Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20S1: Black British History

Department: History

HIST20S1: Black British History

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 48 Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the key concepts and events of Black British history, both within Britain itself and within transnational and imperial contexts
  • To provide students with the conceptual tools to analyse primary sources that illuminate Black British history
  • To equip students with the ability to understand and analyse the most important historiographical debates within Black British history
  • To place this history within the wider contexts of British, transnational and imperial history.


  • What do we mean by ‘Black’? What do we mean by ‘British’? This module examines how these terms have been negotiated and contested during the late modern period. Students will see how the identities of, and the terminology used to describe, people of African origin and descent in Britain and the empire have been historically, geographically and politically contingent. They will also see how notions of ‘Britishness’ have been forged through debates about race, nation and empire.
  • Lectures and seminars will provide a chronological and thematic overview of Black British history. Themes for discussion will include historiographical approaches to Black British history, slavery & abolition, migration, politics & activism, gender, sexuality, identity, and culture.
  • Most of the module will be about the history of Black people in Britain itself, but we will also explore the creation of ‘Black British’ identities in the British Empire (especially in the Caribbean).
  • This module will, as much as possible, examine the above topics from the perspectives of Black people, rather than from the perspective of white elites.
  • Students will read pioneering and important secondary literature on Black British history. They will also be introduced to relevant primary sources, which may include slave narratives, poems, songs, political texts, visual sources, and oral histories.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of Black British history
  • Awareness of the historical contingency of the concepts of ‘Blackness’ and ‘Britishness’, and an ability to apply these concepts critically
  • The ability to construct reasoned arguments about Black British history and to engage with existing scholarship.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Building on and developing skills gained at Level 1
  • Deepening and extending historical understanding through focused, concentrated modules
  • Developing precision, depth of understanding, and conceptual awareness.
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 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: 
  • 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. The additional summative assignments will test knowledge and skills specific to the module, such as analysis of relevant primary sources, or critical engagement with the historiography as demonstrated through book reviews and article abstracts. .

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1,000 words total, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1,000 word summative assignment and from work done during and in preparation for seminars.

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