Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module HIST45330: Themes, Readings and Sources

Department: History

HIST45330: Themes, Readings and Sources

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module provides MA students with the specific and direct training in historical practices, theories, approaches and methodologies. As such this module provides subject-specific knowledge and skills particularly relevant to History which accompany the optional modules and prepare for the dissertation. It is intended to guide all students regardless of their period specialism from a more tutor-led approach to an independent approach towards their dissertation by combining a focus on primary sources across periods with thematic and historiographical approaches.


  • The module will take students progressively through the steps that lead from the formulation of a historical question to the development and presentation of an independent piece of research. In doing so, it is mapped onto the logical and practical steps structuring historical work in general, exploring how historians proceed and how they relate their work to the disciplinary horizon in which they operate. It will start with a reflection on how History has developed as a discipline over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, what this entails for historical practice today and how historical approaches have changed and developed over time. We will explore how archives structure what historians find and how they frame their topics, before we focus on the methods and techniques historians can deploy to read and contextualize “their” sources, but also how to move beyond them. Students will be invited to think about heuristics and comparative method and historiography as well as about the potential and challenges posed by written, oral, visual and material sources to historical practice. In order to develop their communicative skills, the seminar contains an introduction into local archives and special collections as well as a tailored skills workshop by a professional external tutor to help with voice, breathing, presentation techniques and time management. The seminar culminates in a MA conference, in which students will be able to apply the technical and historiographical skills acquired throughout the course in order to present their dissertation project effectively to their peers and members of staff.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of the professionalization of History as a discipline and what this entails in terms of method and scholarly apparatus;
  • Understanding of archival landscapes and their implications for historical work;
  • Understanding of the major concepts, methods and categories that shape historical work;
  • Comparative understanding of periods and geographies of knowledge
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to assess, contextualize and assess sources of various kinds,
  • The independent command of historical evidence, with an appreciation of the nature and form of sources and the ability to deploy different methods and techniques to interrogate them where appropriate;
  • The ability to independently appreciate, assess and apply historiographical and theoretical approaches in pursuit of ambitious intellectual questions,
  • The ability to independently tackle complex historical problems by crossing traditional disciplinary and methodological boundaries where appropriate, recognizing the importance of locating research within a wider chronological, geographical and comparative frame;
  • The ability to independently craft well-defined and ambitious research projects, to construct a programme of research, and execute it;
  • The ability to present historical findings in a sophisticated written style, in keeping with professional standard, with an emphasis on independence, creativity and flair.
  • The ability effectively to present their research and its significance in written and oral form to specialist and wider audiences
  • http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/

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

  • enter text as appropriate for the module

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Fortnightly in Terms 1 & 2 2 hours 16
Archival Session 1 Once in Term 1 2 hours 2
Workshop 1 One-day workshop in Term 1 4 hours 4
Total 178

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay focusing on particular primary sources or an archive 4000 words 100%
Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation 20 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

A formative dissertation proposal of 2000 words due in Term 1.

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