SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Crafting Histories

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2

Crafting Histories is the second of two compulsory modules for the MA in History at SOAS. Its aim is to introduce the students to the practice of historical research by examining the various sources, approaches and research methods that have shaped and reshaped the field since the mid-twentieth century, particularly in relation to writing histories of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We will do this through practical exercises with different kinds of sources, archival, documentary, visual, material, etc. The aim is to develop skills of research, writing and critical argument and support the students in preparing their dissertation plans. The focus is on the sources and methods we need to write histories of the 'non-West' and the development of key skills in research and in the crafting of historical writing.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. show familiarity with the range of sources and methods that historians use and the possibilities and drawbacks they present.
  2. read a text with a critical understanding of how the author has mobilised particular sources to shape their argument.
  3. explain orally and in written work how different historical sources and research methods can be used to write histories of the 'non-West' - of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They will be able to engage with, critique and depart from the methological and theoretical questions in the field more broadly in written and oral forms of communitication.
  4. give oral presentations and debate on questions of historical sources and method.
  5. write clear, persuasive essays.


  • A total of 10 weeks teaching consisting of a 1 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

  1. The Archive
  2. Oral History and Memory
  3. Reading roundtable I; Training session I
  4. Archaeology and Material Culture
  5. Anthropology and Ethnohistory
  6. Reading roundtable II; Training session II
  7. Visual and other sources
  8. Visit by archivists from the British Library and the SOAS library; Training session III
  9. Digital Humanities
  10. Reading roundtable III; wrapping up.

Method of assessment

  • A five minute pre-recorded presentation and script of 1000 words (40%)
  • Essay of 2,500 words (60%)

Suggested reading

J. Tosh, The Pursuit of History (6th ed. 2015)

J. Arnold, History: A very short introduction (2000)

J. Popkin, From Herodotus to H-Net: The story of historiography (2016)

M. Bentley, Modern Historiography: An introduction (1999)

M. Bentley, ed., Companion to Historiography (1997)

A. Budd, ed., The Modern Historiography Reader: Western sources (2009)

P. Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing (2nd ed. 2001)

P. Burke, ed., History and Historians in the Twentieth Century (2002)

J. Tosh, ed., Historians on History: Readings (2nd ed. 2014)

M. Poster, Cultural History and Postmodernity: Disciplinary readings and challenges (1997)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules