Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST1691: The Atlantic Archipelago, c.1500-c.1750

Department: History

HIST1691: The Atlantic Archipelago, c.1500-c.1750

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 150 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 major themes, arguments, concepts and methodological approaches in the political, religious, social, cultural and economic history of the British Isles and the colonial Americas from c. 1500 to c. 1750.


  • The early modern period was a critical period in the history of what is now the United Kingdom. The British Isles came together, informally and then formally, as one state; the beginnings of the British Empire were established via colonisation of the Americas and the mass enslavement of people from the African continent; it was the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, as well as Civil War and the (temporary) abolition of the monarchy; the Church of England was established, dismantled and re-established; and there were profound economic changes, particularly regarding commercialisation, the slave trade, and industrialisation. This module will take a largely thematic approach, exploring a range of key themes from monarchy and republicanism to confessionalisation, religious diversity, tolerance and persecution; And students will learn to consider and write about the roles of gender, class and racialisation, as well as concepts such as secularisation, modernity, and industrialisation. Exploration of primary sources will form a part of seminars.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will have an understanding of the major themes, arguments, concepts and methodological approaches in the political, religious, social, cultural and economic history of the British Isles and the colonial Americas from c. 1500 to c. 1750.
  • Students will be able to address these themes using primary sources
Subject-specific Skills:
  • reading and using texts and other source materials critically and analytically, addressing questions of content, perspective and purpose at an advanced level;
  • handling and critically analysing varying interpretations of a given body of historical evidence;
  • managing a body of evidence or information, particularly gathering, sifting, synthesizing, organising, marshalling and presenting information consistent with the methods and standards of historical study and research;
  • assembling evidence to address issues, constructing an argument and supporting it with evidence to permit and facilitate the evaluation of hypotheses;
Key Skills:
  • self-discipline, self-direction, initiative, the capacity for extended independent work on complex subjects, the development of pathways to originality, and intellectual curiosity;
  • discrimination and judgement;
  • ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information, and familiarity with appropriate means of identifying, finding, retrieving, sorting and exchanging information;
  • analytical ability, and the capacity to consider and solve complex problems;
  • structure, coherence, clarity and fluency of written expression;
  • intellectual integrity, maturity and an appreciation of the validity of the reasoned views of others;

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 21 weekly in terms 1 & 2; summary lecture in term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 each in terms 1 and 2, and a revision seminar in term 3 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

A written assignment of 1500-2000 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