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Study information

Migration and the Migrant through Ancient and Modern Eyes

Module titleMigration and the Migrant through Ancient and Modern Eyes
Module codeCLAM105
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Elena Isayev (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The ancient world had very high rates of human mobility and times when ‘the foreigner in our midst’ was not a problem, while other periods are characterised by what on the surface appears to be xenophobia, yet even then movement continued both voluntary or forced, whether for trade, piracy, wars, festivals, escape or love interests. One of the problems of the ancient world was how to keep one’s own people in one place. The course will incorporate human mobility trends and the attitudes to them across a wide chronological and geographic spectrum. As its core case study it will use the ancient world centred on the Mediterranean, especially Italy before Empire, but it anticipates students from multiple disciplinary backgrounds who will be able to apply the concepts and problems discussed to their own time period and disciplinary interest. It will include approaches to the subject of mobility and the changing concepts of borders, place, citizenship and the foreigner. These issues will inform our understanding of how communities construct and use place and space, in relation to memory, identity and power.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are:

  • to get you to think critically about human mobility, and to contextualise contemporary modes of thinking about it in a pre-nation state context. It will introduce you to different approaches to and forms of evidence for mobility - who is counted and who is not, when is someone a foreigner - and suggest that ‘migration’ is a relatively modern concept.
  • to work together to establish new frameworks of thinking about mobility and ways of writing history that begin from the routes and movements rather than from individuals or city-states.
  • to consider mass movements as well as individual ones and ask who is the agent responsible for the movement and how and when state structures enhance or suppress them.
  • to discuss such debates as to whether the total number of movements in the last 200 years BC in Italy was 2 million or 40 million, and whether the ancient comedian Plautus’s depiction of a constantly shifting world is based in reality. The question ‘who does not move?’ is equally interesting as ‘who does?’.
  • to refocus attention on the shared aspects that communities over time and distance have in terms of mobility rather than concentrate on the dichotomy of the mobile and the sedentary.  The ancient world will provide an alternative model to that of the territorially bounded nation state, with which to think and challenge contemporary preconceptions, while drawing out long term trends and constructs.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a knowledge of a wide selection of relevant primary material from the ancient world
  • 2. Demonstrate a knowledge of the development of critical skills for analysis and discussion of such material
  • 3. Explore the meaning and development of key concepts in other chronological and geographic contexts
  • 4. Understand and apply critically contemporary migration theory to these contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate sophisticated critical and analytical skills which can be applied to the analysis of material and other forms of evidence, including texts from any culture
  • 6. Take historical examples and understand the impact of contemporary ideologies on its interpretation and in turn the way that historical discourse is used to underpin contemporary policy and perception
  • 7. Examine and apply theoretical arguments and ideas; to form their own interpretation of primary and secondary texts and consider critically a range of possible interpretations

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to empathise with the conceptual and ideological basis of an unfamiliar society
  • 9. Examine the ideologies and values of another culture and to consider critically their bearing on your own life and culture
  • 10. Demonstrate independent research skills and skills in the construction, organisation and presentation of arguments
  • 11. Demonstrate confidence and clarity in oral communication and the ability to work independently.
  • 12. Show initiative in seeking out alternative case studies and the necessary evidence against which your theoretical analysis can be tested

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics

  • Migrant, Refugee, Exile, - Terms and Concepts (incl. Colonialism and Post-colonialism)
  • Sedentarism and Nomadism - a useful dichotomy? Place, Space and territory
  • Demographics and their use – e.g. where are the women?
  • Institutions: Citizenship, resident alien, guest-friendship (Boundaries - natural and man-made)
  • Using a mobile population as a power tool
  • Encouraging and Controlling migration - ancient and modern bordering practices
  • Mass movements, deportations and individual choice
  • Moving in a world without maps
  • Movement as conflict resolution
  • Explorers, merchants, craftsmen, and opportunists - The mobile world of Plautus – comedy and reality
  • Migrants, Migration and the foreigner in literature and art

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Intensive seminar and reading group teaching
Guided independent study135Working independently and in groups in preparation for seminars and essays

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of primary texts and images and of secondary material both individually outside class and in class; discussions and debates arising from these and designed to address issues more broadlyOngoing through module1-11Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay704000 words1-10, 12Written and oral feedback.
Source analysis302000 words 1-11Written and oral feedback.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10, 12Referral/Deferral period
Source analysisSource analysis1-11Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

A full reading list will be supplied by the module lecturer in the form of a topic/class specific handout which will also be posted on the Web.  The following is a sample of some of the texts:

Primary texts:

  • The Comedies of Plautus, Cicero’ Writings, especially De Legibus and The Letters, Polybius etc.
  • Ahrweiler H. (1998) ‘Byzantine Concepts of the Foreigner: The case of the nomads’, in Ahrweiler H. and Laiou A.E. (eds.) Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire, Washington D.C. , 1-15.
  • Brettell, C. B. and Hollifield, J. F. (eds) 2008. Migration theory: talking across disciplines. New York.
  • Broadhead, W. 2004. ‘Rome and the mobility of the Latins’, in Moatti, C. (ed.) La Mobilité des personnes en Méditerranée de l’antiquitéà l’époque moderne. Rome, 315-335.
  • Castles, S. and Miller, M. J. 2003 (3rd edition). The Age of Migration : international population movements in the modern world. Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Dench, E. 2005. Romulus’ Asylum.. Oxford.
  • De Ligt L. and Northwood S. J. (eds.) (2008) People, Land, and Politics: Demographic Developments and the Transformation of Roman Italy 300 BC-AD 14, Leiden-Boston.
  • Favell, A. & Smith, M.P. (eds) 2006. The Human Face of Global Mobility. New Brunswick NJ
  • Harvey D. (2009) Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom, Columbia.
  • Horden, P. and Purcell, N. 2000. Corrupting Sea. Cambridge.
  • Isayev, E. (2017), Migration, Mobility and Place in Ancient Italy, Cambridge.
  • Isayev, E. and Jewell, E. (eds) (2017-20), Displacement and the Humanities (Special Issue of Humanities).
  •   (Open Access).
  • Malkin, I. 2005. Mediterranean Paradigms and Classical Antiquity. London.
  • Osborne R. (1991) ‘The potential mobility of human populations’, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 10.2:231-52.
  • Osborne R. (1998) ‘Early Greek Colonization? The nature of Greek settlements in the West’, in N. Fisher and H. van Wees (eds.) Archaic Greece. New approaches and new evidence, London and Swansea, 251-70.
  • Schlesier R. and Zellmann U. (eds.) Mobility and travel in the Mediterranean from antiquity to the Middle Ages, Münster, 73-83.
  • Scheidel W. (2004) ‘Human Mobility in Roman Italy, I: The Free Population’, Journal of Roman Studies 94: 1-26.
  • Scheidel W. (2005). ‘Human Mobility in Roman Italy, II: The Slave Population’, Journal of Roman Studies 95: 64-79.
  • Tacoma, L. E. (2016). Moving Romans. Oxford.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Broadhead, W. 2001. ‘Rome’s migration policy and the so-called ius migrandi’, in Cahiers Glotz, 12, 69-89.
  • Crawley H. and Crimes T. (2009) Refugees living in Wales (CMPR) Swansea.
  • Favell A. (2001) Philosophies of Integration, London.
  • Lo Cascio E. and Malanima P. (2005) ‘Cycles and Stability. Italian Population before the Demographic Transition (225 B.C. - A.D. 1900)’, Rivista di Storia Economica 21.3: 197-232.
  • UN and WHO statistics documetns about contemporary Migration trends

Key words search

Migrant, Migration, Demographics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

Feb 2013

Last revision date