SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H101 Approaching History

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

H101 Approaching History is the core module of the first year of the BA History, both single and combined degrees. It introduces students to the study of history at the university level. The module explores the variety of approaches to history through the ages, from positivist histories of the nation state, to the study of changing economies and societies, to postcolonial and subaltern histories; 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 most importantly, 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 by learning how to read historians critically and how to respond to them in writing. In the second term, we turn to the use of primary sources. The module is taught seminar-style, in small groups of about 15, allowing for intensive discussion, in-class writing exercises, as well as informal presentation. It is assessed by coursework and seminar participation, 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.

Method of assessment

Term 1:

  • Essay - 1000 words worth 10%
  • Essay - 2000 words worth 30%
  • Seminar participation 10%

Term 2:

  • Essay - 2000 words worth 40%
  • Seminar participation 10%

Suggested reading

John Arnold, History: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Peter Burke, New Perspectives on Historical Writing (Cambridge: Polity, 2001)

Richard Marius and Melvin E. Page, A Short Guide to Writing about History (6th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2007)

Deborah G. White. ed., Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press, 2008)



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules