Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST1541: Modern Times: A Cultural History of Europe, c. 1860-1960

Department: History

HIST1541: Modern Times: A Cultural History of Europe, c. 1860-1960

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 110 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


  • To introduce students to key themes and developments in modern European cultural history;
  • To introduce students to questions of modern European identity, using the ideas of place, time and historical processes.


  • What made Europe and European societies modern? What were the hallmarks of this age of high modernity? To answer those questions, this module will focus on the century comprising roughly the years 1860 to 1960, as this was a pivotal epoch for "right-sizing" European societies, culture, and identities. Engaging with recent scholarship, students will examine the most important themes in European cultural history during this period. Students will investigate the cultural history of modern Europe through concepts of place, time, and historical processes. Students will therefore be able to chart what constituted the high modern and investigate the emergence of some its key characteristics such as mass culture, mass politics, and modern communication.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of the broad issues that are addressed by modern cultural historians;
  • An understanding of the different ways in which modern Europe is defined and understood;
  • An understanding of the way in which modern identities have been shaped in Europe between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Identifying, defining, and understanding historical problems
  • Ability to explore the ways in which historians address historical problems going beyond the simple accumulation of knowledge
  • Ability to identify and to critique conflicting historical interpretations • Discussing and explaining ideas in a small-group context
  • Practicing introductory writing and research skills
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology

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. The seminar will also be the primary forum for developing students skills in reading and criticizing primary sources.
  • 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;
  • The summative essay remains a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills it develops. It allows 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 21 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; revision lecture 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2;1 in Term 3 1hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words not inclusive of footnotes or bibliography 2000 words not inclusive of footnotes or bibliography 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Two hour written examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

A written assignment of 1500 words to be submitted in Michaelmas Term.

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