Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST21D1: Voices of the Past: Oral Histories

Department: History

HIST21D1: Voices of the Past: Oral Histories

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 60 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 1 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • For students to understand the use and development of oral history methodologies
  • For students to evaluate the historical interpretation of evidence from oral history
  • To consider the ethical and legal obligations on research using oral history
  • To understand the skills required for creating and using oral history evidence in historical research.


  • The module examines how and when oral histories have been used as a research method, considering their development and practice in the context of particular fields of modern history. Students will become familiar with the protocols, ethics, and laws observed by oral historians, as well as critiquing the creation and use of oral history by researchers. The module equips students to apply for ethical approval to use oral history as a methodology in future research-focused modules of their programme, such as undergraduate dissertations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To assess the place of oral history in particular fields of historical inquiry and in relation to other types of evidence
  • To analyse different scholarly approaches to oral history
  • To understand the breadth of ethical, legal, and methodological concerns in oral history practices.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To develop skills to create oral history recordings, transcripts, and/or summaries
  • To evaluate the theory and practice of oral history
  • To link developments in oral history to interrelated developments in historiography, technology, and historical practice.
Key Skills:
  • To acquire the confidence to undertake research involving oral history and to comply with university policies required to do so
  • To develop appropriate skills of analysis and interpretation for oral history sources, relating this to considerations of how other primary sources are used
  • To evaluate the implications of different methodologies and approaches to oral history
  • To judge the potential insights or limitations of oral history methods.

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 and skills.
  • Summative coursework will test students’ ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 16 in Term 1 1 Hour 16
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 1 Hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

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

â–  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