Module descriptions for History

  • As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

  • A People’s History of Britain (compulsory for single honours)

    This module will reveal Britain’s rich, cosmopolitan history from the Tudors to the modern period, with a particular focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  It will use life histories, life writing and material culture to unveil the experiences and perspectives of individuals and families. The module will move chronologically with sessions which focus upon key figures of successive centuries with seminar discussion based around alternative perspectives on traditional themes, such as the body, fashion and consumption, material culture, class, demography and welfare.

    Bloody Histories: Crime and Violence in the West
    This module provides an introduction to the history of crime and violence in the West in the period 1400-2000. It offers you the chance to develop a specialised interest in criminal justice history, and make connections between law, crime and punishment and the wider social context in Britain, Europe and America.

    Death, Disease and Doctors: Medicine and Society
    This is an introductory module on the history of medicine and health, and their wider social relations, embracing the period roughly from 1650 to 2000. The module will provide a framework for understanding the changing nature of medicine and healing in society. 

    Europe and the World, 1450-1750 (compulsory for single honours)
    The module provides a broad overview of the period from 1450 to 1750, primarily focusing on Europe but also considering the European interaction with the wider world. It offers the chance to develop a long-running perspective on some of the main developments and debates in early modern history, such as the rise of the state and the military revolution. It also looks at the Ottoman expansion and the European encounter with Islam.

    Making History: Core Concepts and Skills for the Historian (compulsory for single and combined honours)
    This module aims to equip you with the practical and theoretical skills you will need to study history at undergraduate level. It offers you the chance to develop your understanding of the nature of historical enquiry, and your ability to express yourself effectively in a variety of forms. The module provides basic training in some of the principal theories, methods and sources used by historians, while introducing students to some of the key research interests of staff in the History team. 

    Oxford in History
    This module tells the varied and vibrant story of Oxford and its region, placing it in the context of social, economic, cultural, political, intellectual, and religious history. A particular emphasis will be placed on visits to museums and other sites of historical importance in the Oxford area. The module also focuses on the richness and range of sources available in Oxford and which reveal the history of the city through the people and places that have made it famous.

    Superpowers: an International History of the Cold War (compulsory for single honours)
    An introduction to modern international history within the context of the rise and fall of the two principal world powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, during the Cold War.

    The Faiths of the West
    This module provides a general overview of the religious dialogues that shaped the history of the West from Constantine the Great to the twentieth century.  It focuses on religious groups, doctrines and organizations, religion in the media and in everyday life and on interreligious exchange. While the primary focus will be on Christianity the roles played by other faiths such as Judaism and Islam will be considered, as will the rise of secularism.

    What’s the Big Idea: Adventures in the History of Ideas (compulsory for single and combined honours)
    The module aims to introduce you to the importance of ideas, abstract ideals and utopian projects in the construction, and subsequent shaping of historical realities in Early Modern and Modern Western History. Using a broadly chronological sequence of ideas/concepts, it also provides fresh insights into the role played by competing ideologies and values in determining the character or dynamics of the main periods of European and US history since the late Renaissance.

    World at War: A History of the First World War (compulsory for single honours)
    This module explores the history of the First World War, introducing you to a landmark event in modern history. Lectures and seminars approach the history of the conflict from a range of perspectives and sensitivities, helping familiarize you with the insights to be gained from distinct historical traditions, ranging from military and diplomatic history to cultural and economic history. A number of topics will be covered to provide a wide-ranging and in-depth understanding of the experience of the First World War and its broader impact upon modern society

    A History of Modern Ideas
    Builds on those elements in all basic modules which cover or touch on the cosmological, ideological, philosophical, and intellectual process that have shaped early modern and modern history.

    Brave New Worlds: Evolution and its Discontents
    As recent controversies about human cloning, gene therapy and in-vitro fertilisation have shown, an acceptance of the idea of evolution and its application to the realm of medical practice is far from universal.  How and why did the modern theory of evolution develop? How and why did it come to be incorporated so fully into the way medicine is practiced and how individuals and human societies are understood? This module will give students the opportunity to think about these questions by exploring the history of evolutionary ideas and their application to medical, social and cultural practices.

    Conflict and Belief in the Early Modern World

    What motivates individuals to take up arms or sacrifice themselves in the name of religion? Why would individuals travel across the globe with the aim of converting or killing for their beliefs? The issues of faith, conversion and religious violence, which resonate to the present day, will be tackled in this module, which provides a study in cultural encounters, as well as religious and social change, between 1500 and 1648. It will explore the attempts made to Christianise the world, in the British Isles, Europe, Asia and the Americas in the aftermath of the Reformation of 1517, which shattered the image of a universal Catholic Church.

    Crime and Punishment through the Ages

    The module focuses on the long-running historical debate on the nature, incidence and causes of crime since the medieval period. It will investigate the forms of punishment adopted by the authorities and how and why they altered so dramatically over the course of history. Students will also be introduced to the theoretical background important for the study of crime, criminality and punishment.

    Culture, Community and Family in Britain, 1660-1918

    The aim of this module is to deepen your understanding of the cultural, social, demographic, and material culture history of Britain. You will investigate people’s experiences of community and neighbourhood, home and family life, and consider their relationship with state and society.

    Gender, Sexualities and the Body

    Deepens understanding of social, medical and cultural history through the prism of gender, sexuality and the body from the early modern to the modern period. It will develop students' skills in using and appraising primary sources, engaging in debate and interpretation, and using a variety of information sources.

    History and Documents (compulsory for single and combined honours)

    This module will concentrate on the skills required to research and evaluate primary sources. It will act as a bridge between the introductory use of primary sources in the first year and the skilled application of source analysis required for dissertation and third-year work. Students have the opportunity to consolidate and focus the methodological and practical skills offered by the programme.

    Historical Writing (compulsory for single honours)

    Designed to give students the practical skills with which to approach their dissertations. It will prepare undergraduate students for advanced study in history, both in terms of the acquisition of key research skills, and in the development of a critical, reflective engagement with questions of method and interpretation.

    History Work-Based Learning

    Offers the opportunity to engage with professionals in organisations which have historical links or interests. Students will be able to evaluate and critically reflect upon this experience during this course.

    Independent Study 1 and 2

    These modules involve individual study, under the supervision of one or more members of the academic staff, on a topic chosen by the student. The range and depth of the subject chosen might reflect interests stimulated by the undergraduate programme or by external interests.

    Jack the Ripper and the Victorian Underworld

    Examines the moral and cultural climate associated with the nineteenth century underworld. Using the phenomenon of Jack the Ripper as a prism through which to view the differing dynamics of Victorian society, the module will analyse attitudes towards prostitution, the criminal class, the development of the penitentiary system and the regulation of policing, in an age when public perceptions of crime and punishment challenged those of the establishment.

    Politics, Society and Culture in Modern Britain

    The aim of the module is to introduce students to some of the key elements of modern British politics, society and culture - from the early nineteenth century to the time of the Second World War and beyond. Students will gain a better understanding of their own historical heritage and identity, and of the culture currently being reworked and renegotiated under the pressures of globalisation.

    The Crisis of the West

    Students will study the period of crisis that characterised Western, mainly continental European, society in the first half of the twentieth century. The module will consider a wide range of topics and developments that contributed to the prevailing sense of crisis that befell Western society at the time.

    The Early Modern State

    In this module students begin to specialise in early modern political and cultural history. State building was one of the key developments of the early modern period. The module will encourage students to see this process in a comparative perspective that includes Britain as well as major European countries. The module will develop students' skills in using primary sources.

    The Making of the American Giant, 1861-1945

    This module introduces you to the history of the United States within both a domestic and international setting and within the broader context of its gradual emergence as a leading international power, economically, militarily and politically.

    Advanced study in Early Modern History

    Deviants and Social Outcasts
    Looks at historical social exclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sexuality in Europe; including the position of immigrants and prostitution. In particular the course will focus on changing attitudes and will consider the reasons why certain minority groups were discriminated against, and will consider the commonalities that existed or emerged with regard to the stereotype and perception of these minority groups.

    God, Man, Spirit: Christianity in Western Society 1500-1700
    Deals with the key problems of the intellectual and cultural history of early modern Europe including Britain. The churches and their teachings are embedded in a much wider cosmos of faith; interacting with philosophy as well as with spirituality and the so-called superstition of everyday culture.

    Power and Freedom in the Early Modern Period
    Introduces the cultural history of politics in early modern Europe, exploring the complex interrelations between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘ruled' in pre-revolutionary Europe and Britain and the wider cultural system in which they existed. It looks at this cultural system with its rituals and institutions, through which power had to be channelled if it was to be effective.

    The Tudors: Reformation and Rebellion
    The Reformation had a significant impact on early modern politics and society. This option will explore the implications of the introduction of new religious ideas, of the Break with Rome and of the Dissolution of the Monasteries for the government and for the English people. We will consider the implementation of these measures as well as the popular resistance to them.


    Advanced Study in the History of Ideas

    Evil in European Thought and Culture, 1750- 1950: From Candide to Eichmann
    This module examines the problem of evil within European thought and culture, from the time of the Enlightenment to the mid-twentieth century. It will begin with the gradual breakdown of theodicy during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and end with the Holocaust. Throughout, you will be encouraged to think critically about the problem of evil in its modern context using canonical texts and authors.

    Race and Modernity: A Global History

    What led so many intellectuals, politicians and scientists to believe in, and insist on, the existence of race? To answer this question this module will examine various comparative themes in the history of race, including nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, eugenics, biopolitics, fascism, Nazism, and communism, from 1789 to the present day

    The Storm of Progress
    This module explores the relevance to modern history of the conflicting diagnoses of the state of Western civilization at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries proposed by artists, writers and thinkers, as well as by the protagonists of utopian social and political movements.


    Advanced Study in the History of Medicine

    Debating Issues in Health, Past and Present
    Focuses on current debates in the field of healthcare and their historical context. It will engage with the politics of health and the health service, recent scientific advances and the question of medical ethics. We will deal with topics that raise moral, ethical, legal, economic, political or class/life-cycle issues. It will tackle subjects such as the science and ethics of abortion, the treatment of disability, euthanasia, honour killings and maiming, organ donation, the use of human tissue, stem cell research and the clinical trial.

    War and Medicine from the French Revolutionary Wars to Afghanistan
    Explores the relationship between war and medicine and is at once thematic and chronological in focus, tracing how war in the long nineteenth and twentieth centuries affected the development of surgery, drugs, hospitals, battlefield and naval medicine, neuro-psychiatry, nursing, and civilian medicine. The module will include a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London.


    Advanced Study in Modern Political History

    Britain and the Sea since 1600

    Examines Britons' relationship with the sea from the time of the Spanish Armada to the close of the twentieth century. It will explore themes as diverse as the sea's perceived role in fostering British Liberty, to naval warfare's role in the development of banking and national finance; from shipbuilding to Britain's fisheries; from the creation of masculinity to the dark side of slavery. 

    The Soviet Revolution, 1914-1941
    This option introduces you to the world’s first socialist society, the USSR. The option will examine the Russian revolution of 1917 against the backdrop of Russian imperial history and world war. It will go on to chart the development of the Soviet state through the 1920s and 1930s as the Communist leadership sought to construct a viable modern state along radical new lines, coping with the challenges of international hostility and the social, economic and cultural legacies of the Russian empire.

    The Unravelling of Russia, 1825-1917
    Assesses late Imperial Russian politics and society. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the world’s most powerful and mysterious autocracy initiated an unprecedented effort to reform its institutions. Beginning with the elimination of serfdom, the Russian state sought to modernize its polity, economy and society to make it more competitive with the other great powers of Europe. The struggle over these reforms led to a period in which the state was beset by threats from reactionaries and revolutionaries, chauvinists and terrorists.

    Advanced Study in Social and Cultural History

    Childhood and Youth in the West, 1750-1950
    The aim of this option is to give you an in-depth understanding of the history of childhood and youth from the early modern to the modern age. It will encourage critical evaluation of the social construction of childhood and youth, different ways of studying and appraising childhood in the past, and the use of different types of documents. The option will cover the shaping and conception of childhood and youth by contemporaries and scholars, child-rearing, welfare, work, health, education, leisure, and mortality.

    Life in Renaissance Italy
    Many people who lived through the Renaissance are household names: Machiavelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo. Although we recognise these individuals, we still know surprisingly little about what life was like in Italy during a period in which the peninsula was thought to be at its political, economic and cultural apogee. This option will present a detailed consideration of the social and urban history of Italy, engaging with the complex notion of the Renaissance, and the debates it has engendered.

    Making Men: Masculinities in England, 1700-1918
    The module spans a period which saw significant change in cultural ideals of men's behaviour alongside fundamental continuities in men's experience. How and why did ideals of masculinity change over time? What was their impact on men's identity and behaviour? How did social class, wealth, employment, and age inflect masculinities? What role did religious ideals, political rhetoric and the contingencies of war play?

    The History of Food: Politics and Society
    This module will get your taste-buds - and your brain cells - tingling, as we cross a wide range of themes touching on the ways that food shapes our society. We examine colonialism, race, gender, celebration, national identity, taboos, famine and foodie fashions, ranging from the medieval to the modern period. Students will be asked to engage with foodstuffs of their own choosing to explore these themes and the philosophies behind them, and also to delve into the primary sources we hold here at Oxford Brookes.



    Advanced Study in the History of America

    Anglo-American Relations 
    This option will examine the diplomatic, military and financial relations between the United Kingdom and the United States during the period when the latter replaced the former in the role of world policeman. As well as examining formal diplomacy, we will explore the links between the policy-making elites in the two countries.

    Reagan and his Legacy
    This option offers you the opportunity to examine arguably the key period in contemporary American history. It encourages you to develop an informed and critical overview both of the history of the Reagan era and of how it is used in contemporary America. The use of coursework and extensive seminar discussions means that the module also gives you the opportunity to reflect on your own progress during the course, with the aim of enabling you to identify the skills, knowledge and awareness that will be of use to you in future historical study.

    The United States and the Vietnam War
    This option will focus on the United States and its involvement in Vietnam, 1945-75. It is designed to provide a thorough overview of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the United States. By the end of this option, students will have a fuller appreciation of the origins of the war, the escalation of the conflict, the tactics and strategies employed by the United States to pursue the war, the domestic discontent generated towards the war, along with the longer-term consequences of the war for the United States both domestically and internally.


    Advanced Study in the History of Crime

    Forensic Medicine in Western Society 
    Provides a comprehensive overview of the history of forensic medicine in the West in the post-medieval period; explored through an area of specialisation and informed by up-to-date research. Students will develop an in-depth understanding of how and why medicine has played an active part in shaping legal, political and social change.

    In Cold Blood: Violence in the Modern Era
    A comparative study of crime in Britain and America in the modern era. It will be taught through a series of case studies in order to examine specific themes which are especially pertinent to criminal justice history during the modern era. The types of issues to be addressed include the rise to 'social' prominence of the serial killer and spree killer (beginning with the Jack the Ripper case at the end of the nineteenth century); the influence of gang culture on criminal activity; the role of the media in the portrayal of 'modern' crime; and the debate over the use of the death penalty for violent offences.

    Witchcraft, Magic and Belief in Early Modern Europe
    This module examines the history of the interplay between belief, magic and witchcraft over the broadly defined early modern period. It involves detailed work with historiography and primary sources.


    Dissertation project (compulsory for single honours, optional for combined honours)

    History Interdisciplinary Dissertation or Project
    This module allows students to undertake a lengthy piece of self-guided historical research with individual supervision, as a focus of the accumulated knowledge in the final year of their undergraduate programmes. It also provides a link between research and teaching demonstrated elsewhere in this programme by giving students the opportunity to receive individual tuition in areas related to the research and publication interest of History staff.

    History Dissertation or Project
    This module has three purposes. First, to act as a focus for the accumulated knowledge of history students in the final year of their undergraduate programmes, allowing them to undertake a lengthy piece of self-guided historical research in a framework of individual supervision. Second, to bring to fruition the skills training element of the History programme. Finally, to confirm the link between research and teaching demonstrated elsewhere in this programme by giving students the opportunity to receive individual tuition in areas related to the research and publication interest of History staff.