Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30A3: Home and Away: Early Modern English Houses

Department: History

HIST30A3: Home and Away: Early Modern English Houses

Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 18 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least TWO level two modules in History.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To contribute towards meetings the generic aims of Level III study in History.


  • The early modern era was defined by changes in domestic space and the appearance of buildings. Housing is core to historical change, and this Special Subject explores the ways in which the English house was transformed between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. We will start by looking at the ways in which the early modern house differed from the medieval house, and how it changed to become the Georgian house of the eighteenth century. We will explore the ways in which the form and decoration of houses reflected cultural change in England between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution (from the beginning of the sixteenth century through to the end of the eighteenth century). We will look at houses of the aristocracy, urban professionals, tradesmen, farmers and the working poor. We will also explore the English house overseas, especially in colonial contexts in North America, Africa and India, and the ways in which English houses differ from houses in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and continental Europe.
  • Seminars will address the evolution of the English house, room use, decoration, task spaces, the role of religion, and relationship to public space. We will also explore the economics of house building, property exchange, and the emergence of property speculators creating commodified housing, as well as a modern property market advertising in newspapers – literally “all modern conveniences”. We will look at houses in town – the growth of London and leisure towns – in industrial contexts – with the origins of working class housing – and in the countryside. We will look at the experience of servants, children and lodgers, as well as spinsters, bachelors and married couples, and the role of housing in old age. Students will engage with architectural studies, anthropology and historical archaeology, social and cultural history, and economic history. Studying the house is a means of understanding society.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students should have:
  • A knowledge of the material, economic and cultural dimensions of houses in England between the Reformation and Industrial Revolution; how the English house transferred overseas, and how housing was a central part of historical change.
  • An understanding of the approaches to houses and architecture as formulated by historians, architectural historians, anthropologists and archaeologists.
  • An ability to integrate documentary and material culture sources, through the study of primary printed sources, artefact sources, and architectural evidence.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Challenging students’ assumptions about the past and reflecting on the nature of the discipline (and, where appropriate, interdisciplinarity) at an advanced level
  • Appreciating how historical knowledge is produced, what forms it takes, and the purposes it serves
  • Reflecting on students’ own historical consciousness and practice.
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

  • 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;
  • Tutorials either individually or in groups to discuss topics arising from prepared work, allowing students the opportunity to reflect upon their personal learning with the tutor. • 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;
  • 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;
  • Assessment of Primary Source Handling Students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students' ability to bring that knowledge to bear on 'cutting edge' research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate an understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations.
  • In addition to documentary sources, this Special Subject includes many visual representations of houses and house contents, as well as actual architecture and artefacts. We make use of the built environment in Durham City, and Durham University Museums collections for artefacts from Post-Medieval Durham, and at the Oriental Museum. Students learn how to handle and interpret objects, as part of their gobbet exercises and source exam. Students also learn how to interpret standing buildings and house plans.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 and 2 30 mins 1
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 3 hours 57
Revision Sessions 1 Term 3 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 3 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 Max 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Essay 2 Max 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Source Analyses 3,000 words, not incl scholarly apparatus 32%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2500 words (not including footnotes and bibliography), submitted in Term 1. This will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet. Coursework essays are formative as well as summative. They are to be submitted in two copies, of which one will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet. Preparation to participate in seminars and tutorials. At least one oral presentation in each term, and at least two practice gobbets in each 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