Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30E3: Mapping Eastern Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Department: History

HIST30E3: Mapping Eastern Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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 develop an advanced understanding of the history of Eastern Europe in the modern period;
  • To give the opportunity to develop knowledge of spatial history with a focus on Eastern Europe;
  • To evaluate critically the opinions of scholars of Eastern Europe and probe them against a careful reading of primary material;
  • To develop advanced reading of different types of primary material;
  • To contribute towards meeting the generic aims of Level III study in History.


  • Where and what is Eastern Europe? To what extent was it invented by the west? This special subject takes third year students on a fascinating tour through two centuries of a changing and complex region. It charts the development of a region from a playground for imperial adventures and moneyed travellers to a region known distinctly as Eastern Europe by the close of the twentieth century. Beginning with travels and discoveries of the broader region in the early-nineteenth century, students will attempt to pin down an elusive area through a series of fascinating sources from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These are taken from travel reports, map-making, geopolitics, literature, ethnographic studies, journalism, the arts, high politics, and military (mis)adventures. The geographic focus will be on the borderlands wedged between the Prussian, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, though as this module will show the boundaries of this region were fluid. Scholars have long been interested in the discovery of Eastern Europe. Larry Wolff's seminal book Inventing Eastern Europe (1993) set the agenda for academic debate that was still profoundly influenced by the Cold War. This module will begin by exploring some of the key secondary texts that have shaped the field, particularly those reacting to material from the early 1990s. It also introduces important conceptual work on areas such as spatial history, transnational history, travel writing and cartography. Was the region simply invented by a western gaze? How exactly did people imagine the Eastern European places they encountered? What about the Eastern Europeans themselves? How important were the exchanges that took place between travellers and locals? How important was map-making in shaping the region of Eastern Europe? And: how crucial was the terminology used to describe the region we now refer to as Eastern Europe? These are just some of the questions that this module will address.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A deep understanding of Eastern Europe in the period 1800-2000;
  • A sophisticated understanding of the changing historiography of the spatial history of Eastern Europe;
  • The ability to analyse critically a complex range of primary material through the lens of spatial history;
  • The ability to test interdisciplinary concepts and apply them to Eastern Europe in the period under consideration;
  • To question terminology and understand the historical construction of places and regions.
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

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 1 in Term 1 & 1 in Term 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

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2500 words (not including footnotes and bibliography); preparation to participate in seminar and tutorials; at least one oral presentation, and practice source/gobbet work.

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