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Study information


Module titleViolence
Module codeHIH3632
Academic year2024/5
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores the social and cultural histories of collective violence, focusing on the act of violence itself. Through comparisons across time along with engaging with the extensive theorisation of violence offered by different social sciences, the module will examine why violence has taken particular forms and rituals, what it has meant to perpetrators and victims, and the limits placed on violence by formal and informal rules and practices. The module will explore the roles of religion, ethnicity, group dynamics and gender, phenomena ranging from riots and massacres to the duel, as well as the halting of violence through surrender or negotiation. The module is suitable for interdisciplinary pathways and there are no prerequisite modules.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to enhance your understanding of recurring themes in the social and cultural history of violence. It will be taught by two or three different tutors, and exact chronological and thematic focus will depend on which tutors are teaching the module in any given year. By close specialist evaluation of key topics such as the roles of religion, ethnicity, class and gender; the ritualization of violence; the cultural construction of ‘acceptable’ and ‘excessive’ violence; the halting of violence, and whether one can speak of ‘violent societies’ or ‘cultures of violence’, in settings as diverse as Europe, Russia, the Americas, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, you will trace key developments in the subject, and think about these comparatively across time and space. The module will also introduce you to the approaches of different disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology and psychology, and to a variety of different historical source materials, such as eyewitness accounts and visual sources. By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and lectures, student-led seminars and independent study, the module will enable you to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of taking a comparative approach to the study of violence In this way you will learn to draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources, show awareness of contrasting approaches to research, and demonstrate an enhanced understanding of some of the philosophical questions arising from research into large historical themes. You will also learn to present some of these complex issues to the rest of the class by leading a seminar in the second half of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Assess key developments in the social and cultural histories of violence to other phenomena such as religion, class and gender across a variety of historical time-periods and contexts
  • 2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the social and cultural histories of violence across different societies and periods
  • 3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to the social and cultural phenomenon of violence
  • 4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the social and cultural history of violence, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Analyse the key developments in complex and unfamiliar political, social, cultural or intellectual environments.
  • 6. Evaluate different and complex types of historical source and historiography.
  • 7. Present work in the format expected of historians, including footnoting and bibliographical references.
  • 8. Identify and deploy correct terminology in a comprehensible and sophisticated manner.
  • 9. Critically evaluate different approaches to history in a contested area.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Work both in a team and independently to prepare and lead a seminar
  • 11. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the essay writing process

Syllabus plan

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

• Five sessions covering methodological and conceptual issues relating to the social and cultural history of violence, case studies, and set-up for student-led seminars. Each session will be taught through one seminar and 1-hour lecture. The lectures will focus on worked examples or case studies from the tutor’s own area of specialism and suggest questions and themes which could be explored comparatively by the students themselves. The seminars will explore particular issues in more depth, through case studies or discussion of particular sources and historiographical debates. They will also lay the foundations for the student-led seminars in the second half of the course. Topics covered will vary according to tutor availability but may include religious violence, gendered violence, forms of collective violence from riots, pogroms and massacres to duels, and the prevention, limitation or cessation of violence.

• Five seminars led by groups of 2 or 3 students on topics chosen from a menu offered by tutors. Topics will vary according to tutor availability and student choice.

• Concluding session: discussion of overarching issues and comparative points.

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 teaching1111x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching126 x 2 hour tutor led seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching105 x 2 hour seminars, each led by a group of 2 or 3 students. Topics should be chosen from a menu of subjects agreed in advance by tutors. While tutors give guidance and a basic reading list, students are responsible for designing seminar activities and identifying further reading materials.
Guided independent learning267Students prepare for seminars, essay, final report and exam through reading and research; they also work in groups to lead seminars based on projects that have been developed.

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
Essay303000 words1-9, 11Oral and written
Student-led seminar [comprising: leading a student led seminar (36%) and participation in student-led seminars (4%)]40Two hours1-10Oral and written
Written Assignment302000 words1-9, 11Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3000 words)1-9,11Referral/deferral period
Student-led seminar and participation2500 words (written by student individually) describing and reflecting on the proposed seminar activities and materials equating to one person’s contribution (c. 45 minutes), plus proposed handout or slides from seminar (not more than 2 sides of A4) and seminar reading list (not more than 1 side of A4)1-9,11Referral/deferral period
Written Assignment (2000 words)Written Assignment (2000 words)1-9,11Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3000 word essay and 2000 word assignment, as in the original assessment, but replaces leading and participating in student-led seminars with a written seminar plan and reading list that corresponds to one student’s contribution to such a seminar. The plan should outline how the seminar is to be structured and organised as well as detailing the material to be used. This will enable a reader to gain a sense of what the student intended to do in the seminar, the rationale for this activity, and when this activity / discussion would take place.

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 submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

• Browning, Christopher R. , Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution, (New York, 1992).
• Buc, Philippe, Holy War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Christianity, Violence, and the West, ca. 70 C.E. to the Iraq War, (Philadelphia, 2015).
• Collins, Randall, Violence: a Micro-Sociological Theory, (Princeton, 2008).
• Davis, Natalie Zemon, ‘The Rites of Violence: Religious Riot in Sixteenth-Century France’, Past & Present, No. 59 (May, 1973), pp. 51-91
• Dekel-Chen, Jonathan L., David Gaunt, Natan M. Meir (eds.), Anti-Jewish Violence: Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History, (Bloomington, 2010).
• Levene, Mark & Penny Roberts (eds.), The Massacre in History, (New York & Oxford, 1999).
• Nirenburg, David, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages, (Princeton, 1996).
• Pandey, Gyanendra, Routine Violence: Nations, Fragments, Histories, (Stanford, CA., 2006).
• Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil, (Berkeley, CA., 1992).
• Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Philippe Bourgois (eds.), Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology, (Oxford, 2004).
• Wieviorka, Michel, Violence: A New Approach, (London, 2009).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

• ELE:
• (online encyclopedia)

Key words search


Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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