Debating Pasts, Crafting Histories

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This module aims to encourage critical thinking about the writing of the history of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as defined by the crucial encounter with the West and by more recent approaches to the study of non-European pasts. Besides dealing with main historiographical themes the module also provides training in key research, intepretive and writing skills: the use of written, oral and visual sources, dissertation writing and an understading of current uses and abuses of history in the media and public discourse both in the West and in the regions under consideration.
The ultimate aim of the course is to provide students with the intellectual and reserch tools to undertake historical research in their own area of interest, and to familiarise with past and present uses of history, including possible career paths.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Upon completion of the course, students will:

  • be equipped with the intellectual and research tools necessary to conduct research in their own areas of historical interest;
  • acquire knowledge of different historical research methodologies and approaches and develop an awareness of how and why historians have used particular materials to understand the history of particular areas and periods.
  • be able to question a number of givens about western-centric historiographies, and to appreciate a diversity of historical approaches developed in the last decades.
  • identify appropriate research questions and historiographical materials related to that question.
  • be able to plan the basic structure of their dissertation and identify possible primary source materials.
  • be exposed to different public uses of history and career paths open to historians.
  • improve their awareness of task demands, their understanding of assignment requirements as well as their organisation of time and resources.
  • develop writing, communication and interpersonal skills that will enhance their future professional profile in history-related careers.

Scope and syllabus

  • Term 1 - sources and skills

  • Library skills (Special Session organized by the Library)
  • Written sources I - non-archival
  • Written sources II - archival
  • Archival skills (Special Session organized by the Library based on SOAS archival resources)
  • Images, maps, audiovisual & electronic sources
  • Reading week

  • Oral sources: traditions and testimony
  • Archaeology, objects, and ethnography
  • Dissertation workshop
  • Careers
  • History in Action: uses (and Abuses) of History
  • Term 2 - themes

  • Global and imperial history
  • Military history
  • Political theory
  • Identities - nationalism and its rivals
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Reading Week

  • Religion and science
  • The environment
  • Economic life
  • Demography and labour
  • Sensory history and daily life

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1 - 3,000 words worth 50%
  • Assignment 2 - 3,000 words worth 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.


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