Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST3461: Empires and States in Early Modern Asia: Nomads, Slaves, Scholars, Rulers

Department: History

HIST3461: Empires and States in Early Modern Asia: Nomads, Slaves, Scholars, Rulers

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 60 Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To show the interconnected history of early modern Asian states and empires
  • To question Eurocentric perspectives on early modern Asia
  • To understand the historical context that has obscured the dynamic historical connectivities between early modern states and empires across Asia


  • This module examines the history of states and empires in Asia using a range of different approaches, such as cultural, political, and environmental history. In adopting a broad geographical and chronological range, it highlights the extent of interconnectedness and dynamism in Asia during early modern times. This module considers medieval legacies of early modern empires, and also reflects on modern perceptions of these states. Examples may be drawn from South Asia, Korea, Japan, China, Central Asia, and regions of the Safavid and Ottoman Empires.
  • The module acknowledges that particular intellectual framings have sometimes made it difficult to recognise the degree of interconnection in early modern Asia. Anachronistic labels and geographical distinctions such as ‘East Asia’, ‘South Asia’ or ‘the Middle East’ have tended to obscure how much different spaces, states and cultures in Asia were inherently linked to one another during early modern times.
  • We will explore local contexts, intercultural exchanges, and global connectivities through subjects such as trade relations, the circulation of texts and their translations, as well as the movement of people – such as travelers, brokers and diplomats – across terrestrial as well as maritime empires.
  • As a whole, the module empowers students with the critical tools to question Eurocentric and modernist perspectives on early modern Asia. It familiarises students with a wealth of primary sources (including material and visual culture) and with a vibrant secondary literature that has demonstrated the rich potential of global, connected, and comparative approaches to the study of early modern Asia.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of early modern Asian states and empires through a range of historical approaches (such as political, cultural, and environmental history)
  • The ability to think about connected and comparative histories in early modern Asia
  • The ability to situate specific historical examples within wider historical contexts beyond individual political formations
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:
  • 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 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. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • 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.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 5 in Term 1; 4 in Term 2, 1 in Term 3 (revision session) 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 180
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words (not including bibliography and footnotes) 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than seventy-two hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Written formative feedback for making an oral presentation and leading discussion in student-led seminar.

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