SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H101 Approaching History

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year
One of two core modules in the first year of the BA History, H101 introduces students to the study of history at the university level. The module emphasizes the variety of approaches to history, from political, diplomatic and military history, through the study of economies, to the analysis of societies and cultures; it introduces the wide range of sources through which we study the past, including both secondary accounts produced by historians and the primary sources on which they rely; and it provides an opportunity to develop the core skills students will need to succeed both on their degree and thereafter. In the first term, we focus on historical argument, exploring a historical problem in detail and learning how to read historians critically. In the second, we turn to the use of primary sources, with two five-week mini-modules. The module is taught seminar-style, in small groups of about 15, allowing for intensive discussion as well as informal presentation. It is assessed entirely by coursework, allowing students to develop their writing skills consistently throughout the year, with regular short informal assignments and a series of longer assessed essays.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

  1. Identify and evaluate approach, method, argument and use of evidence in historical writing.
  2. Analyze primary sources in the service of historical argument.
  3. Construct convincing arguments, combining critical insight and a command of relevant evidence.
  4. Present work effectively in a variety of written formats and in formal and informal oral communication.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1. 

1. Introduction
2. Defining a field
3. Identifying the question
4. Synthesizing evidence
5. Evaluating the argument
6. Discovering debate
7. Identifying approaches
8. Evaluating methods
9. Comparing arguments
10. Coming to conclusions

 Term 2.

1. Authorship and audience: questions of perspective
2. Form and format: questions of purpose
3. Language and assumptions: questions of ideology
4. The diversity of sources
5. The nature of the archive

Method of assessment

  • Essay - 1,000 words worth 20%
  • Essay - 2,000 words worth 30%
  • Essay - 1,500 words worth 25%
  • Essay - 1,500 words worth 25%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules