Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20J1: Themes in Modern British History: Religion, Magic and Multiculturalism

Department: History

HIST20J1: Themes in Modern British History: Religion, Magic and Multiculturalism

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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


  • •None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • •None.


  • To introduce students to an understanding of modern British history and to examine some key themes and debates in this area.


  • Scholars have long taken for granted a correlation between secularisation and modernity in nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain. But is this model still tenable? This course begins by establishing the historiographical context and methods for the ‘secularisation thesis’ before moving through three thematic parts that present a challenge to that thesis.
  • First, the course explores historical and scholarly definitions of religion across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the (contested) sites of formalised religious practice, the growth of so-called fringe movements (such as the Salvation Army) and the interplay between official doctrine, belief and everyday life.
  • Second, we examine the survival of the magical and supernatural across the modern period, from belief in ghosts to recurring waves of popular spiritualism to the resurgence of interest at the end of the twentieth century in angels and pagan practices.
  • Third, we challenge the demographics of the secularisation thesis. Typically, theories of increasing secularism ignore the heterodox character of the British population in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course will ask how far an inclusive history of religion, one that addresses Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities, destabilises a grand narrative of secularisation.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Ability to engage critically with some relevant primary source material and to assess the way other historians have used evidence.
  • Ability to identify relevant secondary literature from the vast and rapidly expanding scholarship on the subject.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/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:
  • 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

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 6 Term 2 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination> Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

A mock take home examination with feedback in Epiphany 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