Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30G3: Popular Cultures in Early Modern England, 1500-1640

Department: History

HIST30G3: Popular Cultures in Early Modern England, 1500-1640

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 investigate the nature of popular cultures in England between the collapse of feudalism and the English Revolution.
  • To explore a variety of themes in social and cultural history by employing a wide range of sources such as legal proceedings (especially witness statements), estate papers, parochial documents, printed material including broadsides and ballads, antiquarian material, memoirs, dramatic and literary texts; gentry correspondence. Students will be especially encouraged to use the rich material in Special Collections.
  • Students will also be introduced to a variety of modes of historical explanation including micro-history; social/cultural history and social/cultural theory; history and anthropology; local history; gender history; reading dramatic sources historically.


  • The course will focus on the nature of popular cultures in England, 1500-1640, in particular dealing with key themes such as literacy and oral culture; print culture; gender; women’s lives; popular memory; senses of landscape and place; belief and unbelief; patriarchy; crime and punishment; cities; and the relationship between drama and popular cultures. The course will deal with fundamental questions in the historiography such as the validity of thinking about culture in terms of polarities (‘high’/’low’; ‘elite’/’popular’; men/women); the usefulness of employing theoretical models and terminology in historical explanation; and the interface of history with other disciplines, most notably literary and dramatic studies and social anthropology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain a wide knowledge of the history of popular culture in the 1500-1640 period,
  • They will gain a knowledge of the application of historical theory to historical evidence,
  • They will gain experience of working at the edges of the historical discipline, in particular where it connects to literary criticism and to anthropology,
  • They will gain and understanding of how to employ primary material in historical argument and will be encouraged to handle primary sources in the original through an engagement with Special Collections.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/
  • In addition students will acquire subject-specific research skills including archival work and exploiting web resources such as Early English Books Online and State Papers Online.
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:
  • 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:
  • 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
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 and 2 3 hours 57
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 & 2 30 mins 1
Revision Session 1 Term 3 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 34%
Essay 2 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 34%
Source Analyses 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 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