Mode of Attendance: Full-time
The two-subject history degree provides a high standard of training in history as an academic discipline and develops in students an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the history of Africa and Asia and combines it with the study of another discipline or language (see the combinations tab for details).
The BA History modules offer students different approaches to historical subject matter, interpretation and methodology—from the different perspectives of, for instance, economic history or the history of religion and culture. Undergraduate courses also follow a principle of progression.
The SOAS History Department is one of only a handful of universities to achieve the highest 5* rating in the 2001 government assessment of research in UK universities and unique in its expertise in African and Asian history.
Key Information Set Data
The information for BA, BSc, or LLB programmes refer to data taken from the single subject degrees offered at SOAS; however, due to the unique nature of our programmes many subjects have a separate set of data when they are studied alongside another discipline. In order to get a full picture of their chosen subject(s) applicants are advised to look at both sets of information where these occur.
Key Information Set Data
Please see the Unistats data for the various combinations of this programme under the Combinations tab.
The learning outcome of this degree is cumulative in terms of knowledge, and the modules aim at enabling students with cognitive skills essential to the understanding of the subject. This is reflected in the levels of the modules. In the first year, students take introductory modules only, moving on to intermediate level modules in the second year, and then to advanced modules (and perhaps another intermediate module or two) in their final year.
In choosing their modules, some students choose to focus mainly on one region (Africa, Near and Middle East, Southeast or East Asia) or theme (Islam, modernisation and modernity). But others choose to range more broadly, exploring various themes and parts of the world. There are advantages to both approaches, developing an in-depth knowledge of one particular region but also being able to place its history in comparative context.
The maximum number of history modules a three-year joint-degree student may take is eight, and the minimum number is four. However, for a well-balanced degree students are advised to choose between five and seven history modules.
Some language degrees (including joint-degrees in history and a language) are taught over the usual three years. Others are taught over four years, including a year abroad. In the case of the latter, the minimum number of history modules that must be taken is the same as that for a three-year degree, i.e. four modules. During the year abroad for language training, no history modules are required.
Year 1: Students take two of a number of introductory modules. These include H101 Approaching History (compulsory core module), plus EITHER H102 History of the World OR one of the modules designed to introduce the student to the history of a specific region:: Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and South East Asia.
The exception here is that in some language degrees, students are required to take three modules in that language in the first year. In those cases, students taking a joint degree in history and a language will take just one history module, which must be the core module H101 Approaching History..
Year 2: Normally, students will take two history modules at intermediate level, a Group Study Project is also an option.
Year 3: Depending on the number of history modules taken in the second year, students will take between one and four modules at advanced and intermediate levels. A 400-level dissertation module may be taken in conjunction with a 300-level module to form a Special Subject although for joint degree students the Special Subject is not compulsory. Students also have the option of doing an Independent Study Project (ISP: 10,000-word essay on an approved topic).
Typical Programme Detail
- H101 Approaching History – core and compulsory
- 1 unit drawn from the other introductory modules (H102-H150)
- 2 units from the other subject
- H201 Historical Research: Approaches, Methods, Design - core and compulsory
- 1 unit drawn from the other intermediate thematic or regional modules (H21* - H29*)
- 2 units from the other subject
- 1 unit chosen from the H3** taught modules ('special subjects') - core and compulsory
- 1 Unit drawn from EITHER the intermediate regional modules (H23* - H29*), OR the H4** module ('long essay') linked to the H3** module, OR the H5** Independent Study Project
- 2 units from the other subject.
Introductory History (100-level)
Compulsory Introductory Modules
Compulsory 2nd Year Module
Intermediate History Modules (200-level)
Advanced History Modules (300-level)
ISP and Special Subjects (400-level)
Teaching & Learning
Most modules are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials, usually one hour a week of each. Sometimes, one follows the other in a two-hour bloc; sometimes, the tutorial is at a different time or on a different day than the lecture. Depending on the size of the class, some intermediate and advanced level modules are less strictly divided between a formal lecture and a tutorial discussion; instead, the topic of the day may briefly be introduced by the lecturer, followed by a seminar discussion. Advanced level modules, which are usually taught in one two-hour bloc, often take this format. Whatever the exact balance, students are expected to prepare for tutorials, to present reports on specific readings and to take the lead in discussions.
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.
Introductory modules (or 100-level modules) are taken in the first year only. The foundation stone of a history degree is Approaching History (its designated course number is H101, by which it is commonly known). For all first-year single-subject history students, H101 is a compulsory core course. That means that is must be passed in order to proceed to the second year. H101 is optional for joint-degree students: if taken, it acts as their core module (i.e., it must be passed to proceed); if not, then either one of the two regional introductory modules is the core (i.e., at least one must be passed to proceed).
The other five introductory modules are defined regionally. They survey extended historical periods and broad geographical/cultural areas and are intended to introduce students to the main processes of historical development in the five regions covered by the department: Africa, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Introductory modules provide a foundation to the regional ‘pathways’ around which history degrees are structured and aim to develop the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to proceed to more specialised modules in subsequent years of study.
All introductory modules are assessed through a combination of essays, oral presentations on selected readings or topics and a three-hour examination, taken in Term 3. Introductory courses are not open to second- and third-year history students.
Intermediate level modules
Intermediate level modules (200 level) provide specialised study in the history of particular regions, building on the introductory modules. With the exception of the Group Study Project (see below), they are assessed by: (a) two or three essays, and (b) a three-hour examination, taken in Term 3. For intermediate modules the weighting of assessment between essays and examination varies, with coursework essays counting for between 25 per cent and 60 per cent of the total mark. For the specifics of each course see the individual module unit listings. Group Study Projects are assessed on the basis of three written reports (see below).
Group Study Project
The Group Study Project can be taken by second-year students only. Like the ISP, its aim is to allow students to work independently, to formulate a specific research agenda, and to conduct in-depth analysis of a particular historical theme or issue. Also like the ISP, it is not formally linked to a taught module, but may well arise from a topic that has been encountered in an introductory module taken during the first year.
The main difference is that the Group Study Project is undertaken by groups of two, three or four students working together. Its focus is therefore on collaboration and intellectual interaction; on the sharing out of research tasks and on the discussion and synthesis of findings. It may, but does not necessarily, involve the use of primary sources; rather, its focus should be on a particular issue, problem or argument in the historical literature, that is, on a so-called ‘historiographical debate’. It is assessed by three pieces of written work, the first two produced by each member of the group individually and the third produced collectively by the group: (a) a preliminary annotated bibliography relating to a particular aspect of the research topic; (b) an essay on that aspect; (c) a final, jointly-authored essay.
In common with the ISP, students wishing to do a Group Study Project need to have formed their group, to have figured out what topic they wish to investigate and to have secured the agreement of a lecturer to supervise the project by the end of enrolment week. The supervisor will hold a preliminary meeting to explain submission dates, the keeping of minutes of subsequent meetings and other details early in Term One.
Group Study Projects can be particularly stimulating and fulfilling. If you think you might like to do one in your second year, then keep an eye out for potential topics and discuss them with fellow students during your first-year introductory modules.
Advanced level modules
Advanced level modules (300 and 400 level) aim to introduce students to the reading and use of original historical documents, so-called ‘primary sources’. The 300 level modules are taught modules, assessed in the same way as intermediate level modules, i.e., a varying combination of essays and a final examination. For each 300 level module there is an attached 400 level module, for which there are no additional classes and which involves the writing of a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic arising from the content of the 300 level module. There is no final examination for 400 level modules; assessment is on the basis of the dissertation alone.
Together the two modules form a Special Subject, which must be taken by all single-subject history students. Joint-degree history students may also take the full double-unit Special Subject, although this is not compulsory.
400- level dissertations, however, can only be taken in the final year. Students must take their double-unit Special Subject together in their final year.
The aim of the Special Subject dissertation is to enable students to formulate their own research topic, to explore that topic in much greater depth than the normal coursework essay allows, and to identify, collect and mobilize a combination of secondary and primary historical sources. The research and writing of dissertations spans the first and second terms of the academic year. Students are expected to choose and develop their topic in consultation with their course teacher during Term One and to research and write the dissertation during Term Two and the following break. Dissertations should be approximately 10,000 words in length, including notes but excluding bibliography.
Independent Study Project
The Independent Study Project (ISP) can be taken by final-year students only. Like the Special Subject dissertation, its aim is to provide an opportunity for students to conduct original historical research on their own initiative, to engage in in-depth analysis of particular subjects and to use a range of primary historical sources. It too involves no formal classes and is assessed by a single 10,000-word dissertation (including notes but excluding bibliography). The main difference between the Special Subject dissertation and the ISP is that the latter is not linked with a 300-level taught module (although the topic may well arise out of a course the student has taken previously). It stands alone, thereby allowing students to write on regions, themes or topics not covered by the selection of 300-level modules.
Note too that, unlike the Special Subject dissertation, students wishing to take the ISP need to have formulated a viable topic by the outset of Term One and to have secured the agreement of a lecturer within the History Department to supervise the project. They must complete an ISP proposal form, available from the faculty office, which must be signed by the supervisor and returned to the office during enrolment week. Any student having problems identifying a supervisor should contact the ISP convenor and their personal tutor who will assist you in doing so. The ISP convenor will also hold a preliminary meeting with all students enrolled for the ISP early in Term One. Following that, students will meet regularly with their supervisors throughout Terms One and Two.
Students are permitted to take both a 400-level dissertation and do an ISP in their final year. The research and writing of two, concurrent 10,000-word dissertations, however, involves careful time-management and a high degree of self-discipline. It should not be undertaken lightly – and certainly not as a way of avoiding taught modules and their examinations. Students wishing to enrol for both a Special Subject and an ISP dissertation must get the approval of the undergraduate tutor during enrolment week.
Open Option courses
A ‘open option’ is a module from another SOAS department, or from another college of the University of London which is not a history module. For joint degree students, it is a module from a department which is neither of the two they are enrolled in. A maximum of one open option module per year (i.e. three overall) may be taken by single-subject history students, and a maximum of two overall by joint-degree students.
Pre Entry Reading
- JR McNeill and WH McNeill, The Human Web: A Bird’s Eye View of World History
- John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires
- CA Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914
- Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
- John Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent
- Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples
- Barbara D and Thomas R Metcalf, A Concise History of India
- MC Ricklefs et al., A New History of Southeast Asia
- Charles Holcombe, A History of East Asia
- J Black and DM MacRaild, Studying History
With specialised knowledge of the history and broad cultural sensibilities of a region, SOAS History graduates have found employment in a variety of sectors. As a History graduate you are likely to have developed valuable transferable skills, including familiarity with methods of research, the competence to manage large quantities of information and the ability to select and organise information.
Studying a combined honours degree gives students to blend a solid grounding in another discipline or subject area which enables them to place the knowledge they gain as part of their degree within a specific regional, cultural or disciplinary context.
Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:
Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
Bank of America
Campaign Against Climate Change
China Media Centre
House of Lords
|International Fund Investmennt
The Publicist Group
Transnational Crisis Project
UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.
Programme Officer, Africa and Asia
International Account Manager
Afghanistan/ Pakistan Analyst
Chief of Emergencies
A Student's Perspective
It’s a global experience and, thankfully, everyone is included, no matter what their colour, religion, or ‘class’.