Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST1711: South Asia: Texts, Artefacts, Empires

Department: History

HIST1711: South Asia: Texts, Artefacts, Empires

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 100 Location Durham


  • • Normally a 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 the study of South Asian history. The module will provide an overview of the broad sweep of human history on the subcontinent and connected Indian Ocean worlds
  • To introduce students to the texts and artefacts held by Durham University in its Special Collections and Oriental Museum that were acquired originally from South Asia
  • To introduce artefacts and texts in Durham University from different periods and places within South Asian History that can be used to explore wider histories, particularly regarding (European and Asian) imperial formations in the region.
  • To equip students with the skills to contextualise and analyse original texts and artefacts from South Asian pasts, and to develop a critical understanding of colonial-era acquisition histories of this evidence.


  • The module will introduce students to the study of South Asian history through a series of artefacts and texts held by the University of Durham in the Oriental Museum and Special Collections. These items act as apertures onto wider histories of the subcontinent and its connected Indian Ocean worlds. These artefacts and texts enable us to range across the region and from the early modern era through to the mid-twentieth century. They can reveal overlapping histories: the history of their origins – their making, use, and meanings – as well as the history of their acquisition – as commodities, gifts, and loot. Through them, the module pays particularly attention to the rise and fall of different imperial formations over a five-hundred year period, tracking continuities and changes that occurred with the gradual ascendance of British rule, as well as its rapid and dramatic decline.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A broad knowledge of the political, social, economic and cultural history of South Asia.
  • An appreciation of the nature and impact of European colonialism, and the continuing significance of earlier empires within South Asia's histories.
  • An awareness of the archival and museum collections at Durham University that pertain to the history of South Asia and the histories that are connected to them.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Identifying, defining, and understanding historical problems
  • Ability to explore the ways in which historians use different types of evidence to address historical problems
  • 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 one, 3 in Term two; revision session 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 words to be submitted in Michaelmas

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