H212 Frontiers in History
- Module Code:
- Year of study:
- Year 2 or Year 3
- Taught in:
- Term 2
- This Module is capped at 45 places
- Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator
Objectives and learning outcomes of the module
LO1. Distinguish what makes a research question historical, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to a problem and of the possibilities and limits of various kinds of sources.
LO2. Produce and refine such a question through the identification of, engagement with, and critique of existing historiography, using the conceptual tools of the module to reframe prior learning.
LO3. Integrate material from a variety of sources, both primary and secondary, in order to explore a research question and hypothesis.
LO4. Present the findings of the research in a way that demonstrates a capacity to think conceptually, while developing competency as a historian.
Scope and syllabus
As noted above, the concept of Frontiers by definition challenges traditional paradigms of historical teaching and learning in that it enforces a multilateral approach to historical enquiry at its core. This is not pursued through the meta-narrative of international relations (although it may incorporate that) but poses real questions about how one may learn about places, spaces and times that intersect area studies boundaries and which may additionally not be rich in traditional documentary source material. Paradoxically, however, such has been the fascination with frontiers throughout human history that the desire to control and ‘civilise’ frontiers has also at times produced great richness in historical material. The imaginary of the frontier – and the interactions, connections and mobilities that frontiers facilitated – often prompted a desire to collect, to record, to visualise and materialise the cultures of the frontiers at the centre. This also means that there is a great deal of primary material (not always textual) in archives in and around London relating to a range of Frontiers from different times and places, which students will be able to access. In so far as the Frontier became a site of self-reflection about the centre, these materials also offer something distinctive in understanding the histories of nations and centres that form part of the undergraduate degree in other years.
The course will combine the development of concepts in relation to approaching the study of Frontiers with the detailed historical study of a case study in the second half of the course. This will ground the concepts taught in the first five weeks in the empirical understanding of specific times, places, communities and events. The selection of these case studies will change from year to year depending upon the expertise of the convenor. The current roster of case studies includes: the modern construction of frontiers in the imagination and their influence on state-making in East and North Africa; Islamic cosmopolitanism in the Middle East and North Africa; encounters in precolonial South Asia; the creation of the north east frontier in South and upland Southeast Asia; and China as constituted by its trans-regional frontiers, with a particular focus on the 17th-20th centuries.
Students will, however, be able to develop an essay based on a Frontier of their own interest, deploying both the conceptual frameworks and the interpretive model of the convenor’s case study to develop their own small research project. This will be a valuable training for the scaling up of the research in the third year. This could take the form of an ISP that is related directly to Frontiers arising from this study, or it could inform the methodological approach of the dissertation at a general level and be part of the preparation for that independent research.
Part I. Concepts
1. Frontiers: a concept in human history
2. Natural frontiers
3. Frontier imaginaries
4. Frontiers and borders
5. Frontiers and governance: old and new frontiers
Part 2. Case studies. Each case study will develop around five common themes, the order of which may change, but which will emphasize the use of primary sources, as appropriate.
6. Frontiers as spaces of encounter
7. Conceptualising frontiers as spaces of encounter
8. How frontier communities shape political, cultural, and military centres
9. Frontiers as spaces of migration and human mobility
10. Old and new frontiers: global frontiers and mobilities
Method of assessment
Written exam worth 50%, Research proposal for AS2, incorporating a literature discussion and preliminary bibliography of 500 words worth 10%, Short research paper of 2,500 words worth 40%