Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2010/11 Module Cap n/a Location Durham


  • Normally an A or B grade in A-Level History, or an acceptable equivalent (e.g. in terms of Scottish Highers or IB)


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module offers students a broad-ranging introduction to a key element of European history and culture that is almost never taught in schools.
  • In addition to exploring a 'new' field, it provides the opportunity to consider familiar issues (historical and literary texts and images, and their reception) from new angles (the form in, and means by which such works were recorded, circulated and preserved).
  • The broad chronological and thematic range provides rich opportunities for evaluating potential causes of both change and stasis, and for extending critical and comparative abilities.


  • The papyrus roll and the book of antiquity; the rise of the codex and the medieval monastic scriptorium; forms and functions of illumination; the professional scribe, the university 'stationer', and the production of books for a growing lay audience; the birth of printing and its impact to c. 1600; the dispersal of medieval libraries and the formation of early modern collections.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To give students a general understanding of the role of the book in, and its contribution to, Western civilisation from Antiquity to the sixteenth century.
  • To familiarise students with debates surrounding cruces such as: the transition from roll to codex; the evolution of book production from slave labour through monastic scriptorium then professional workshop to printing-house; the rise and role of illumination; the implications of the medium for the circulation of knowledge, along with the perceived advantages and dangers of increasing access thereto.
  • To introduce students to the skills needed for understanding manuscripts and early printed books, and to provide basic training in the deployment of their evidence for broader historical, literary, art-historical, and cultural debate.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; revision lecture 1 hour 20
Seminars 6 3 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2 1 hour 6
Supervised Visit to Special Collections 1 2 hour 2
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination two hour 100%
Component: Two Essays Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2000 words not inclusive of bibliography 50%
Essay 2 2000 words not inclusive of bibliography 50%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the summative assessments, plus one or more short assignments submitted in writing or delivered orally and discussed either 1:1 or in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University