Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: History


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Introduce students to the development of society in colonial British America from circa 1600 to 1776, analysing the formation of distinctive social relations in New England and the Chesapeake, exploring the role of slavery and relations with indigenous populations, as well as between European settlers.
  • allow students to critically analyse the complex relationship between the various social groups in colonial British America (defined as the eastern seaboard colonies of mainland North America).
  • give students the opportunity to work with different forms of historical evidence - including autobiography, literary accounts, graphic representations and material evidence (from excavation, standing buildings and surviving artefacts) - in an environment designed to foster a critical awareness of varied primary source materials.
  • Contribute towards the achievement of the Department's generic Aims for study at Level 2.


  • In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, emigration from Britain (along with emigration from other European nations and forced emigration from Africa) led to the formation of distinctive colonial societies on the eastern seaboard of mainland North America.
  • Religious convictions, the development of slavery and distinctive political arrangements made the historical development of British North America up to Independence in 1776 of lasting historical significance, not least because of the subsequent importance and power of the USA.
  • This course seeks to analyse the complex historical relationships between religious, political and social-economic arrangements, including the role of race, class and gender.
  • The geographical focus is upon New England and the Chesapeake, with further attention to the 'middle colonies' and 'back country'.
  • Particular attention will also be given to relations between the American colonies and the British Isles, through attention to recent 'Atlantic World' historiography.
  • Students will gain an understanding of the development of distinctive societies in the British American colonies, as well as an understanding of the changing historiographical approaches to British North America over the last fifty years.
  • We will analyse the use of a wide variety of sources, such as maps, autobiography, correspondence, and archaeological evidence.
  • The course will add a new dimension to the study available at Durham History Department, into European, American and British history, and is suitable for those with an interest in the development of British and American society, and the historical roots claimed for Anglo-American culture in the present day.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • have a subject specific knowledge relating to the development of society in British North America from circa 1600 to 1776.
  • understand and appreciate the significance of shifts in historiography on this topic.
  • understand the ways in which documentary and material evidence on this topic have been interpreted by historians and historical archaeologists.
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 the following teaching methods:
  • 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 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 1 hour 19
Seminars 7 3 in Term one, 3 in Term two; setup seminar 1 hour 7
Film Screening 1 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination two hour 100%
Component: Two Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 maximum 2000 words not including footnotes and bibliography 50%
Essay 2 maximum 2000 words not including footnotes and bibliography 50%

Formative Assessment:

Short source commentary (750 words) for discussion in seminar.

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