Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20G1: The Habsburg Empire: from Enlightenment to Collapse, c.1740-1918

Department: History

HIST20G1: The Habsburg Empire: from Enlightenment to Collapse, c.1740-1918

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To promote an understanding of the complex and multinational history of the Habsburg Empire at the time when it underwent changes in the processes of modernisation
  • To develop a critical understanding of the reasons for the empire’s collapse


  • This module will cover key themes, changes and debates in the history of the Habsburg Empire, the collapse of which in 1918 resulted in the dramatic redrawing of the map of Europe and was followed by the rise of the far right. Historiography on the empire has been split: Was the empire doomed from the start or was the rise of nationalism, anti-Semitism and other modern ideologies to blame? Was the creative fin-de-siècle culture that made Vienna an epitome of the modern metropolis truly so decadent as to contribute to the empire’s collapse? In 1913 Vienna, Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the city, not too far away from the imperial palace. What was the role of the royal dynasty, prominent administrators, politicians and cultural figures in keeping the empire together? Relying on a critical analysis of historical scholarship and a careful reading of primary sources, this module proposes to provide individual, preliminary answers to these questions so pertinent to the study of the empires in the modern period.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • an understanding of the forces and actors shaping the changes in the Habsburg Empire from the middle of the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century in the realm of politics, society and culture
  • an ability to critically evaluate both recent and older interpretations of Habsburg history
  • an ability to construct balanced and historically sensitive arguments about the development of Habsburg society, drawing on work by political, social, and cultural historians
Subject-specific Skills:
  • an understanding of the complicated and changing political and ethno-national map of Central Europe and the Habsburg Empire in the modern period
  • a capacity to engage with several competing traditions of Habsburg historiography and a set of methodological skills to analyse primary sources from diverse regions of Central Europe
  • a historically sensitive positioning of the Habsburg legacy in a comparative perspective within the broader studies of the empire.
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

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:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The 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 coursework will test students’ ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succintly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2, 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 176

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2,000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography. %

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination and to practice writing to similar word limits.

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