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English and History

English and History

BA
  • UCAS code QV31
  • Option 3 years full time
  • Year of entry 2021

The course

This exciting and challenging course offers the opportunity to combine the study of English with the study of History, allowing you to explore and reflect upon the relationships between literary texts and their historical contexts.

From Beowulf to the Booker Prize, English offers you the opportunity to study the full historical range of literature in English as well as the latest developments in the field, and even to pursue your own creative writing.

You can discover the earliest works in English, deepen your knowledge of Shakespeare, find out what is great about Renaissance literature, darken your view of the 18th century, and unpack the Victorians. The course's structure allows you to develop a sound understanding of key periods, genres, authors, and ideas as well as choosing from a huge range of options. You can study Modernism, Postmodernism and American literature, explore literary criticism, develop your own creative writing, and analyse the latest developments in global literatures in English.

You will gain original insights into the whole range of English literature from its beginnings to its latest developments, ranging from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Salman Rushdie and study unusual, non-traditional subjects such as the body in the 18th century or time in modern literature or courses incorporating visual arts and cinema.

Studying History is exciting and rewarding; it encourages you to appreciate the human experience in other places and at other times. Exploring what people have felt, thought and done in the past expands our self-awareness. It will help to satisfy your curiosity about the past, acquire understanding of specific periods and problems, and make discoveries.

Our internationally renowned academics are developing the very latest thinking on historical problems; this cutting edge knowledge informs the curriculum and will enhance your learning experience. By studying History at one of the largest and most influential departments in the country you will be able to choose from an exceptionally broad range of subjects, enabling you to spread your studies across the medieval and modern worlds, from Ancient Rome through to modern China, from Saladin through to Margaret Thatcher.

Our flexible degree programmes enable you to apply to take a Placement Year, which can be spent studying abroad, working or carrying out voluntary work. You can even do all three if you want to (minimum of three months each)! To recognise the importance of this additional skills development and university experience, your Placement Year will be formally recognised on your degree certificate and will contribute to your overall result. Please note conditions may apply if your degree already includes an integrated year out, please contact the Careers & Employability Service for more information. Find out more

  • Over 40 options across all areas of literature in your second and third years.
  • Study the ancient, medieval and modern worlds. Follow your passions – no compulsory modules in your third year.
  • Choice of modules that incorporate visual art and cinema
  • Opportunities for placement at, for example, The Telegraph or BBC.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • In this module you will develop an understanding of a range of Old and Middle English texts. You will look at a range of Old and Middle English poetry and prose in their original language. You will learn to translate passages of Old and Middle English texts and consider the forms, styles and themes. You will examine works such as 'Beowulf', Chaucer’s 'Canterbury Tales' and the works of the Gawain-poet. You will also analyse the formal structures underlying Medieval Literature and the history and culture of the time.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of Shakespeare’s dramatic and literary craft. You will look at the historical context of the plays and the relevance of the plays today. You will examine a range of Shakespeare’s work from the Elizabethan Comedies and Histories, including 'Twelfth Night', 'Henry V', 'Hamlet'. 'King Lear' and 'The Tempest'. You will analyse key critical approaches to Shakespeare and consider the performance history of the plays.

  • History in the Making is Royal Holloway's first year foundation History module. This module covers the broad sweep from antiquity to the modern day, but it is not intended to provide a straightforward narrative. Instead, this module introduces our first-year students to an array of different topics and themes - from the rise of Christianity to the rise of modern nation states - that they will encounter throughout their degree. How have historians discussed themes like Renaissance, Revolution or Gender? What kinds of sources have they used? How do such ideas influence our understanding of historical change? And how has this shaped public debate and public history beyond the academy? Although titled “History in the Making”, this module might easily have been called “Historians in the Making”, providing our students with the skills, methods and critical approach to the past that will prove essential to successfully completing a university History degree.

  • This module will encourage you to look at the role of English literature in moments of social and historical crisis. You will encounter literature across different historical periods and geographies, challenging you to reflect on the complex relationship between literature, history and politics.

Year 2
  • This second-year module gives students the opportunity to write an extended essay on a subject of their own choosing separate from their various Survey Module and Further Subject taught modules. The essay is intended to facilitate and develop the student's powers of independent thought and research, and to help prepare students for their final year dissertation. Students select their topic in discussion with their academic supervisor, who will provide regular guidance across the year.

  • Research Skills
Year 3
  • All modules are optional

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • This sweeping module introduces students to the dramatic story of the ancient world, from the classical Greeks and Romans to the rise of Christianity and Islam. Throughout this wide-ranging module, we will explore the values these societies expressed in their own words (read in translation), debate the latest scholarship, and assess the ancient legacies that shaped our modern age.

  • This module investigates the origins of our ideas about human rights and duties, revolution and democracy, consent and liberty. Key original texts are studied, ranging from Plato and Aristotle in the ancient world to Machiavelli, More, Hobbes, Locke and the Enlightenment in the transition from the early modern to the modern world. The module takes a wide view of the boundaries of ‘European Political Thought’, also introducing a number of political thinkers from the Islamic world like al-Mawardi, Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Taymiyya.

  • The early modern period is an age of change. It has been seen by many as the beginning of modernity, for it witnesses the consolidation of both national monarchies and the central state, the split of Christianity with the emergence of the Reformation, the spread of Islam to the Balkans, European expansion into the ‘new world,’ the introduction of print, and significant changes in patterns of consumption. This module will assess the impact that these processes had on the lives of ordinary early modern Europeans and on their ways of making sense of the changes in the world around them.

  • From the Enlightenment to the collapse of Communism, Europeans have struggled to make sense of and shape a continent in the grip of profound changes. Revolution, industrialisation and urbanisation transformed the face of politics and societies and spawned a series of new ideologies that continue to shape our world today. This module surveys a range of major events and dynamics from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century, including the French Revolution, the emergence of the nation state, the decline of monarchy, the rise of mass politics, the emergence of the working classes and the middle classes, the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the rise of fascism, the Second World War and the Cold War.

  • The module introduces students to the history of the non-Western world over the past one hundred years or so. The lens through which this exploration takes place is provided by the lives and careers of some of the most influential non-Western political leaders, including advocate of non-violent resistance MK Gandhi, architect of Communist China Mao Zedong, South African anti-apartheid politician Nelson Mandela, Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, and Al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. Their individual stories provide students with the starting point for exploring – both thematically and comparatively – key developments that have shaped their respective countries and the world in which we live today.

  • The period from c.400 to c.1500 saw Western Europe transform itself from the poorer part of the retreating Roman empire to a wealthy, sophisticated and dynamic society. This module explores some of the changes and developments that took place along the way and asks: What happened after the Roman empire fell? What was 'feudalism'? How were castles and Gothic cathedrals built? Why did the Pope become so powerful? What were the Crusades? Why did the Hundred Years’ War go on for so long? How did Europe survive after losing as much as half its population in the Black Death? And does this remote era have any relevance whatsoever to the modern world?

Year 2
  • Develop your skills in the close reading and critical analysis of Middle English poetry, focusing on set passages from three important fourteenth century texts: Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Langland’s Piers Plowman, and the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The module invites you to think about how poets understood the status of Middle English as a literary language, in comparison with Latin and French.

  • The Lord of the Rings regularly shows up in lists of 'The Best Books of All Time', and Tolkien continues to inspire interest and imitation for all kinds of reasons. You will examine Tolkien’s work from the perspective of his engagement with Old English poetry, a subject which constituted an important part of his scholarly activity. You will look at his three main Old English poems (in the original and in translation) and Tolkien’s two most popular works of fiction, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

  • In this module you will explore a major literary genre which attracted all the great poets of late medieval England: the dream vision. It considers the use of the genre in the works of Chaucer, Langland and the Gawain-poet, as well as examining the visions in mystical writing. These authors’ treatments of the genre repeatedly ask us to reflect on the relationship of literature to experience, poetic authority and identity, and the development of English as a literary language.

  • Romance was one of the most popular genres of secular literature in late medieval England. You will begin by looking at the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes, before going on to consider works by Chaucer, the Gawain-poet and Sir Thomas Malory. You will examine romances set in the mythical British past, in the classical cities of Troy, Thebes and Athens, and in the more recognisable landscapes of medieval England and France. Attention will be paid throughout this module to the often inventive and unpredictable ways in which medieval romance works to articulate specific historical and cultural anxieties.

  • An introduction to the literature of the English Renaissance, beginning in the 1590s with erotic narrative poems by Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, and concluding with John Milton's drama, Samson Agonistes, first published in 1671. Marlowe and Thomas Middleton represent the extraordinarily rich drama of the period, while John Donne and Andrew Marvell are the most famous of the so-called metaphysical poets. A feature of the module is the attention given to situating these works in their historical and cultural contexts.

  • This module explores in-depth three supreme examples of Shakespearean comedy, tragedy and historical drama: Richard III (1592-3), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595-6), and Macbeth (1606).

  • The texts covered in this module span virtually the whole period in which early modern English drama flourished: from Marlowe in c.1593 to 1634. The texts range from famous plays like Macbeth and The Tempest to little-known comedies like The Wise-woman of Hogsden. Two central texts will be The Witch of Edmonton and The Late Lancashire Witches, plays which deal with historically documented witchcraft accusations and scares. Non-dramatic texts about witchcraft are also included for study, including news pamphlets, works by learned contemporaries expressing their opinions about witchcraft, and popular ballads.

  • Charting a progression from Galenic humoral theory to Cartesian dualism, you will consider the representation and significance of corporeality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts. Reading Renaissance plays and poetry alongside anatomical textbooks, manuals of health, erotica, and philosophical essays, the module seeks to contextualise the period's literary treatment of the body.

  • This module offers the opportunity to study one very important and characteristic aspect of Milton’s Paradise Lost: his depiction of Eden, the paradise that was lost at the fall. Throughout his account of Paradise, Milton works to make the loss of Paradise poignant by lavishing on it all his evocative powers as a poet. You will spend at least three sessions looking at Milton's epic, covering aspects such as Edenic sex and marriage, Eden’s fauna and flora, and work in Eden. Throughout the module images of Paradise will be given attention, starting with Hieronymus Bosch's 'The Garden of Earthly Delight'. Alongside artworks, you will look at some of the Bible scholarship which tried to locate the site of Paradise, and deduce its fate.

  • An introduction to English literature from the Norman Conquest to the birth of Chaucer. This period has been described both as a period of political crisis and also as a period of cultural renaissance. It saw the conquest and colonization of England, the rise of new forms of scholarship and spirituality, and, according to some accounts, the development of new ways of thinking about national and individual identity

  • Between the English Revolution and the French Revolution, British literature was pulled by opposing cultural forces and experienced an extraordinary degree of experimentation. The eighteenth century is sometimes called The Age of Reason, but it is also called The Age of Sensibility. It was dominated by male writers, but also facilitated the rise of the woman novelist and the emergence of coteries of intellectual women. It continued to be an essentially rural nation, but London grew to be the biggest city in the world and industrialisation was beginning to herd workers into towns. This module explores some of the tensions and oppositions which were played out in the literature of this period.

  • Explore the Victorian concept of the 'sensational' across a range of novels dating from the height of the sensation period in the 1850s and 60s. Together, we will examine some of the magazines in which these novels were originally serialized. Issues such as the role of public spectacle, the first detectives, advertising, domestic crime and the demonic woman will be explored in relation to the cultural and social context of this novelistic genre.

  • This module is framed by the personal: it begins with Queen Victoria’s private diaries of her happiest days in Scotland, and ends just beyond the Victorian period, with one troubled man’s intensely-felt account of his Victorian childhood. You will look at examples of the novelistic form, including sensation, Romantic, domestic realist and sentimental novels. Some of the works you will study are well-known and truly canonical, while others will be excitingly unfamiliar; all, however, will contribute to a sense of the variety and contradictions inherent in being Victorian.

  • This module will introduce you to a broad range of literatures from the period 1780 to 1830. The module aims to problematise and scrutinise the idea of Romanticism as a homogenous literary movement and to raise awareness of the range of competing literary identities present in the period.

  • This module, which is designed to enable non-creative writing students to try a creative writing module, will give you the opportunity to work through some issues associated with short-story and/or novel writing. Classes will alternate seminar discussions of aspects of the craft of writing with workshops in which you will interact critically and creatively with others' work.

  • Examine a range of novels by gay and lesbian writers in Britain and Ireland which have emerged in the wake of the AIDS catastrophe and queer theory. You will focus on interesting though rather peculiar trends in the post-queer novel: queer historical and biographical fictions, and explore the reasons behind the dominance of these approaches in recent gay and lesbian literature.

  • With the appointment of Carol Ann Duffy as the first woman Poet Laureate for the United Kingdom in 2009, poetry by women became publicly validated as never before. Setting fresh horizons for women’s poetry, Duffy joined Gillian Clarke who has served as National Poet of Wales since 2008; Liz Lochhead was appointed Scots Makar in 2011, and Paula Meehan was appointed in 2013 to the Ireland Chair of Poetry. By careful reading of two collections by each poet, you will assess how each poet has moved from a position of rebellion, liminality or minority into the very heart of the cultural institution.

  • Discover the 'dark' topics of late-Victorian and Edwardian literature. Perhaps the most important cultural influence on these texts is the negative possibility inherent in Darwinism: that of 'degeneration', of racial or cultural reversal, explored in texts like Wells's The Time Machine, and often related to the Decadent literature of Wilde and others.

  • Explore British drama staged during the first half of the twentieth century against a backdrop of two world wars. The plays studied place the values of their age under scrutiny, to raise questions about social justice, spiritual choices, class and gender inequalities. Theatrical genres were under just as much pressure as the cultural values they sought to convey; the ten plays studies during the course reflect a range of evolving genres, from the well-made play, the play of ideas, social comedy, to poetic drama.

  • An introduction to American literature via the tradition which David Reynolds labels 'dark reform'; a satirical and often populist mode which seek out the abuses which lie beneath the optimistic surface of American life, often through grotesque, scatological, sexualized and carnivalesque imagery. You will explore the contention that because of America's history, with its notions of national consensus and fear of class conflict, political critique in America has often had to find indirect expression.

  • This module will familiarise you with a range of influential critical and theoretical ideas in literary studies, influential and important for all the areas and periods you will study during your degree.

  • Providing an introduction to the study of literary modernism, a period of intense experimentation in diverse sets of cultural forms.  This module deals with issues such as modernist aesthetics; genre; gender and sexuality; the fragment; time and narration; stream-of-consciousness; history, politics and colonialism; technology, and the status of language and the real.

  • At its zenith the British empire controlled over 1/4 of the world’s global real estate, and 1/5 of the world’s population. The economic, cultural and global impact of British colonialism is still very much apparent today - from contested borders and inter-state disputes, through languages and cultures, to the inequities in wealth and trade that exist between the prosperous ‘North’ and the underdeveloped ‘South’. Why, then, was imperial expansion so vehemently defended by its protagonists in the 19th Century? And what made colonial conquest, colonisation, and economic exploitation of non-European spaces feasible on such a global scale and for so long? These are the ‘big questions’ that underlie this module.

  • The Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilisation. In this module, we explore the history of the Republic from the foundation of Rome to the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC. Students will examine the social and political pressures that drove Rome to conquer her Mediterranean empire and the consequences of that expansion for the Romans and for the peoples they conquered. The major literary sources will be discussed in translation, together with the evidence of archaeology and material culture which helps us to bring the ancient Romans to life.

  • The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1000-1250
  • Between 1914 and 1947, Europe was in the grip of continent in what the French leader Charles de Gaulle termed a “Second Thirty Years War.” The First World War swept away much of the old order, triggering the collapse of the great continental empires and giving birth to a series of parliamentary regimes unstable new nation states. The module will examine Italian fascism; Nazism; Stalinism; the civil war and the origins of the Franco regime in Spain; and the Holocaust in a wider continental framework context that highlights the shared experience of Europeans from Moscow to Madrid and from Brussels to Berlin. In the first half of the twentieth Europe was the dark continent.

  • The Tudors represent a compelling family drama of powerful men and women, passion and betrayal, jealous rivalries and resentments played out over three generations. Yet beyond being good ‘box office’, the Tudors matter. This was a hugely formative period, of dramatic change, innovation and exploration. During the 16th century, institutions were created, laws passed, and precedents set that remain at the heart of the English polity today. The Tudor period saw the beginnings of the modern state, the development of national bureaucracy and administration, the establishment of the Church of England, and the genesis of a belief in national sovereignty. Drawing on the most recent historiography, this module will reconsider familiar assessments of these most infamous of monarchs.

  • This module studies the birth of a new European order from the slow disintegration and eventual collapse of the Roman empire in the West to the beginnings of a new European empire under the Carolingians. The Germanic ‘barbarians’ who took over former Roman provinces and areas under Roman influence in what we now call Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain evolved between them a collection of states and a range of international relations that would shape European politics and society for centuries to come. This module explores the nature of the new states, their ruling elites, their religion and culture, and their relations (friendly and hostile) with the wider world of the old Byzantine empire and the new empire of the Islamic Caliphate.

  • The Ottoman Empire was the largest and longest-surviving Muslim empire in history. This module explores the empire at its height, exploring topics including the political structure of the empire, the role of Islam and religious conversion, the place of the large non-Muslim population, Ottoman literature and culture, and the empire’s relations with Christian powers in Europe. Connecting Europe with Asia and Africa, the Ottoman Empire played a critical role in the emergence of the modern world, and the module engages with key questions in early modern global history, including the shift of economic and political power from east to west.

  • This module will examine superpower relations during the Cold War, including the collapse of the USSR and the period of uncertainty which followed. It takes a global comparative perspective in telling the history of international relations in the period 1945-91, and the development of a ‘New World Order’ to 1998.  Key themes will include nuclear tensions and the space race, and the proxy-wars waged in China, Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle-East and elsewhere in an era of ‘peace that is no peace’, as George Orwell predicted in August 1945.

  • The traditional historiography of western political thought has a tendency to jump from the Ancient Greeks to Augustine to Machiavelli, ignoring the wealth of ideas and theories to be found in between. This module seeks to supplement, and even challenge, this standard canon by paying attention to the ‘lesser’ thinkers that helped to shape the intellectual dismodule of the medieval and early modern periods. Beginning with Cicero, this module proceeds chronologically to explore the development of central debates about the role and nature of authority in society.

  • The Italian Renaissance is conventionally portrayed as a period of cultural and artistic renewal, economic prosperity and advanced political forms (republican governments). This module will verify the validity of this picture by considering the everyday experience of the men and women who inhabited the cities of Northern and Central Italy between 1350 and 1650 - political participation, class conflict, education, ways of inhabiting, material culture, crime and violence, gender relationships and sexual deviancy, devotion and the use of magic.

  • This module offers an overview of the dramatic political, gender, cultural and social contours of life in the British Isles during the Victorian period, so often still seen as the height of British progress and self-confidence. Topics include the role and image of the monarchy; the decline of the aristocracy; the lives of the urban and industrial working classes; race and black lives; politics in the age of Gladstone and Disraeli; feminism and the Victorian women's movement; marriage, morality and Victorian sexuality; democracy, citizenship and the demand for the vote from various voices; religion, science and doubt; Victorian art and visual culture; and famine, loyalism and nationalism in Victorian Ireland.

  • This module offers an overview of US history since 1900. It examines the social, cultural, economic and political contours of that history, incorporating topics such as westward expansion, industrialisation and urbanization, the progressive era, the First World War, the Great Depression and the New Deal, the Second World War, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the rise of the New Right in the 1980s. The module considers how the War on Terror reshaped America’s foreign policy and impacted the subsequent election. It concludes with an examination of President Obama’s successful campaign and evaluates the role that racial and religious prejudice played in his election.

  • The module explores perceptions of the holy man in different religions and traditions through the centuries, in the wider historical and cultural context. Through a variety of visual sources such as icons, reliquaries and other forms of sacred art, and textual sources (in translation), including scriptural, theological, philosophical, hagiographical, and hymnographical texts, students familiarise themselves with important aspects of sanctity and spirituality, assessing the place and role of holy men and women in society, both in East and West.

  • This module sketches the emergence of modern India (and its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh) from the mid-19th century to the present day. It includes such iconic events as the Great Mutiny of 1857, the Amritsar massacre, Gandhi’s Salt March, the Partition of India into Pakistan and India, and the recent slide of the region into the grip of competing religious fundamentalisms. Behind these events stand bigger questions: how has colonialism changed local social and political structures and to what extent can it be blamed for problems in the present? To what extent have the multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan societies of the South managed to fit in modern identity politics?

  • For almost half a millennium, the Roman empire ruled over the ancient Mediterranean world. This module surveys the golden years of imperial Rome, from the achievement of sole rule by the first emperor Augustus (31 BC - AD 14) to the murder of Commodus (the white-clad emperor from Gladiator) in AD 192. We will analyse the political, social and cultural developments under the emperors of the first and second centuries AD, and reassess their achievements and legacies: Claudius’ invasion of Britain, Nero’s cultured tyranny, the terrible efficiency of Domitian, Trajan the conqueror, and the philosophical Marcus Aurelius.

  • The approach of this module is firmly comparative, and the geographical scope is wide: from the British Isles to the Crusader States. The period c.1000–1250 in Europe saw many key developments, including: the establishment of universities and of the Inquisition; the persecution of heretics, religious minorities and of perceived sexual deviants; and the growth of vernacular literature.

  • Late medieval Christian Europe was a world of contrasts. Plague was endemic, but those lucky enough to survive enjoyed improving standards of living that rested in many parts of Europe on a flourishing economic life. This naturally affected life in cities, opening up opportunities for many.

  • The accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne in 1603 saw the union of the crowns and the establishment of the Stuart dynasty in England. During the century that followed, Britain’s political and constitutional foundations were forged. It was an age of intense religious debate and radical politics. The demise of the Stuart dynasty in 1714, left the monarchy changed forever. This module explores a century that would redefine the country and remains critical for understanding the nation today.

  • This module will examine the social, cultural, economic, political and religious development of Latin America from the first encounters to 1650 and the transatlantic connections between Spain, Portugal, West Africa and the Americas that resulted in the dynamic movement of people and ideas within and across the broader Iberian world. Themes include colonial encounters, religious change and local religiosity, Iberian and indigenous contributions to scientific knowledge, colonial hierarchies and inequalities, exploitation and enslavement, and strategies of resistance.

  • Beginning in the years shortly before the Fourth Crusade captured and sacked Constantinople in April 1204, this module traces the slow decline and fall of the Byzantine empire (also known as Byzantium). It will examine how the Byzantines regrouped in the successor state of Nicaea and slowly recovered from the disaster of 1204 and ends with the Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453 and the fall of last Byzantine outpost of Mistra seven years later.

  • Europe has changed more since 1945 than at any other time in history. From a rubble-strewn, war-torn continent to one of the richest, most privileged parts of the world, the transformation has been remarkable. This module explores the major political developments of the second half of the twentieth century, including the post-war tensions between the superpowers which led to the onset and module of the Cold War in Europe; decolonisation and its consequences for the European powers; the collapse of the dictatorships in Spain, Portugal and Greece; the oil crises, the demise of the Soviet Union; and the major post-Cold War events such as German unification and the wars in Yugoslavia.

  • This module explores one of the most vibrant centuries in British history. Frequently seen as an age of liberty, luxury, elegance and excess it examines the period from the accession of the Hanoverian George I to the death of George IV at the end of the ‘Regency’ period. Yet beneath this commercially successful and fashionably polite society lay fears of riot and disorder, debt, poverty and rising crime rates. The module will ask: to what extent did the Georgian era witness the birth of modernity, consumer society, commercialised leisure and freedom of the press? Were the British a polite and commercial people, or an ungovernable rabble?

  • The period from the French Revolution to the end of the nineteenth century witnessed extraordinary transformations in just about every area of Europeans’ lives. New ideas of democracy, nationalism, socialism and women’s rights animated successive generations of radicals and produced the major revolutions of 1848. The rapid rise of industrialisation and new technologies like the railway changed the face of European cities, forced societies to confront problems like poverty and epidemic disease, and even altered basic conceptions of time and space. Artistic movements like romanticism and realism jostled with an emergent mass culture founded on widespread literacy, cheap books and daily newspapers. This module addresses these and other dimensions of the social and cultural history of Europe.

  • This module explores the transformation from empire to nation state in the Near and Middle East, from Greece to Iran, during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. We study the ambitious attempts at modernization undertaken by Middle Eastern governments, as the region came under intense pressure from western colonial powers; focusing on the Ottoman Empire, but with some reference to Qajar Persia. We then explore the impact of World War One, which shattered the region’s political order, and look at the different types of nation-state that emerged in its aftermath: colonial states like French-ruled Syria and Lebanon, independent monarchies such as Egypt and Iran, and the aggressively secular Republic of Turkey.

  • This module explores American economic hegemony from the Atlantic Charter to the end of the Great Recession. Topics in America’s long run ‘rise and fall’ include the Marshall Plan; the ‘Golden Age’ of western economic growth; the rise of welfare spending and economic planning; the fall of the Keynesian consensus; stagflation and the rise of the New Right; the rise of the less-developed economies; the end of the Soviet system; and the collapse of U.S. and UK banking.

  • This module seeks to investigate politics, society and culture in modern Britain during the sixty-year period encompassed between the outbreak of World War One in 1914 and Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1973. Topics include the impact of two world wars upon British cultural life and gender roles, the decline of Liberalism and rise of Labour, the growth of leisure and the mass media, post-war immigration, and the end of the British empire.

  • This module surveys the history of the United States of America from its origins as an independent nation to the end of Reconstruction in 1877 In charting this period of staggering growth, we will explore not only the establishment of political institutions and practices, but how the growing sectional crisis over slavery led to a bloody civil war (1861-1865) that threatened to tear asunder the fledgling American republic. In telling this story, the module will interrogate five core themes: Revolution, Democracy, Westward Expansion, Sections and Sectionalism, and the Crisis of the Union.

  • This module spans the four centuries (AD 284 to 641) that marked the transformation from classical antiquity to the early medieval world. Those years witnessed the emergence of a Christian Roman empire, the barbarian migrations, the fall of imperial power in the west, and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms and the eastern Roman empire. These were centuries of dramatic change, accessible through both literary sources (in translation) and material evidence, and the legacy of those changes exerted a profound influence on later history.

  • In AD 700, the very existence of Byzantium was in question. The Byzantine Empire had lost almost half its territory to the Arabs and even its capital Constantinople was under threat. Yet the state revived and flourished so that by 1050 it was once more a major power stretching from southern Italy to Armenia. This module traces the reasons why Byzantium survived, the profound social, cultural, religious and military changes that took place, and how the Byzantines interacted with the world around them.

  • In this period London grew from a town of 50,000 inhabitants to a capital city of some 200,000. The Reformation not only swept away ‘superstitious’ beliefs, but destroyed much of the fabric and topography of the medieval City - this module will consider how Londoners coped with these changes. How were Londoners fed and watered? How were crafts organised? How was the City governed?

  • Between 1553 and 1603, England faced the unprecedented situation of being ruled by two successive queens regnant, Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth. Drawing on new sources and interpretations, this module challenges commonplace arguments about their relative successes and failures. Should Mary be considered a political pioneer and England’s most overlooked monarch? Should Elizabeth’s reign not be considered more a triumph of political spin and style than significance and substance? This module urges students to reassess the traditional image of the Tudor monarchy.

  • The triumph of the First Crusade (1099) resulted in the establishment of a Latin Christian community in the Levant for almost two hundred years. This module is primarily concerned to examine how the settlers maintained their hold on a region which was spiritually, economically and politically important to the Byzantine empire and the Muslim world as well.

  • “Martin didn't make the movement, the movement made Martin” noted veteran civil rights activist Ella Baker. Scholars have increasingly viewed the mass black movement for civil rights in the United States as a grassroots phenomenon, but also still emphasise the vital leadership role played by Martin Luther King, Jr. This module looks at both strands of this scholarship and seeks to assess the dynamics of the movement at both local and national levels, and to examine the tensions that often existed between them.

  • The slender flapper, cigarette holder in hand, off to cocktails or the flicks epitomizes the surface glamour of modernity. With an office job, a swimsuit, sex appeal and a voguish knowledge of Freud, she was ready for anything. But how real were her gains? This module explores the words and experiences of British women in a century of rapid social, economic and cultural transformation, the constraints on women in war and peace, in work and at home, the expectations and their outcomes.

  • This module examines the intellectual and cultural history of Russia in the turbulent years from the Great Reforms of the 1850s and 1860s to the 1917 Revolution. During this period, Russian society experienced industrialisation, urbanisation, secularisation and the erosion of traditional values and social distinctions, debates we see reflected in the literature of the time. The emphasis here is on the dynamism of Russia in this period as all sections of society struggled to cope with change on an enormous scale at dizzying speeds.

  • In the first four decades of the twentieth century, the lands of Eastern Europe experienced a violent transformation. The age-old Habsburg and Ottoman Empires were replaced by fragile nation-states shaped by multi-ethnic tensions, nationalist awakenings, ethnic cleansing, the failure of parliamentary government and the appeal of authoritarianism. Throughout this tumultuous period, Eastern Europe became the testing ground for modern political ideologies from imperialism and democracy to Nazism and Communism, and so this module provides an essential background to understanding the dynamics of the modern world.

  • This module explores the chief themes of modern political thought through its leading figures from Rousseau (c. 1750) to the present. By the mid-18th century the opulence fuelled by economic development had become increasingly central to social and political thought, and ongoing debates over progress and modernity interacted with the democratic ideals inspired by the American revolution. This in turn fuelled 20th-century debates over liberalism and socialism, the emergence of totalitarianism, the implications of imperialism and decolonisation, and the growing spectre of environmental catastrophe.

  • This course will review the modern literature on the causes and consequences of the Great Depression Slump for Britain and America during the 1920s and 1930s. Politicians, government advisors, and academics in the west were unable to explain why capitalist society was plunged so deeply in to depression, and they were also perplexed as to why the usual remedies failed to generate forces of recovery.

  • This module examines the occurrence of genocide from the colonial period to the present. It deals with the development of the concept and the different approaches to studying genocide, from political science and anthropology as well as history, and explores different explanations for genocide, such as nation-building, race-theory, gender and social psychological aggression. Case studies include the colonization of Australia and North America, the Herero genocide, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Stalin’s Great Terror, and post-1945 genocides of indigenous peoples, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

  • This course provides a comprehensive treatment of the history of terrorism, beginning with its origins and etymology, tracing its evolution and development, to its employment as a form of political violence in the contemporary period. Students will study a diverse range of geographical and historical contexts through key case studies with a particular focus on: actors involved, the socio-political milieu, rationale for employing terrorism, causes and consequences of terrorist acts, political outcomes, and counter-terrorism measures.

  • Sharīʿa law (Islamic law) is an important but widely misunderstood phenomenon that is central to several contemporary political controversies, including democratization in the Muslim world, political Islam and radical Islamism, and the status of the Muslim diaspora in the west. This module helps students understand sharīʿa law as an evolving legal tradition, explored through a variety of historical contexts from the late Middle Ages until the 21st century, and addresses the fundamental questions of the relationship between sharīʿa law, the family and political power.

  • This module examines the interconnected world created by the dynamic movements of people, plants, animals, products and ideas across the Atlantic basin between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The primary focus is on the lands claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese empires, while also analysing their entangled relationships with the emerging British, French and Dutch empires. Students will explore the social, cultural and religious transformations taking place on both sides of the Atlantic as indigenous peoples, Africans and Europeans interacted with each other.

  • This module contrasts and compares the experience of state formation in four distinct countries of the Muslim world: Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan. Although separated by language, history and very different experiences of Imperial domination, each one of these countries struggled with the challenges of modernity, development and democracy for ‘traditional’ Muslim societies. Through these case studies, students are encouraged to consider larger questions. Are Muslims somehow constitutionally incapable of democratic self-government? Is ‘development’ a real possibility or only a dream?

  • The First World War was a transformative event in modern British history, which continues to provoke intense popular and academic interest. The destructive force of industrialised warfare led to a very direct civilian encounter with mass death and families and communities across the United Kingdom suffered unprecedented levels of bereavement. This module will explore the British experience of the war and look at the ways in which the conflict has been interpreted and remembered in Britain in the century since it began.

  • This module examines the origins, escalation and end of ‘hot wars’ and the Cold War in Southeast Asia between 1945 and c.1979. The Vietnam War was one of the most significant and devastating conflicts in the second half of the twentieth century. Students explore how nationalism, decolonisation and revolution in Vietnam and Southeast Asia interacted with the global Cold War, focusing on both the policies of the great powers and the agencies of the Southeast Asian states and peoples themselves.

  • This module explores how the French sought both to describe and transform their society in the turbulent century following 1789, through the lens of innovative works of literature, political thought, art and the social sciences, all studied in translation. The upheaval of the French Revolution and dreams of radical transformation led in turn to socialist utopias, ‘realist’ novels and modern sociology, and to fears of national decline and fantasies of cleansing violence which haunted French society in the years preceding the Great War.

  • Art and architecture were key weapons in the construction of power in the Roman world and the establishment of the Empire. Using both archaeological and literary evidence, this module looks at how those in power employ art and architecture to express their authority and values.

  • Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, won three successive general elections and occupied 10 Downing Street (between 1979 and 1990) for longer than any other politician in twentieth-century Britain. She divided popular opinion, domestically and internationally, and her historical significance is yet to be determined. What exactly was Thatcherism, and why is Margaret Thatcher's legacy still so controversial and contested? How far did Thatcherism succeed in its objectives, especially considering Margaret Thatcher’s pledge to ‘change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society’?

  • The rise of a xenophobic, demagogic and nationalist political right is one of the most controversial phenomena in contemporary times. Is it fascist, populist or something else? How can we apply these concepts today? The Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election have also caused many to wonder whether the age of globalization and multiculturalism is now past. This module adds a scholarly dimension to such timely debates by tracing the rise of the “nationalist” far right from its early twentieth-century roots to the present day.

  • The principal aim of this course is to immerse second-year literature students in the world of digital tools for exploring literature. Through extensive hands-on use of online parsing tools, algorithmic methods for assessing aspects such as word co-association, various types of visualization packages and a great deal more besides, students will realise the remarkable affordances of digital tools in reading and interpreting texts.

Year 3
  • The fiction of the last twenty years or so is a gigantic and diverse field. Now global in dimension, the range of novels and writers is simply enormous, and the field is growing at frantic speed. It’s very hard to find out what’s going on, to identify trends and significance. The aim of this module is to offer a sense of some of the larger themes and patterns in contemporary fiction.

  • Investigate a variety of literature produced about Chicago by writers who lived and worked in the city. Although the module will focus on novels, it will also include some poetry and nonfiction prose. You will develop knowledge of the historical development of Chicago in the 20th century, as seen through its writers, from 'muckrakers' such as Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair, through the boosterism of Carl Sandburg, the ‘urban naturalism’ of James T. Farrell, Richard Wright and Nelson Algren, to the later interpretations of Saul Bellow, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Stuart Dybek and Gwendolyn Brooks.

  • Examine the representation of murder in literature and popular culture. You will explore how and why writers from different historical periods and national traditions have created aesthetic works around murder, and how those aesthetic works engage with their historical, social and cultural contexts. You will ask why murder has remained a compelling subject for writers and audiences, and what literatures of murder reveal about, for example: the body, the self and its relationship to others, society and its institutions, moral and social responsibility, and faith or its absence.

  • A comprehensive study of three of Shakespeare's most difficult and most disturbing plays, collectively known as the ‘problem plays’: Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well That Ends Well and Measure for Measure. You will develop a detailed knowledge and understanding of the plays, both as individual works of dramatic art and as a group of texts sharing distinctive concerns and techniques.

  • An advanced introduction to debates about the philosophy of literature. This module is structured around three key questions: the ethics of literature, what literature is presumed to reveal and the relationship between literature and its interpretation.

  • Brexit is not simply a political or economic event. It is a cultural event too. This module uses the cultural event as a lens to analyse some aspects of contemporary literature and theory, and some aspects of contemporary literature and theory to analyse Brexit. These aspects include theories of nationalism; affect theory; cultural memory; postcolonialism and refugee studies; Literature and Human rights; rhetoric.

  • This module will introduces you to a number of theorists of tragedy, and a number of significant tragic texts (in dramatic and other idioms) from Classical Greece to the present day. All works not written in English are studied in translation. You will explore a variety of theories of tragedy with specific attention to a range of tragic works in various modes: plays, novels, poetry and film.

  • Focusing primarily on Joyce’s major work Ulysses while putting it into context with Joyce’s other work, you will have the opportunity of getting to know and getting to enjoy what has been described as ‘the greatest novel of the 20th century’. You will examine it in various contexts, including Joyce’s other writings and the various critical approaches that have found inspiration from Joyce, whether new critical, humanist, post-structuralist, politicizing, feminist, historicizing or textualist responses to his work.

  • This module explores aspects of nineteenth-century literature, science and culture in some depth and brings well-known works like Charlotte Brontë's Villette, Eliot's Middlemarch and Dickens's Our Mutual Friend into conversation with the evolutionary thought of Charles Darwin, the social investigations of Henry Mayhew and nineteenth-century writings on psychology. You will look at a number of genres, including novels, poetry, journalism, science writing, autobiography, history, art criticism and examine elements of contemporary visual culture.

  • This module uses The Victorian Serial Novel, a web resource, to re-create the reading experience of Victorians over the period Oct 1846 to March 1847. You will read, in real-time, six works published within this time period, as and when they were published and in the format in which they first appeared.

  • In this module you will examine a variety of literary responses to the First World War 1914-1918: poetry, prose and other modes, from immediate responses to the war written by combatants on the front line and civilians on the home front, through to postwar reconsiderations of what the war meant to civilisation. You will look at the most famous works of wartime poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Isaac Rosenberg, and also examine realist novels, Modernist experimentation, postwar memoirs and Fantasy by both British and Continental writers.

  • Examine fictional representations of the girl across a range of texts, from Charlotte Brontë's eponymous Jane Eyre through to Antonia White's Catholic schoolgirl, Nanda and Ian McEwan's remorseful Briony Tallis. As well as enabling an exploration of female development and subjectivity, you will also engage with a range of questions relating to sexuality and desire, place and belonging, knowledge and resistance, art and creativity.

  • In this module you will study a broad range of writing for children from the nineteenth through to the twenty-first century.

  • The end of the various colonial empires in the middle of the twentieth century saw an explosion of literatures from the newly emergent postcolonial societies. Rather than provide a survey of the field of postcolonial studies, this module aims at engaging the recent debates in postcolonial writing, theory and criticism. You will critically examine a range of postcolonial novels from Britain’s erstwhile empire, paying attention to issues such as the boons and contradictions of writing in the language of the colonial powers, the postcolonial reclamation of the Western canon etc. and focussing on genres such as postcolonial realism, modernism, magic realism, and science fiction. You will pay close attention to novels and their historical legacies of colonialism and resistance.

  • In this module you will consider two immediate, present-day concerns. The first is currently very much in circulation in English political culture and the media: what is and should be the relationship between England and continental Europe? How involved is and should the first be with the second? How close are they, how distant should they be? The second sounds rather more academic or theoretical, but is also at issue in the wider culture and involves us all. Over the past two decades, many thinkers and writers have announced that we have arrived at 'the end of modernity', and many more have declared that we are'post-modern', that we inhabit a 'postmodern condition'. Yet round about us, all the time, we hear of one kind of enthusiastic 'modernization' or another. What sense can we make of this?

  • In this module you will consider a range of contemporary and experimental poetic writing and consider writing practices in relation to contemporary theory and criticism. You will look at the methods, processes and techniques used by experimental and innovative writers becoming familiar with a range of methodologies for making your own poetic practice.

  • The Middle Ages are often characterised in the popular imagination as barbarous, incredulous, prudish, and naïve. In this module you will look at the presentation and function of violence, sex, and magic in a range of medieval literature, from the Old English Riddles to Arthurian romance. In so doing, you will consider the sophisticated but sometimes alien worldviews that lie behind them as well as the literary achievements of the works that contain them. You will examine texts from a variety of different genres in both Old and Middle English.

  • In this module you will address the relationship between literature and the visual arts from c.1760 to the 1890s. You will look at theoretical issues of how the visual and the verbal arts are defined and consider their compatibility through a number of case studies of visual-verbal interactions from the period studied. You will also address the rise of the visual as the dominant cultural form of the Victorian period, tracing the development of illustrated media and new visual technologies including photography and early cinema, and the concomitant rise of the new phenomenon of the art critic - the professional interpreter of images - in the 1890s.

  • This module focuses on a key moment in mid-20th century art and culture: the period when the New York Schools of poetry, painting and composition emerged in parallel. In the postwar period, the city took over from Paris as the centre of contemporary art. Abstract Expressionism quickly achieved global popularity, establishing the Museum of Modern Art as the world’s leading contemporary art museum. However, other cultural currents also made a great impact on their respective disciplines. The witty, fast-moving work of the New York School Poets (Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest and James Schuyler) challenged the authority of High Modernism in the field of poetry. The radical music of John Cage and Morton Feldman posed a similar challenge to established European composers. The leading proponents of these tendencies did not work in isolation from other disciplines. The poets, for example, wrote about art and Cage and Feldman were both inspired, in different ways, by painters such as Rauschenberg and Guston. This module examines all three fields and the relations between them.

  • The 1930s was a decade of extremes: extreme financial instability (after the Wall Street Crash of 1929) and extreme politics, with the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. British colonialism was showing fractures; there was a war in mainland Europe (in Spain), and the increasing threat of another World War, which eventually came to pass. Could it be that it closely - all too closely - resembles the decade that we’re living in now – with the rise of nationalisms, extreme ideologies, unstable international relations, following on from a colossal crash in the financial markets? What can we learn about our world by reading fiction from the 1930s?

  • A chronological study of the novels of Virginia Woolf covering the period 1915-1941. These will be supplemented by selections from Woolf’s criticism and other writings. In addition to demonstrating Woolf’s development as a writer and familiarizing students with a range of key critical ideas relating to her work, you will explore Woolf’s relation to Modernism and realism; questions about language, form and consciousness; sexuality and androgyny; Woolf’s feminism and politics; war and subjectivity; nation, Empire and history; mourning and loss; and the maternal.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are among the greatest literary achievements of the middle Ages. Chaucer describes a group of pilgrims, drawn from all parts of late medieval English society, who enter into a tale-telling competition on their way to Canterbury. Their stories include romances, fabliaux, saints’ lives and beast fables, and address themes of love and sorrow, trickery and deception, fate and free will, satire, tragedy and magic, as well as raising questions about the nature and purposes of storytelling itself. In this module you will read The Canterbury Tales in detail in the original Middle English. You will examine how the tales relate to their literary and cultural contexts, and read them in the light of different schools of modern criticism. You will also have the opportunity to read a range of earlier writers who influenced Chaucer, including Ovid, Boethius, Dante and Boccaccio, and later writers who responded to him, including Lydgate, Hoccleve and Dryden.

  • In this module you will study the complete career of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), looking at eight novels in their historical and cultural contexts. You will examine Dickens's life and times, and the cultural discourses that shaped his fiction; the serialisation and illustration of his work, and the themes, forms and structures of his writing. You will also consider the richness and specificity of Dickens' actual work.

  • In this module you will have the opportunity to read in detail and in chronological order the full range of works by Oscar Wilde, from his early poetry to his last letters. Wilde’s work has captured the widest possible public attention since his death in 1900, and his readers and audiences are spread across the globe. His work is intensely literary and profoundly political yet it is popular and fleet-of-foot. And just as his output is exceptionally varied, so too the questions which arise from its study will take students in many directions. Aesthetic poetry, the role of the critic, the construction and betrayal of national and sexual identities, symbolist drama, platonic dialogue, fairy tale, farce, satire, wit: these are some of the topics you will examine.

  • In this module you will explore the works of American author Herman Melville (1819-1891) in breadth and depth. While Melville’s whaling epic, Moby-Dick (1851) is the lynchpin of the module, you will also have the opportunity to study Melville’s early travel writing, his fictions of social criticism, his short stories, and his poetry. You will consider critical approaches to Melville’s work, situating him in mid-century America – a time of social transformation, economic crisis, tensions over slavery, and increasing calls for a national American culture – as well as looking as his works through the lens of post-colonial theory, gender studies, and queer theory.

  • Often described as the most difficult and influential poems of the twentieth-century, T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" is undoubtedly one of the key Modernist texts. You will you look at Eliot's 1922 poem, along with a selection of his critical writings, engaging in an intensive reading experience in which you will examine ideas about composition, structure, voice, time, myth and intertextuality.

  • The twenty-first century has seen an explosion of adaptations of Shakespeare around the globe. These performances often draw attention to new theatre traditions as well as new ways of seeing the world. In this module you will examine the adaptations of three plays, considering the power of Shakespeare’s work to unite communities around particular topics, experiences and ideas.

  • World-literature critics worry that queer theorists foist a Western, elitist approach to LGBTQ+ identities on to the rest of the world, that is, a Western homonormativity performs a similar role as the unequal distribution of power in a globalised world. Queer theorists, on the other hand, are anxious that queer perspectives get lost in world-literature theory and texts, which tend to, they argue, either privilege a masculine nationalist agenda or not pay enough attention to the effects of globalisation on local articulations of race, gender and sexuality. In this module you will explore this productive tension by paying close attention to variety of texts from around the world.

  • This module concentrates on a particular mode of writing, genre, theme, issue or idea. You will be encouraged to make creative work in relation to the focus, and develop your writing practice in relation to wider contexts relevant to the contemporary writer.

    Creative Writing Special Focus courses are open to both creative writing and non-creative writing students.

  • The dissertation is an opportunity for you to undertake a substantial piece of independent work in an area of your choice, and so to deepen your understanding of literature, culture and critical theory.

  • This module spans the four centuries (AD 284 to 641) that marked the transformation from classical antiquity to the early medieval world. Those years witnessed the emergence of a Christian Roman empire, the barbarian migrations, the fall of imperial power in the west, and the rise of the Germanic kingdoms and the eastern Roman empire. These were centuries of dramatic change, accessible through both literary sources (in translation) and material evidence, and the legacy of those changes exerted a profound influence on later history.

  • In AD 700, the very existence of Byzantium was in question. The Byzantine Empire had lost almost half its territory to the Arabs and even its capital Constantinople was under threat. Yet the state revived and flourished so that by 1050 it was once more a major power stretching from southern Italy to Armenia. This module traces the reasons why Byzantium survived, the profound social, cultural, religious and military changes that took place, and how the Byzantines interacted with the world around them.

  • In this period London grew from a town of 50,000 inhabitants to a capital city of some 200,000. The Reformation not only swept away ‘superstitious’ beliefs, but destroyed much of the fabric and topography of the medieval City - this module will consider how Londoners coped with these changes. How were Londoners fed and watered? How were crafts organised? How was the City governed?

  • Between 1553 and 1603, England faced the unprecedented situation of being ruled by two successive queens regnant, Mary Tudor and her sister Elizabeth. Drawing on new sources and interpretations, this module challenges commonplace arguments about their relative successes and failures. Should Mary be considered a political pioneer and England’s most overlooked monarch? Should Elizabeth’s reign not be considered more a triumph of political spin and style than significance and substance? This module urges students to reassess the traditional image of the Tudor monarchy.

  • The triumph of the First Crusade (1099) resulted in the establishment of a Latin Christian community in the Levant for almost two hundred years. This module is primarily concerned to examine how the settlers maintained their hold on a region which was spiritually, economically and politically important to the Byzantine empire and the Muslim world as well.

  • “Martin didn't make the movement, the movement made Martin” noted veteran civil rights activist Ella Baker. Scholars have increasingly viewed the mass black movement for civil rights in the United States as a grassroots phenomenon, but also still emphasise the vital leadership role played by Martin Luther King, Jr. This module looks at both strands of this scholarship and seeks to assess the dynamics of the movement at both local and national levels, and to examine the tensions that often existed between them.

  • The slender flapper, cigarette holder in hand, off to cocktails or the flicks epitomizes the surface glamour of modernity. With an office job, a swimsuit, sex appeal and a voguish knowledge of Freud, she was ready for anything. But how real were her gains? This module explores the words and experiences of British women in a century of rapid social, economic and cultural transformation, the constraints on women in war and peace, in work and at home, the expectations and their outcomes.

  • This module examines the intellectual and cultural history of Russia in the turbulent years from the Great Reforms of the 1850s and 1860s to the 1917 Revolution. During this period, Russian society experienced industrialisation, urbanisation, secularisation and the erosion of traditional values and social distinctions, debates we see reflected in the literature of the time. The emphasis here is on the dynamism of Russia in this period as all sections of society struggled to cope with change on an enormous scale at dizzying speeds.

  • In the first four decades of the twentieth century, the lands of Eastern Europe experienced a violent transformation. The age-old Habsburg and Ottoman Empires were replaced by fragile nation-states shaped by multi-ethnic tensions, nationalist awakenings, ethnic cleansing, the failure of parliamentary government and the appeal of authoritarianism. Throughout this tumultuous period, Eastern Europe became the testing ground for modern political ideologies from imperialism and democracy to Nazism and Communism, and so this module provides an essential background to understanding the dynamics of the modern world.

  • This module explores the chief themes of modern political thought through its leading figures from Rousseau (c. 1750) to the present. By the mid-18th century the opulence fuelled by economic development had become increasingly central to social and political thought, and ongoing debates over progress and modernity interacted with the democratic ideals inspired by the American revolution. This in turn fuelled 20th-century debates over liberalism and socialism, the emergence of totalitarianism, the implications of imperialism and decolonisation, and the growing spectre of environmental catastrophe.

  • This course will review the modern literature on the causes and consequences of the Great Depression Slump for Britain and America during the 1920s and 1930s. Politicians, government advisors, and academics in the west were unable to explain why capitalist society was plunged so deeply in to depression, and they were also perplexed as to why the usual remedies failed to generate forces of recovery.

  • This module examines the occurrence of genocide from the colonial period to the present. It deals with the development of the concept and the different approaches to studying genocide, from political science and anthropology as well as history, and explores different explanations for genocide, such as nation-building, race-theory, gender and social psychological aggression. Case studies include the colonization of Australia and North America, the Herero genocide, the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, Stalin’s Great Terror, and post-1945 genocides of indigenous peoples, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia.

  • This course provides a comprehensive treatment of the history of terrorism, beginning with its origins and etymology, tracing its evolution and development, to its employment as a form of political violence in the contemporary period. Students will study a diverse range of geographical and historical contexts through key case studies with a particular focus on: actors involved, the socio-political milieu, rationale for employing terrorism, causes and consequences of terrorist acts, political outcomes, and counter-terrorism measures.

  • Sharīʿa law (Islamic law) is an important but widely misunderstood phenomenon that is central to several contemporary political controversies, including democratization in the Muslim world, political Islam and radical Islamism, and the status of the Muslim diaspora in the west. This module helps students understand sharīʿa law as an evolving legal tradition, explored through a variety of historical contexts from the late Middle Ages until the 21st century, and addresses the fundamental questions of the relationship between sharīʿa law, the family and political power.

  • The objective of this course is to prepare literature students for work in the creative industries by developing their use of digital technologies in responding to literature. In using digital technology to respond to literature both critically and aesthetically, literature students can become adept at various practices that are of immediate, valuable use in the creative industry workplace. This course will cultivate these practices, show how they grow organically out of a love for reading and writing, and demonstrate how they are skills that are in great demand in a wide range of creative workplaces.

  • This module examines the interconnected world created by the dynamic movements of people, plants, animals, products and ideas across the Atlantic basin between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The primary focus is on the lands claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese empires, while also analysing their entangled relationships with the emerging British, French and Dutch empires. Students will explore the social, cultural and religious transformations taking place on both sides of the Atlantic as indigenous peoples, Africans and Europeans interacted with each other.

  • This module contrasts and compares the experience of state formation in four distinct countries of the Muslim world: Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan. Although separated by language, history and very different experiences of Imperial domination, each one of these countries struggled with the challenges of modernity, development and democracy for ‘traditional’ Muslim societies. Through these case studies, students are encouraged to consider larger questions. Are Muslims somehow constitutionally incapable of democratic self-government? Is ‘development’ a real possibility or only a dream?

  • The First World War was a transformative event in modern British history, which continues to provoke intense popular and academic interest. The destructive force of industrialised warfare led to a very direct civilian encounter with mass death and families and communities across the United Kingdom suffered unprecedented levels of bereavement. This module will explore the British experience of the war and look at the ways in which the conflict has been interpreted and remembered in Britain in the century since it began.

  • This module examines the origins, escalation and end of ‘hot wars’ and the Cold War in Southeast Asia between 1945 and c.1979. The Vietnam War was one of the most significant and devastating conflicts in the second half of the twentieth century. Students explore how nationalism, decolonisation and revolution in Vietnam and Southeast Asia interacted with the global Cold War, focusing on both the policies of the great powers and the agencies of the Southeast Asian states and peoples themselves.

  • This module explores how the French sought both to describe and transform their society in the turbulent century following 1789, through the lens of innovative works of literature, political thought, art and the social sciences, all studied in translation. The upheaval of the French Revolution and dreams of radical transformation led in turn to socialist utopias, ‘realist’ novels and modern sociology, and to fears of national decline and fantasies of cleansing violence which haunted French society in the years preceding the Great War.

  • Art and architecture were key weapons in the construction of power in the Roman world and the establishment of the Empire. Using both archaeological and literary evidence, this module looks at how those in power employ art and architecture to express their authority and values.

  • Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, won three successive general elections and occupied 10 Downing Street (between 1979 and 1990) for longer than any other politician in twentieth-century Britain. She divided popular opinion, domestically and internationally, and her historical significance is yet to be determined. What exactly was Thatcherism, and why is Margaret Thatcher's legacy still so controversial and contested? How far did Thatcherism succeed in its objectives, especially considering Margaret Thatcher’s pledge to ‘change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society’?

  • The rise of a xenophobic, demagogic and nationalist political right is one of the most controversial phenomena in contemporary times. Is it fascist, populist or something else? How can we apply these concepts today? The Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election have also caused many to wonder whether the age of globalization and multiculturalism is now past. This module adds a scholarly dimension to such timely debates by tracing the rise of the “nationalist” far right from its early twentieth-century roots to the present day.

  • The capture of the capital of the Byzantine empire by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481) on 29 May 1453 was a pivotal event of the later Middle Ages. This module explores the background, events and legacy of the fall of Constantinople, drawing extensively on the many contemporary accounts of the siege. Students will debate how eyewitnesses explained the disaster, balancing metaphysical reasons such as divine judgment and the wheel of fortune with practical concerns for human weakness and the role of heavy cannon.

  • Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was obsessed with crusading and he dedicated his pontificate to defeating the enemies of the Church. A profound challenge to his authority came from the Cathars of southern France - men and women following an austere lifestyle and holding a dualist belief in a Good God and an Evil God. Using a series of vivid contemporary narratives, in conjunction with other documents (including inquisitorial records), this course examines the beliefs and organisation of the Cathars and the progress of the Crusade and the Inquisition against them.

  • This module examines critical engagement with commercial and industrial society in Britain during the long nineteenth century. Waste, competition, selfishness, vice and urban poverty were seen as concomitant to the advance of commercial society, and as the 19th century’s first industrialised nation, Britain offered radical and socialist as well as conservative critiques of these developments. Arguments ranged from alternative visions of modernity to returning to a more idyllic past, and set the background for the modern environmental movement emerging in the later 20th century.

  • Berlin was one of the focal points in the history of the 20th century. The notions associated with the German capital appear far from unequivocal however. Across Europe and the world it served, and continues to serve, as a byword for both modernity and decadence; for civic pride and civil unrest, reactionary as well as progressive movements; for war and genocide; for tyranny, but also for freedom and, above all, for the unexpected turn of events. Based on a wide and diverse range of primary source material, the course extends, chronologically, from the making of metropolitan Berlin before 1914 to the ramifications of reunification after 1990.

  • This module examines the ups and downs in American-Chinese relations during the Cold War, from hostile enemies in the 1950s and much of the 1960s to tacit allies by the 1970s. Students will approach the subject not only from the American perspective but also from Chinese viewpoints through both Western and (translated) Chinese primary sources, revealing how the two great powers were shaped by, and helped shape, the global Cold War and teaching valuable historical lessons for managing Sino-American relations in the twenty-first century.

  • Between the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the outbreak of World War Two, the Soviet Union experienced a programme of forced modernisation, unprecedented levels of state repression, and the devastation of WWII. The course will examine how Stalinist policies amounted to an attempt to sculpt a new society through a combination of forging 'Soviet' citizens, and excising undesirable elements from the body social. It will also explore how different constituencies within Soviet society supported, sought accommodation with, or resisted the values and policies of the state.

  • This module covers the crucial transitional period in which Christianity came to dominate the Mediterranean world, from the accession of the first Christian Roman emperor Constantine to the death of Augustine of Hippo (author of the Confessions and City of God). The fundamental political, social and religious changes that took root during these dramatic years, which also witnessed the early Germanic invasions into the Roman empire, are brought to life through a spectrum of translated texts and material culture that students will analyse and debate.

  • From Henry VII to Charles II, this module explores how the English monarchy represented its authority and power in the midst of the great political and religious changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Drawing on a wide range of textual and material sources, students explore how different rulers sought to sustain and enhance their authority through how they represented themselves, and consider how the success or failure of royal image influenced the dramatic events of the English Reformation, Civil War and Restoration.

     

  • Victorians were both fascinated and repelled by their capital city, often at the same time. For the American writer Henry James, London was not only "magnificent", but also a "brutal" city which had "gathered together so many of the darkest sides of life". This course strolls through the sights, smells, and senses of Victorian Babylon, the "dreadfully delightful city" with its extremes of imperial splendour and crushing poverty.

  • Terrorism has become one of the most pervasive and defining features of the modern world since 1945. It has been employed across a range of historic and geographic contexts by a range of actors, from lone individuals to anti-colonial revolutionary organisations, and from fundamentalist religious groups to liberal democratic states. This module examines the underlying reasons for the ascendancy of this form of political violence, and the immense challenges it has posed to state and society down to the present day.

  • In the 1850s photography was established in Britain – and altered how Britons saw themselves forever. This module looks at the relationship between images, society and culture, from the arrival of the camera to cinema and early TV. Through a wide range of visual sources, students look at the role of photography in everyday life – from staid Victorian family portraits to contemporary scandals over pornography – and how the new medium of film and TV represented twentieth-century Britain as class, race and gender were reconfigured on screen.

  • This module provides a detailed and intensive overview of the history of African American Islam. It focuses primarily on the development of African American Muslim communities in the twentieth century including the Nation of Islam and the Imam W.D. Mohammed community.  Students will explore the career and legacy of Elijah Muhammad’s national minister, Malcolm X, as well as recent studies highlighting the work of women in the original NOI, the resurrection of the movement, and the NOI’s work with Black Lives Matter and interfaith outreach.

  • This module examines the development of atomic weaponry and its effects on Western society during the 20th century. The A- and H-Bombs are arguably the most influential technological developments of the last century, affecting geopolitics, military strategy, and the shape of post-1945 society, as well as granting to a few the ability to render the Earth uninhabitable. This had a profound effect on politics and society, not only for the leading western states but globally with arms proliferation and the spread of atomic power.

  • “At last I can live like a human being!” Throughout Roman literature, stories such as Emperor Nero’s celebration of his vast Golden House in Rome abound, and reveal how the domestic sphere was used to construct notions of belonging and status in the Roman world. Students will compare textual sources like the letters of Cicero and Pliny the Younger with archaeological remains from Rome, Pompeii and beyond, bringing to life the sounds, smells and sights of Roman domestic space in all their multisensory complexity.

  • The American Civil War was the defining moment in the history of the United States. The American populace, north and south, white and black, found themselves grappling with the nature of the American nation state and the status of African Americans within that nation. These contentious issues of politics and race were not truly resolved by this bloody conflict, and to understand America’s more recent history and politics students must get to grips with the Civil War in which the modern American nation was forged.

  • ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him’ (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882). This module offers students an opportunity to engage with leading modern thinkers – including Rousseau, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud – as they confronted fundamental questions of human existence regarding God, religious belief, science and history. The module concludes at the beginning of the 20th century with the founders of modern sociology (Durkheim and Weber) and psychology (Freud) and their radical new ideas about the role of religions and their apparent decline.

  • The century from c.1050 to 1150 was one of dynamic change in Christian Europe. Old states were strengthened and new ones founded under increasingly centralized power; demographic growth resulted in expanding settlements; while relative peace encouraged new cultural forms. Monasteries were centres of religious and social activity, and new debates now arose over how both personal and communal religious life should be led. Students will explore the varied hopes of the competing reformers, and the lengths to which they went to realise their ideals.

  • Explorers and Inventors in Classical and Late Antiquity
  • Inverts, deviants, sodomites, sissies, tomboys, brown hatters, dykes, perverts: queers. Since the late nineteenth century these and many other such terms have been employed in Britain to identify and codify queer sexual practices and identities. With a particular emphasis on oral history, this module explores how queer identities were constructed and contested, described and debated in both mainstream culture and in the queer subcultures that emerged and took shape, laying the foundations for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) identities as we understand them today.

The course has a modular structure, whereby students take a total of twelve course units at the rate of four per year. Some course units are compulsory while others are elective thereby offering flexibility and choice. 

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, large and small seminar groups and occasionally in one-to-one tutorials. Outside classes you will undertake group projects and wide-ranging but guided independent study. Private study and preparation are essential parts of every course, and you will have access to many online resources and the University’s comprehensive e-learning facility, Moodle, which provides a wide range of supporting materials. A Personal Tutor will guide and support throughout your degree and you will be supervised by a member of staff when preparing your second-year independent research essay and your final-year dissertation. 

We use a variety of assessment methods, including long and short essays, formal examinations at the end of each year, online tests and exercises, presentations, commentaries and portfolios of creative work.

A Levels: AAB-ABB

Required subjects:

  • A-level in English Literature or English Literature and Language
  • At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.

Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A - levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. Socio - economic factors which may have impacted an applicant's education will be taken into consideration and alternative offers may be made to these applicants.

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start of your course.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 7.0 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 69 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE IV.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, we offer an International Foundation Year, run by Study Group at the Royal Holloway International Study Centre. Upon successful completion, you may progress on to selected undergraduate degree programmes at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Choosing English and History at Royal Holloway will give you the skills and qualities that employers are looking for; it demonstrates that you enjoy being challenged and are able to understand complex issues.  You will be well-informed, culturally-informed and alert, with strong skills in problem-solving, organisation and planning, research, critical and analytical skills and the ability to craft an argument.  

  • 92% of the recent English graduates and 86% of history graduates were in employment or enhancing their skills with further study six months after graduation (Unistats 2015).
  • The English department runs work placement schemes with The Daily Telegraph, the BBC’s Newsnight and publishing companies. During your second year, you will meet with your personal tutor group to work on personal development planning.
  • Our recent graduates have entered a wide range of careers including: as curators (Imperial War Museum, Museum of London), in information management (British Museum), teaching, finance, law (a barrister in the Lord Chancellor's office), broadcasting (Director of the BBC), marketing/PR, national defence (Royal Navy), or the performing arts.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £18,800

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loansscholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.

*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2020/21, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2021/22 has not yet been confirmed.

**The Government has confirmed that EU nationals starting a degree in 2020/21 will pay the same fee as UK students for the duration of their course. For EU nationals starting a degree in 2021/22, the UK Government has recently confirmed that you will not be eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2021, we will award an automatic fee reduction which brings your fee into line with the fee paid by UK students. This will apply for the duration of your course.

Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions. Fees shown above are for 2020/21 and are displayed for indicative purposes only.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

4th in the UK for creative writing

Source: Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2020 (English)

Top 20 in the UK for English

Source: Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2020 (English)

95% overall student satisfaction

Source: National Student Survey, 2019 (History)

Top 20 in the UK for History

Source: Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, 2020 (History)

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