SOAS University of London

Department of History

Research Methods in History With Special Reference to Asia and Africa

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Full Year

This course aims to encourage critical thinking about research methods in history, in particular the different themes, approaches, theories and authors which have marked the field over the last two decades. 

No formal lectures will be provided, and each session will be based on the critical reading of chapters or articles relevant to a given theme.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students are expected to read widely throughout the year and make several formal presentations. While the ultimate aim of the course is to equip students with the basic intellectual tools to undertake historical research in their own area of interest, not all authors studied will make explicit reference to Asia or Africa.

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • be equipped with the intellectual tools necessary to conduct research in their own areas of historical interest;
  • be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of different historical research methodologies and approaches and an awareness of how historians have used certain kinds of historical materials to understand the history of the period and place under examination and to substantiate their arguments in order to assess other historical work critically;
  • have the ability to relate the outcomes listed above orally and in writing in an effective manner.

Scope and syllabus

Some of the topics and themes covered are:

  • The History of History; 
  • Historical Facts and Historical Fictions; 
  • Sources and their Limits; 
  • The Archives; 
  • History from Below; 
  • Oral History; 
  • History as Text; 
  • History in Numbers; 
  • Images and Visual Culture; 
  • Political History; 
  • Social History: 
  • Central Concepts; 
  • Cultural History; 
  • Body History; 
  • Gender and History; 
  • 'Race', Nation, Community; 
  • Empire and Colonies; 
  • Orientalism and Occidentalism; 
  • 'Impacts' and 'Responses'; 
  • World History or Global History?

Method of assessment

Exam (50%) and 2 x Coursework (50%)

Suggested reading

A number of books will be used more often than others, namely:

  • Richard J. Evans, In defence of history, 2000; 
  • John Tosh, The pursuit of history, 2002; 
  • Peter Burke (ed.), New perspectives on historical writing, 2001;
  • Michael Bentley, ed., Companion to historiography, 1997; 
  • Fred Cooper & Anne Stoler (eds.), Tensions of empire, 1997.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules