Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST35A1: The Metropolis: Urban Histories of Modern Europe, c.1790-1990

Department: History

HIST35A1: The Metropolis: Urban Histories of Modern Europe, c.1790-1990

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To promote an understanding of the crucial role of cities in the development of European modernity
  • To develop an understanding of a range of disciplines and approaches to researching the city and its history


  • Urban history as a historical sub-discipline is defined by a focus on the study of cities and the urban environment. This module will offer a survey of a broad range of approaches, theories and debates surrounding the emergence of the modern European city, from early nineteenth-century urbanisation and fin-de-siacle consumer culture to twentieth-century post-war urban restructuring, and idea of the Socialist city. It will focus on particular cities as case studies from different parts of the European continent from London and Paris to Vienna, St Petersburg and Moscow. The urban experience that is crucial to the understanding of the condition of modernity and in particular aspects such as urban segregation, migration, the nature of public space and expressions of metropolitan and urban identity in politics and culture will be explored with the use of approaches ranging from social and cultural history to gender studies.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An understanding of the role of European cities in the emergence of the modern global world
  • A comprehensive and critical understanding of recent scholarship on urban history, urbanisation and diverse aspects of urban culture
  • A capacity to engage with multi-disciplinary approaches to the study of the modern European city
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An understanding of the complex nature of modern cities and aspects such as urban segregation, migration, and the politics of space
  • A capacity to engage with multi-disciplinary approaches to the study of the modern European city
  • A capacity to think spatially and an understanding of the urban space as a historically evolving phenomenon
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.
  • Intellectual integrity, maturity and an appreciation of the validity of the reasoned views of others

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:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • 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.
  • 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
Lectures 21 Weekly in terms 1,2 and 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 3 in Term 1; 3 in Term 2; 1 in Term 3 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay - not including bibliography and footnotes 3000 words 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:

A written assignment of 1000-2000 words to be submitted in Michaelmas 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