MSt and MPhil in History
The programme consists of:
How have historians sought to understand sexual and gender diversity in the past? Where—in what types of sources—do we find evidence of sexual and gender diversity? What paradigms might we use to interpret those sources? What is the state of the field in queer and trans history today? This course introduces students to key questions in queer history and trans history, situates historical scholarship in relation to the distinct but related theoretical and methodological traditions of queer studies and trans studies, and prepares students to do their own research in these and related fields.
Each week focuses on a different primary source genre that has previously been central to queer and trans historiography: life writing, social movement archives, critical theory, science and 'expertise', legal and governmental records, and visual and material culture. Students will engage with primary sources from each of these genres and with both classic and more recent secondary literature that has made use of such sources. The geographical and temporal scope of the course emphasises, but is not limited to, modern Western Europe and the United States.
This course will explore the working and domestic lives, ideas, resistance efforts and productions of African and African descended women in the Anglo-American world from the early modern era to the middle of the 19th century. Its subjects will include both enslaved and free black girls and women in British North America, the Caribbean, and West Africa. Major topics discussed include: the process of female enslavement and the black female in the Atlantic slave trade; the enslaved and free black female’s social, cultural and working lives; black female as sexual being/object; reproduction and motherhood; female resistance, maroonage and fugitivity; political voices and action; and autobiography, subjectivity and archives. Reading and source materials include primary and secondary readings and local archival explorations
In recent years, capitalism and the American state have become hot topics of discussion. In 2015, the economist Thomas Piketty achieved rock star levels of fame and attention after his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century sold more than 1.5 million copies. Three years later, the former chair of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan released a co-authored tome, Capitalism in America. Meanwhile, prominent capitalists such as Elon Musk are reviled and revered in almost equal measure on social, print, and broadcast media. This surge of interest in inequality, activist government, entrepreneurial culture, and corporate responsibility means that discussing the Gilded Age and New Deal is no longer a conversation killer.
It is not just news junkies who have been talking about capitalism and the US state. Over the last two decades, historians of the nineteenth and twentieth century United States have lavished much attention on the history of capitalism and the state. This course examines these dynamic and vibrant inter-related subfields. In particular, it explores the US state’s role in shaping and reshaping the global economy between the late-nineteenth and late-twentieth century. Alongside studying the ideas, institutions, and policies that have structured the US and global economic system, we will scrutinise how social and cultural life has been affected and altered by state-economy relation, and pay special attention to moments of conflict, contestation, and contingency.
Five broad themes will be interrogated throughout: 1) the US state’s role in creating, regulating, and structuring markets; 2) the connection between class, racial, and gender inequalities and state-economy relations; 3) the influence of war and other crises in shaping and reshaping capitalism and state power; 4) the environmental consequences of state building and economic development; 5) the impact of ideas of US exceptionalism on local, domestic, and global capitalism. These themes will lead us to ask broader historiographical and historical questions. What does it mean to treat economic and socio-political worlds as linked and symbiotic entities? How does this enhance our understanding of historical developments, events, and processes? What forces have been responsible for transforming the US state and the national, transnational and global capitalist system?
Creating the Commonwealth looks at the intersection of religion and politics in the work of three of the most important early modern intellectuals: Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The course begins with an examination of Grotius’s approach to the problems of religious and political division within Europe and the challenges brought by Dutch expansion in the New World. Grotius argued that political communities could be built upon principles which all human beings held in common, while allowing scope for different kinds of churches and religious groups. We will consider how he made this case, drawing upon classical, historical and religious arguments. Hobbes was a follower of the Grotian project, in that he recognised the foundational importance of natural law principles. But Hobbes was also critical of the thought that the Grotian scheme might be sustainable without a radical reconstruction of the natural law ideas that Grotius had proposed, and in the seminars on Hobbes we examine the character of his controversial response in De cive and Leviathan. Turning finally to Locke, we examine a thinker dealing with the legacy of the ideas of Grotius and Hobbes, and examine the ways that he sought to mediate their influence in the political theory of the Two Treatises of Government and his powerful work on religious toleration. Studying these three thinkers together reveals the dialogical features of some of the most important texts in the western intellectual tradition, and casts new light upon some of the ideas regarded as foundational to modern political thinking.
Venice and Istanbul are two of the most iconic cities of the early modern age. Traditionally regarded as irreconcilable opposites locked in mortal combat, they were in fact connected by all forms of contacts and, in all their differences, they also shared common challenges and surprisingly similar cultural characteristics. Using the methodology of connected and comparative history, this MA option has a double purpose. One is to build knowledge and research skills on specific themes in the early modern history of Istanbul and Venice. The other is to stimulate reflection on some of the most innovative research in urban cultural history by studying these two capitals cities. For this reason the module is built to explore themes and topics comparatively in both cities and each time to also draw on seminal works in cultural history and theory.
This option approaches the history of 20th-century Europe by testing the concepts of national, transnational and international history and their possible interactions. It will not compare the history of individual European countries, but rather explore how notions of regional, national, transnational and international history have been used to organize and interpret the history of 20th-century Europe. While the course is firmly rooted in the empirical history of Europe and its relationships to the wider world in this period, it will foreground questions of interpretation. These will include exploring the scope and limits of approaches to political, economic and social history based on concepts of the national, transnational and international, and assessing the advantages and disadvantages of destabilizing the dominant conventions for writing the history of Europe in the last century. The course is intended both for students who want an introduction to this history and for those who want an opportunity to extend and reconsider their existing knowledge of it. Among topics that may be covered are:
- The History of a Transnational Continent
- Political Geographies: Regions, Nations, Empires
- Internationalism and Rights
- Varieties of Political Representation
- Consumption Regimes
- Boundaries and Identities
- Environmentalism and Transnationalism
- International wars and Civil Wars
The long nineteenth century saw a rolling series of revolutions in the intellectual history of empire. Novel commercial theories destabilised long-established logics behind colonial expansion; fierce challenges to European imperial rule inspired new ideas about the purposes, organisation, and future of empires; and new styles of historical, political-scientific, and anthropological analysis offered fresh ways of understanding imperial problems. Above all, the rapid advance of Liberalism across Europe – both as a political movement, and as a set of doctrines – threw up a mass of new tensions, paradoxes, and accommodations in imperial political thought. These developments had profound practical repercussions across the globe.
This Option Paper explores how British thinkers and theorists grappled with questions of imperial expansion and government, between the era of the American Revolution, and the decades of the internationally competitive ‘new imperialism’. Sitting at the heart of the largest and most powerful empire of the period, British writers made defining contributions to these debates. Covering both pro- and anti-imperial thinking, the paper centres on the ideas and writings of figures recognised as leading authorities at the time. Close attention is paid, however, to the political, social, and intellectual contexts in which they wrote. Some of these contexts are domestic; some are imperial; and some are European, since contemporaries devoted a huge amount of attention to other European nations’ imperial projects. The goal is to draw out the complex dynamics which underpinned the formulation of nineteenth-century imperial theories.
The six classes deal mainly with particular writers, many of them avowed Liberals. Some of the protagonists are very well-known – like Edmund Burke, Jeremy Bentham, and J.S. Mill – and some less so. The organisation of classes is roughly chronological, to help make sense of conceptual change over time, but each class centres on a particular discipline, theme, or school of thought. Imperial theorising in nineteenth-century Britain was overwhelmingly a white, male pursuit, but all the central figures in the course were seriously interested in questions of class, race, and bondage, and these themes will be central to our discussions. Students are encouraged to set the figures in the loose canon outlined by this reading list alongside other contemporaries.
Much of the most innovative twenty-first-century scholarship on modern British intellectual history has been concerned with reconstructing its imperial and international dimensions, and this course is designed (in part) to act as an introduction to the methodological and conceptual issues opened up by this work. The course will be of particular interest to MSt students enrolled in the strands on Global and Imperial History; Intellectual History; British and European History, 1700-1850; and Modern British History, 1850 to the present.
This course analyses the role of Islamic institutions, traditions, and identities in the USSR. Spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Crimea, it explores diverse forms of Islam in agricultural, urban, and (formerly) nomadic regions of the USSR. The course traces the history of ‘registered’ Islamic communities that received official recognition from the Soviet state, ‘unregistered’ underground Islamic groups, and secular Soviet institutions which transformed the meanings of Islamic tradition, heritage, and atheism in the twentieth century. The course thus throws a unique light on the lived experience of revolutionary change, the nature of resistance, and the evolution of ideas about ethnicity, race, and empire in the USSR.
The course combines a chronological structure with a thematic approach. It traces the evolution of Islam(s) from the rise of reformist and revolutionary movements among Russia’s Muslims in the late Tsarist period, through the violent Central Asian uprisings of 1916, the period of radical socio-economic transformation in the 1920s and the 1930s, the Second World War, post-Stalinist reform, to the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. Throughout the course, students explore three overlapping themes. Under ‘Religious Institutions and Practices’, we examine how Islamic education, the clergy, and religious traditions shaped the lived experience of Soviet socialism. Under ‘Violence and Resistance’, we locate interconfessional and interethnic conflict, as well as religiously informed resistance to Soviet rule, in the comparative context of settler
colonialism, the jihad, and workers’ protest. Under the theme of ‘Islam across Borders’, students examine transnational ties between Muslims of the USSR, China, Turkey, and the Middle East.
Saints, alive and dead, played a central role in medieval society. This course examines the emergence of the cult of the saint in late Antiquity, and its remarkable spread over subsequent centuries. Live saints reinforced the Christian message and helped the faithful with the travails of daily life, but also represented a challenge to the authority of the established Church. Dead, their cults and their relics spread through the Christian world, encouraging, in a few notable cases, a steady stream of visitors to their graves. This course is centred around the rich, diverse, and often beautifully written hagiography of the fourth to ninth centuries, both from the Mediterranean region and from northern Europe. It offers an opportunity to examine, across several centuries, a wide range of themes: the fascination with martyrdom; different types of sanctity (such as those available only to bishops, or to women); the role of the saint within society and within the Church; the emergence of different styles of asceticism and spirituality, from Byzantium to Ireland; how a saint was acclaimed and accepted in a period without formal processes of canonization; the extraordinary power of relics, and the attraction of pilgrimage; the often underhand ‘translation’ of holy bodies; and, finally, even the existence of doubters.
How have people understood the self in the past? How have they conceptualized emotions? Is there a self before 1700? How do different cultures conceive of the self and how do they understand spirituality? What is the relation between the individual self and the collective? This course seeks to understand ways of approaching the self and psychology in different times and places. It also seeks to explore ways of incorporating subjectivity and emotions of people in the past in how we write history; and to question the sociological, collective categories of analysis that historians often employ. Each session will take a particular example of a cultural context and explore how historians could write the history of subjectivity. The sessions will draw on different types of source material – diaries, letters, visual sources, material objects, travel writing, memoirs, court records, micro-historical material, oral history – and consider the problems and possibilities they offer. Four of the sessions will be on the early modern period; four will be on the modern period; however, in their assessed essay, students may concentrate on either the early modern or the modern period. The course deliberately bridges the early modern and the modern because the historiography itself does. This enables productive comparisons.
In recent decades the political history of early modern Europe has re-invented itself in dialogue with social, economic and cultural history. Analyses of state formation and political culture have aspired to replace biographies of statesmen, narratives of party struggle and genealogies of institutional development. This course examines a series of themes in the development of early modern states to test models of political change on a range of societies from the British Isles to Eastern Europe. It aims to equip those interested in reformations, counter-reformations, rebellions, courts, parliaments, towns, nobles, peasants and witches – and in statesmen, factions and institutions – with the ideas and comparators needed to frame a sophisticated research project in their chosen field. Class topics will include:
- the military-fiscal state
- clientage and faction
- justice and the law
- government, economy and social change
- household order
- communication, propaganda and magnificence
- communication, representation and revolt
The ‘globalization’ of history has been the most visible and significant development in historical scholarship of the past decade or so. Historians are increasingly aware of the need to place their work in a context that spills over national, regional, or civilizational boundaries. Some of the most exciting work has emerged from probing the global dimensions of the ‘early modern period’ before the rise of European world domination. This course will introduce the two principal methodologies involved in doing this new large-scale history – the connective and the comparative – through a series of seminars led by one European historian and a different specialist in cultures outside of Europe each week. In pursuit of the connective we will consider what happened when Europeans began to traverse the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and became entangled in a newly diverse range of societies. For example, what kind of architecture resulted when Portuguese ecclesiastical styles were transplanted to the tropics? Other weeks will take a more comparative approach. Considering the way in which Chinese intellectuals turned to classical texts in formulating ‘Neo-Confucianism’, for example, should help us see the over-familiar European themes of Renaissance and Reformation in a new light.
This option offers the opportunity to engage with a range of exciting new scholarship on the Enlightenment, covering the period from the second half of the seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century. It takes inspiration from recent rebuttals of the postmodern critique of the ‘Enlightenment project’, and addresses the subject in comparative and transnational perspective. We shall cover Enlightenment both as an intellectual movement and as a social phenomenon, examining how thinkers across Europe engaged with new publics. For the first four weeks we shall explore the major interpretative issues now facing Enlightenment historians, including:
- the coherence of Enlightenment – whether we should think in terms of one Enlightenment or several;
- the importance and duration of ‘radical’, irreligious Enlightenment;
- the relation between Enlightenment, the republic of letters, and the ‘public sphere’;
- the politics of Enlightenment: public opinion, reform, and revolution.
During the second half of the course, participants will be encouraged to set their own more precise study agenda, related to the topics of their course papers. They may explore in more detail the intellectual content of Enlightenment, its various contexts, its social framework, and its impact, within and across national and political frontiers. Topics which might be studied at this stage are:
- Enlightenment contributions to natural philosophy, and the ‘arts and sciences’;
- the Enlightenment ‘science of man’, as pursued in philosophy and political economy;
- writing sacred, civil and natural history in the Enlightenment;
- women, gender and Enlightenment.
Participants will also be encouraged to attend the research-oriented Enlightenment Workshop, which meets weekly in Hilary Term.
This optional paper is designed to explore the global empires of Spain and Portugal in the early modern period as an entangled history that led to the emergence of the Iberian world. This approach allows for the study of interaction, emulation, and competition in the process of empire-building, as well as for a better understanding of the multiple reactions to the Iberian exploration, from coastal Africa to Central and South America, and South and East Asia. Special attention will be given to the many ways in which those living under the Spanish and Portuguese empires experienced, described, and opposed their rule, as well as to the external challenges that the Iberian powers faced in the age of Eurasian empires. The methods of comparative history and connected history will allow students to combine an appreciation of global trends across the Iberian world with a clear sense of the differences existing at local level.
This course is structured around two key questions: what can the study of global history bring to our understanding of the Middle Ages, and what can the study of medieval history bring to the evolving field of global history? Those taking the paper will be able to enhance their understanding of medieval history by thinking more about the history and culture of regions beyond Europe during medieval centuries, about parallels and contrasts between the approaches and evidence bases used by scholars of extra-European and European history in the centuries between 500 and 1500, and about the most productive ways to conceptualise that thousand-year period in global terms.
The Twelfth-Century Renaissance is an interdisciplinary paper in intellectual history designed to give students a broad overview of the content and applications of learning in the twelfth century. It therefore covers a wide range of different curricular subjects from the perspective both of their sources (the classical textual tradition of ninth-century learning; the impact of newly translated texts; the consequences of personal contact with Muslim and Jewish scholars in Sicily and the Iberian peninsula; the influence of empirical discovery) and of their application through cathedral schools and royal courts to society at large. The course comprises eight classes, organised around the seven liberal arts (the trivium and the quadrivium) and the three higher faculties of the medieval schools.
This course is an introduction to the history of warfare since ca.1780, taking the emergence of revolutionary warfare and the military divergence between Europe and the rest of the world as its starting-point. The course is organised both thematically and chronologically. Students will be asked to assess whether the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries saw the emergence of a new epoch in warfare, one marked within Europe by the emergence of mass conscript armies, and beyond it by a recent but rapid European military divergence from the rest of the world. They will explore the topics of war and empire – wars of colonial conquest in Asia, America and Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries – and be encouraged to explore whether this was enabled or facilitated by the developments of the military revolution. They will explore the distinctive forms and functions of warfare which emerged in the 19th century, notably the relationships between war and the various nation-building projects at the time, and the racialized violence of colonial warfare. ‘War and Technology’ will look at how certain types of technological advance – notably rifled weaponry, steam-powered, iron-hulled armoured warships, and later air power and land armour – transformed the way wars were fought, and the international relations surrounding them, while also exploring the role of medical science in warfare. The topic of Life, Death and the experience of war will ask if historians can recreate the subjective experience of the battlefield, and the medical and psychological consequences of warfare. ‘Total War’ will explore the total mobilisation of societies to meet the demands of 20th-century warfare, focusing on the First and Second World Wars.
Everyone is familiar with the iconic images of young men throwing stones at riot police in Paris in May 1968. But what was the significance of these images, what was their place in postwar politics and culture, and how did what was happening in Paris relate to developments in Great Britain, Europe and the United States?
This option will explore a number of interlocking themes using conceptual, comparative and transnational approaches, and a range of documentation, including memoirs, oral testimony and film. These themes will include:
- the concept of generational revolt/conflict, and whether this is a helpful way of understanding cultural and political changes after 1945
- the youth culture which developed in Britain, Europe and the United States after the Second World War around music, fashion, drugs and attacked on the conventional nuclear family, and the notion of cultural or lifestyle radicalism
- the political radicalism which exploded in Europe around 1968, in the context of wider struggles such as the Cold War peace movement, the Civil Rights movement in the USA, the Algerian and Vietnam Wars, revolution in Latin America and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, asking what the relationship was between political and cultural/lifestyle radicalism
- the link between faith and political radicalism, since many political radicals came from a religious background – Catholic or Protestant, Jewish or Muslim – and recast their religious aspirations in political guises
- the issue of violence and non-violence, civil disobedience or armed struggle, hotly debated in radical circles as alternative ways of achieving their ends, and how different approaches were adopted in different contexts
- the sexual politics of young people in Europe and America, especially the emergence of feminism and the gay rights movement
- ways in which transnational connections were made between activists in different countries, from study abroad to revolutionary tourism, and from political exile to the work of political intermediaries
- the significance of these years of revolt, explored through the subsequent trajectories of activists and how they remembered this moment, both individually and collectively, in a variety of media.
This course examines manpower as both a physical and political concept during the early modern period. It traces how bodies changed alongside the development of methods to assess, discipline, and cultivate their vitality, linking the development of scientific methodologies to imperial and state formation. The course illuminates the relationship between bodies and state power in early modern Europe, showing the dynamism and flexibility of both.
This is accomplished through a comparison of approaches to manpower from a variety of historical disciplines: anthropometrics; economics; warfare; medicine; science and technology; state and imperial formation. Course readings examine how bodies changed and grew over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as how they were measured, regulated, and exploited.
Methods of assessing population strength, as well as debates over medicine’s role in population growth, will be used as tangible examples of early modern political theory and practice. Readings, both primary and secondary, engage with theory on the modern state, to place military and medical history within the broader context of the formation of early modern states and empires, and to evaluate assumptions about scientific methodologies and political authority.
The aim of this Option paper is to deepen understanding of the complex and evolving relationship between warfare and medicine since 1815. This was a period of great change in the scale and methods of waging war, and of dramatic developments in the provision of healthcare and military medicine.
We look especially at war’s impact on medical innovation and professional specialisation, as well as at medicine’s role in shaping modern forms of warfare. We explore the changing ways in which casualties have been perceived, understood, and treated, medicine’s contribution to fighting efficiency, discipline, and morale, and resonant debates about humanitarianism, medical ethics, psychological injury and state responsibility for the welfare of service personnel and disabled veterans. Throughout, we consider these features against social and cultural contexts of the period and arguments and theories from recent scholarship.
The paper takes the form of eight sessions:
- 1815-1914: War, Disease, Reform
- Manpower and Discipline
- 1914-1918: Challenges, Solutions, Innovations
- Humanitarianism and Voluntary Aid
- 1919-1945: Challenges, Solutions, Specialisations
- Psychological Casualties
- Medicine and Warfare since 1945: Old Challenges, Old Solutions?
- Welfare and Disability
This paper looks at the history of 19th and early 20th century Europe and America through the eyes of leading political and social theorists. The central intellectual tradition represented here is that of Western European liberalism. It is central because it enjoyed an undoubted cultural hegemony, although what is commonly called ‘liberalism’ in Britain is a distinct set of ideas. European liberalism hinged around ideas about constitutional and civil law; then by association ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’, both in itself and in religion; and a strong commitment to academic ‘science’. Concomitantly it promoted all that was ‘bourgeois’ at the expense of what was ‘feudal’. This major tradition is represented above all by Hegel, Durkheim and Weber. Standing outside it there were a number of alternative points of view: the radicals, reactionaries, romantics and socialists who dissented from, but were compelled to engage with, the hegemonic liberal position, as well as the separate Anglophone tradition. Notwithstanding the hiatus inflicted by Fascism, Nazism and world war, and talk ca.1990 about ‘post-modernity’ and the ‘death’ of Marx, attempts by later 20th and 21st century writers to theorise society and politics without substantial reference to their 19th and early 20th century forebears have proven largely unsuccessful. So the authors and period covered in this course remain the undoubted starting point for an understanding of all modern social and political theory down to the present.
This option course examines the history of 20th-century political thought from a global perspective and focuses on a set of themes that have generated widespread discussion and controversy over the course of the last century. Its aim to not to study any particular region or decade, but rather to explore how ideas and interventions related to the persistent problems of understanding violence, community, history, viable governance, and the paradox of the 20th century itself found resonance across continents in surprising ways. Given the wide scope of the course, students will be expected to address questions of comparative interpretation. The course is intended both for students who want an introduction to global intellectual history and for those who would like an opportunity to extend and reconsider their existing knowledge of it.