents. In the second half of the module students will extend their primary research to cover a series of films and novels about the Occupation produced between the Liberation and the present. Students will formulate their own research questions relating to the module’s overall theme with support from the module tutor. Guidance on researching and writing the long essay will be given through a combination of taught classes and individual tutorials.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Blog post - primary source commentary

'The Bedrock of Society'? Marriage and Family in 20th Century Britain

DR FLORENCE SUTCLIFFE-BRAITHWAITE

The purpose of this module is to introduce you to a wide range of sources that might be used to examine marriage and family life, sex, contraception, motherhood, fatherhood, domesticity and family leisure in twentieth-century Britain. These sources will open up questions about the lives of women and the meanings of gender in this period, and develop an awareness of the conceptual and historiographical issues involved in doing women’s history and gender history. Because gender is always relational, we will think about masculinities, and how men related to the family, as well as about women. Class and race were key factors shaping experiences and ideologies of family life and form key themes of the module. We will examine where to find and how to use self-narrative sources – like diaries, letters, and autobiographies – where individual women and men wrote about their family lives. And we will look at sources like newspapers or advice columns where norms of marriage and family were debated and shaped.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Podcast script

Professional Writers and Witnessing War: Europe, 1914-1945

PROFESSOR HEATHER JONES

This course examines how European writers’ accounts of their war experiences can be used as historical sources to write war history. It focuses upon prose war writing by professional writers who had direct personal experience of European war in the period 1914 to 1945. We explore a range of published war testimonies, including journalism, memoirs and autobiographical novels, to assess how writers have depicted war and the challenges historians face in working with this kind of source material. This will prepare students to develop individual historical research projects on European war writing, 1914-1945, in consultation with the course teacher.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Online magazine article

Conspiracy and Paranoia

DR DAVID SIM

Many observers have conspired over the years to claim that American political culture is particularly prone to conspiratorial thinking. Paranoia – a sense that there are people plotting to undermine freedom – has been, according to the historian Richard Hofstadter, a persistent strain in American politics from the Revolution onwards. Potential enemies have included Catholics, Masons, Communists, Mormons, East Coast elites, railroad companies, NASA, the CIA, the UN, and often the Federal Government itself. Prominent political leaders, from Franklin Pierce to Barack Obama, have been accused of being not what they seem – of presenting one face but being secretly in league with America’s enemies. 

This research seminar gives you the opportunity to investigate a specific conspiracy or a particular type of conspiratorial thinking. In either case, your aim will be to work out what conspiratorial thinking tells us about American political culture. Part of the proposed output is a magazine piece (think The Atlantic or The New Yorker).

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Magazine article

"Free Nelson Mandela": Apartheid, Decolonisation and the Cold War

DR TIM GIBBS

It was no coincidence that the Free Nelson Mandela concert, broadcast across the world in 1988, organised by London’s Anti-Apartheid Movement, was held at Wembley stadium. London’s history, as the centre of the British Empire, ironically provided the dense networks that would also make the city the main hub of the global anti-apartheid movement. The city was a waypoint for the many politicians and diplomats, spies and soldiers, campaigners and churchmen, whose books, reports, journalism and memoirs are found in London’s archives and libraries. This course focuses on the transnational connections, routed through London, which links the history of apartheid into the more commonly known story of decolonisation and the Global Cold War. At the same time, students gain familiarity with the broad categories of historical sources – from government documents to memoirs and visual sources – that are found in London and online, as they develop their own research questions, in preparation for writing their final research paper.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Podcast transcript

Mountains and Frontiers

DR JAGJEET LALLY

This course focuses on mountains as a particular sort of space or topography and as a ‘natural frontier’ of political entities such as states and empires. The literature examined in the ‘taught’ part of the course focuses on the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas, but students may rove to other mountains and uplands. The course focuses on the long nineteenth century onwards, for – although these ranges were inhabited and traversed long before this time – there was a marked expansion of state power from the plains towards the mountains in the modern period, accompanied by interest in their natural resources and peoples. The course aims to show how mountains and uplands are a site of inquiry relevant to political, social, cultural, and economic history, and the history of science and the environment. 

Collectively, we will mount an exhibition called ‘Global Mountains’, for which you will each select five images on a theme and write five associated gallery label texts and overall text panel tying them together into a theme, and will be assessed individually (not together) as part of the ‘public history’ component of the module.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Gallery label texts

The worlds of Sir Joseph Banks 

PROFESSOR JULIAN HOPPIT

Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was a leading British landowner and scientist in an era of extraordinary change. A voyager to Newfoundland, Labrador and the Pacific (on Cooke’s first voyage of exploration), he was part of a growing Europe-wide curiosity in comprehending and harnessing the richness of the natural world. His interests spread well beyond his particular expertise in botany. As President of the Royal Society for over forty years, and as a confidante of ministers and George III, he provided trenchant advice on a wide range of British imperial and domestic policies, including the convict settlement of Australia, food sources for the slave economies of the West Indies, the establishment of botanical gardens in Calcutta and Kew, the exploration of Africa, the modernisation of the Royal Mint and embracing, when it suited him, the free trade ideas of Adam Smith. But Banks was also highly active more locally, particularly on and around his Lincolnshire estates, where he encouraged and directed expensive and complex agricultural improvements, promoted education and health care, and resisted the spread of French Revolutionary ideas. More generally the course is also concerned with the challenges of historical biography and of how well we can know people long dead. This will take us into Banks’s domestic life, especially the influence of his wife and remarkable sister, Sarah Sophia. A wide range of primary sources are available for this paper: printed journals, pamphlets, correspondence, visual representations of Banks and objects in the British Museum’s Enlightenment Gallery.

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: TBC

Time Imagined: The History of History in the Modern Era

DR ALESSANDRO DE ARCANGELIS

The concept of history plays a central role in informing and directing human imagination, thought and action: it prompts questions on human agency, the nature of change, and the significance of historical events. According to a scholarly tradition deepening its roots among early twentieth-century thinkers (e.g. Collingwood, Croce, Meinecke, Ortega y Gasset), reflecting on history means much more than merely recollecting past events: among Enlightenment thinkers, for example, the study of time was a purely scientific endeavour, enabling man to articulate a concrete blueprint for human progress; during the Age of Revolutions, instead, particular philosophies of history allowed revolutionaries to to give legitimacy and attribute a universal philosophical significance to their own political experiences. 
 
Drawing on the resources of intellectual, cultural, social and political history, this course explores the nature, functions and contestations of the concepts of history, time and progress during the modern era, c. 1700-1900. It encourages students to read a variety of primary sources by authors including, but not limited to, Leibniz, Vico, Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, Fichte, Herder, Hegel, Marx and Comte, in addition to more recent secondary sources. The core aim of this module is for students to undertake an independent research project on the key themes explored in the course. 

Module type: Second Year Research Seminar

Module code: HIST0089

Assessment methods:

1,000-word piece of 'public history' (20%)*; 5,000-word essay (80%)

* Public History element: Podcast (script), blog post, magazine article, book review, primary source discussion