Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module HIST45330: Themes, Readings and Sources

Department: History

HIST45330: Themes, Readings and Sources

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module provides MA students with training in historical skills, methodologies, and theories. As the core module for History students, it addresses knowledge and practices particularly relevant to the discipline, supplementing optional modules and preparation for the dissertation. It is designed to guide all students, regardless of their specialism, towards an independent approach to their learning and research. It combines attention to specific primary sources across periods with broad thematic and historiographical concerns. .


  • The module not only exposes students to major paradigms of historical enquiry, but also encourages students to position their own interests and work next to them. Some seminar weeks are organized around significant aspects that shape and structure the pursuit of History (including the power dynamics that legitimate or obscure certain topics of enquiry and the consequences of archival development and access). Other seminar weeks explore the commitments of particular kinds of approaches or topical subfields, which may include the history of science, postcolonial history, and historical analysis of material culture. Throughout the module, students will be invited to reflect on both existing scholarly literature and their own scholarly practice, including how they can develop research questions and how arguments can be evidenced through a variety of sources. In order to develop communication skills, the module provides guidance on presentation techniques and culminates in a MA conference.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Understanding of the development of the historical discipline and what this entails in terms of method and scholarly apparatus;
  • Understanding of archival landscapes and their implications for historical work;
  • Understanding of major concepts, methods, and categories that shape historical work;
  • Comparative understanding of periods and geographies of knowledge.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to contextualize and assess sources of various kinds;
  • Confident analysis of historical evidence, recognising the virtues and limits of different methods;
  • Applying distinctive historiographical and conceptual approaches to ambitious intellectual questions;
  • Considering interdisciplinary and boundary-crossing approaches, while recognizing the potential importance of chronological, geographical, and comparative frames;
  • Ability to independently craft well-defined research projects;
  • Ability to present historical findings in a sophisticated written style;
  • Ability to effectively present research and its significance in oral form;
  • 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

  • Assessment is primarily by means of a 4,000-word essay that requires the acquisition and application of advanced knowledge and understanding of a topic area related to the module. Essays require a sustained and coherent argument, and must be presented in a clearly written and structured form with appropriate apparatus.
  • A smaller portion of assessment is by means of a presentation on the student’s own research at the MA conference.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Weekly in Term 1 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 4000 words 100%
Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation 15 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

A formative source presentation in one of the weekly seminars.

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