Subject Overview

What will I study?

Studying History at University gives you the opportunity to investigate the story of recorded human existence. You might end up focusing on the Ancient Greeks or Romans, modern America or China and everything or anything in between. Almost everything has its own history, so you can end up sampling or specialising in many different aspects, be it political history, economic history, gender history, cultural history, religious history, fashion history, food history, political thought, sports history or the history of science to name just a few.
You are likely to start by studying a range of survey courses in the first year which will focus on providing you with the skills necessary to undertake your own research and also give you a sample of a number of different periods and types of history which will help you choose what you wish to specialise in as you progress.
As you continue through the course, you will start to study more focused periods, events or disciplines and these are likely to follow the specialisms and interests of the lecturers in the department. These modules are likely to involve direct engagement with sources and you will become familiar with the different types of sources that are available to the historian at different times in human history.
Many history courses also require you to do a dissertation at some point during your course, while for other courses this will be optional. A dissertation gives you the chance to explore a subject of your choice in detail, allowing you to engage with primary sources on a deep level and, at the end, to produce a piece of original research that will make a contribution to our academic understanding of this area. Many dissertations form the basis of a student’s research at master’s and Doctoral level and the best sometimes get published in academic journals.

What are my career options?
Public service is a common destination for historians. Around a third of graduates carry on with their studies to Master’s level or above, which is a good sign that they enjoyed their course so much that they wanted to keep going. Some will go off in other directions after completing these while others will become teachers, academics or independent researchers.
Large numbers of History graduates retrain as lawyers and go into the legal profession, while many others will do professional training in management consultancy, banking and investment and accountancy. Others will go into charity work, while publishing and journalism also remain popular destinations. Essentially, History is one of the great ‘open access’ degrees that opens so many doors to graduates.

What skills will I gain?
A History degree will give you many transferable skills that employers find desirable. These include the ability to read, digest and analyse large amount of information very quickly, allowing you to pick out and highlight the most important relevant information. Critical analysis of evidence and arguments are vital skills that historians learn and these will help you to formulate your own arguments. Through discussions with your lecturers and through presentations of your work, you will gain verbal skills that any employer will value. The ability to express yourself clearly and convincingly in writing is an essential skill for any historian and will very likely to an important part of any job that you do. A History degree calls for self motivation and organisation, as contact hours are limited compared to a science degree, and this will provide you with the self-reliance and initiative that will make you attractive to employers. More than all this, though, doing a History degree will allow you the chance to have engaged with different cultures and peoples and will hopefully lead you with a lifelong love of the subject and a desire to enquire beyond things with which you are immediately familiar.

  • A Comparative and Global History of Slavery

    The purpose of this topic is to introduce historical theories and concepts about ‘unfree’ labour by looking more broadly and comparatively at the nature of slavery as an institution, and to explore the economic and social relationships that constituted ‘slave holding societies’.

  • Historical Facts

    History is the study of the past – pretty simple, eh? But what does that actually mean?

  • War in International Society

    If we go back to the very start of human history, we have always seen violence employed to achieve what we today might term political change.

  • 'The God of our Idolatry' Shakespeare's Fame

    Why is Shakespeare compulsory in every English literature syllabus? Why is this playwright, more than any other English writer, so famous? This module will try and answer some of these questions by returning to eighteenth-century England, the period in which Shakespeare rose to fame for the first time.

  • Examining the Importance of the British Empire

    We will examine some sources that ask the critical questions about the impact of the largest empire the world has ever known, covering at its height a quarter of the globe, for the people who lived within it – and think about why the political, cultural and economic influence of Britain continues to predominate in the world today.

  • Sociological Approaches to Racism in Britain

    The crux of the matter is that race, although it has no scientific ‘objective’ existence, has remained a central way we understand the world since its introduction into our vocabularies. Why, therefore, has race remained so powerful as a way of interpreting the world? Why does race continue to have such a strong impact upon the way one lives one’s life? Why does race continue to so strongly affect one’s life chances in the labour market, education system, and access to cultural resources? This module seeks to shed some more light on these questions, answering that an analysis of racism is necessary to understand the lingering, immutable effects of race.

  • Sociological Approaches to Racism in the USA

    Racism in the USA is a systemic ideology that affects the daily experiences of minority citizens in numerous ways, including access to housing, medical care, certain vocations, and social groups. Whilst legalised discrimination is no longer tolerated, de facto discrimination continues in many of these areas. The purpose of this module is to map the ways in which attitudes about racial difference and hierarchy have changed in the USA since the period of slavery, and to trace the continuing underlying assumption that race is a key signifier of individual character and potential.

  • Tennyson and Victorian Cultures of Death

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is perhaps the archetypal Victorian poet. Appointed as Poet Laureate by Queen Victoria when Wordsworth died in 1850, he held the position for forty-two years, until his own death in 1892.

  • The Emergence of the Atlantic Slave System

    Although we may not initially think of slavery as ‘modern’, the Atlantic slave trade and slave labour have been intimately connected with the emergence of the modern global economy.

  • Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade

    The motive forces behind the abolition movement in the British empire during the nineteenth century have remained at the heart of a series of historiographic debates.

  • Framing Theatricality on the Early Modern Stage

    There is much to be gained from detailed analysis of the text, paying careful attention to the structures, forms, and strategies at work on the page. In engaging critically with writing for the stage there are many issues to consider, including voice, the sound of the language, and the visual effects of movement and physical gesture.

  • Italian: The Vespa

    Visually Italy is a very easy country to picture, thanks to its many icons that have created a varied but very rich identity.

  • Nobility and Fame in Medieval English Literature

    This topic looks at a few examples from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English literature that consider the assumed connection between noble action and noble birth.

  • The Forgotten World War One

    It is an unfairly Eurocentric reading of the First World War to dismiss the conflicts that took place, under imperial officers but predominantly involving men and women from the Middle East, South Pacific, Australia, North America, China, Japan, India, and across the African continent between 1914 and 1918, as mere ‘sideshows’ to a European War.

  • French: The Diary of a Teenager

    It might seem that with the popularity of social media and the ‘selfie’, people are thinking and talking about themselves more than ever before.

  • Power and Propaganda: The Persian Empire

    How do you get people to do what you want? This question is particularly important for people in positions of authority and especially those who control whole nations. There are lots of different options, of course: you can use force (or the threat of force), you can use incentives (most obviously money, but also other expensive goods or privileges), but you can also use persuasion. This resource is all about the propaganda produced by the kings of the ancient Persian Empire.

  • Alexander the Great

    When Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, he encountered an entirely new problem. For the first few years of his reign, Alexander had ruled Macedonia and parts of Greece, places which were more similar than they were different – people worshipped the same gods and (generally) spoke the same language – but the Persian Empire was incredibly diverse, with people from lots of different backgrounds ruled by one king.

  • Portuguese: Favelas

    While the historical intricacies of the favelas are mostly unknown by the general public, writers, musicians, composers, filmmakers and artists have depicted its geography, stories and human relations. Such richness and variety of this depiction enables Portuguese language to be approached through its main subtopics, such as class struggle, high and low culture, community and individual values and economic dependency.