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Study information

New Approaches to History

Module titleNew Approaches to History
Module codeHIC1604
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Catriona Pennell ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Module description

This module provides an overview of how history has been studied from c.1750 to the present day, the ideas that have underpinned historical research and writing, and the recent methodologies and theories of history (many of them drawn from other disciplines) as they have been employed by historians. At its core, the module highlights how methodologies and theories of academic history are expressions of wider social, cultural, intellectual, and political concerns. You will gain insight into how today many historians work at the interface of other disciplines including the social and environmental sciences. The module illuminates new directions and approaches for the study of history in collaboration with other disciplines. You will be encouraged to read closely, process reflectively, and develop critical thinking skills. You will be introduced to the working methodologies and interests of the academic staff in Cornwall and the variety of possible interdisciplinary approaches to history that you can explore during the rest of your degree programme.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to introduce you to the way the discipline of history has developed since the eighteenth century, and where the discipline is today. You will gain insight into the various methods and approaches historians employ when they seek to understand and write about the past. The module specifically asks you to consider the significance, as well as the difficulties of cross-disciplinary studies that place historical understanding at the centre. You will consider current and pressing issues of, for example: social and environmental injustice; state violence and colonialism; narrative politics and knowledge-making; and interactions of place, memory and emotion in identity formation. By the end of the module, you will be  expected to have a good general understanding of the theories, methods, and approaches that are open to you as a historian in tackling key issues and challenges of the twenty-first century.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key themes, trends and significances of historical scholarship in relation to other disciplines.
  • 2. Identify, describe, and discuss the ways historians have approached the past, and how and why, these have changed over time.
  • 3. Critically reflect on the uses of historical research in cutting-edge interdisciplinary work dealing with the challenges we face today, across local, global and planetary scales.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Identify and discuss multiple and competing interpretations
  • 5. Make connections between social, cultural, and political currents and the effect these have on historical work
  • 6. Engage reflexively in debates about the usefulness and relevance of historical research in dealing with questions more typically associated with other disciplines, including the social and environmental sciences.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument in writing
  • 8. Prepare, take part in, and lead discussion with peers
  • 9. Work together with others to prepare and deliver your work in the form of an oral presentation

Syllabus plan

The module is formed around sessions devoted to exploring different approaches to studying the past. It will begin with an introduction to history as a subject in higher education today. The main thrust of the module will be on examining the ways historians research the past to better understand and act upon current and future-oriented questions and challenges. We will consider the importance of historical methods and approaches in advancing our understanding of, for example, society, culture, economy, environment, violence, and politics. We will explore the development of key subject areas in historical work in relation to other disciplines including archaeology, anthropology, literature, sociology, geography, politics, law, and the sciences.

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 Teaching10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars
Guided Independent Study130Private study and preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation planc.500 words1-7Written and verbal

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
Reflective Diary752000 words1-7Written
Group presentation2515 minutes1-6, 8-9Immediate oral feedback and written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective diary (2000 words)Reflective diary (2000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral Period
Group presentation (15 minutes)Essay (1000 words)1-7Referral/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 40%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as defined above. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Bourke, R., & Skinner, Q. (Eds.). (2022). History in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (various editions, first ed. 1946)

L.J. Jordanova, History in Practice (various editions)

M. Bentley, Modern Historiography (various editions)

D.R. Woolf (ed), A Global History of History (2011)

L. Gandhi, Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction (2022)

L. Faire, Research Methods for History (2022)

M. Dobson, B. Ziemann (ed), Reading Primary Sources (2009)

S. Handley, R. McWilliams, L. Noakes, New Directions in Social and Cultural History (2018)

Key words search

History, historical research, uses of the past, interdisciplinary, new approaches and methodologies

Credit value15
Module ECTS


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date