Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30H3: Voice and Silence in South Africa's Liberation Struggle

Department: History

HIST30H3: Voice and Silence in South Africa's Liberation Struggle

Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the methodologies of oral history and the challenges of working with oral evidence such as interview transcripts, video and audio recordings as well personal testimony of others kinds of trial statements, memoirs and auto/biographies.
  • To develop an advanced knowledge of the South African anti-apartheid movement and the ways in which historians have studied this movement.
  • To develop an advanced understanding of the historiography of the South African anti-apartheid movement and in particular to think critically about the centrality of personal testimony and individual auto/biography within this historiography.
  • To enable students to situate the historiography on South Africa within broader trends in the study of nationalism and anti-colonial nationalism.


  • The module will explore the centrality of oral testimonies in writing the history of South Africa's anti-apartheid movements. The module reconstructs a history of talking about the struggle as it took place in political trials, in international campaigns, in the public hearings of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the interviews conducted both during and after the struggle by successive generations of historians. We will consider the gender and age dynamics of these processes who speaks for the movement, when and how? Who are those who talk speaking to, and why? We will consider the importance of individual auto/biographies within the campaigns of the national and international anti-apartheid movement and the relationship between historians and the liberation struggle. We will explore the various ways in which historians have used oral evidence and consider the silences that may persist within existing approaches. In order to develop this critical understanding we will study the development of oral history methodologies pioneered by African historians in the 1960s and consider the challenges of postcolonial and feminist theorists who question the limits of historians knowledge about the past. We will become familiar with the historiography on anti-colonial nationalisms and African nationalisms in order to contextualise approaches to the South African past. We will ask questions such as: Why and with what consequences has Nelson Mandela become so central to popular histories of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle? Did South African nationalism [spring] from masculinised memory, masculinised humiliation and masculinised hope? Do historians of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement need to go beyond voices? Is it possible to write histories of silences?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain knowledge of the historiography of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement and African and anti-colonial nationalisms more broadly.
  • Students will learn to appraise the ways in which historians have used oral evidence and the methodologies of oral history.
  • Students will develop knowledge of the social dynamics of oral testimony within and about the anti-apartheid movement.
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 be able to marshal an argument in written form, drawing on an appreciation of oral evidence and personal testimony as a historical source.
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:
  • 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 Termly in Terms 1 and 2 30 mins 1
Seminars 19 Termly in Terms 1 and 2 3 hours 57
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 scholarly apparatus 34%
Essay 2 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Source Analyses 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 32%
Component: Examinarion 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), 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