HIS2114 : Death, Dying & the Dead in Early Modern England, 1500-1800

  • Offered for Year: 2012/13
  • Module Leader(s): Prof. Jeremy Boulton
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This course is for the living, but is about death and dying in the past. In a series of lectures and workshops, students will be learning about topics of direct relevance to their personal futures. These include: current sociological theories of death and dying; the demography of death; causes of death; theories surrounding the afterlife; notions of what constituted a ‘good death’; bereavement and commemoration; funerals, graveyards and tombstones. The course involves a short field trip to a local church.

This module aims to examine the social history of death and dying in early modern England; to discuss key anthropological and sociological theories that help to explain how they apply to the historical experience of death and dying; to provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it; to develop the capacity for independent study; and to provide an opportunity of investigating in depth selected historical problems, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current historiography.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only; week-by-week topics may be slightly different to the following.

Death and dying: a historical sociology; Death meets the statisticians: the awful truth; Causes of death: epidemics, famines and endemic disease patterns ; Purgatory and its abolition: death and the hereafter in England; Good deaths, bad deaths and criminal deaths; Mourning, bereavement and psychological reactions to death; Funerals: Tombstones; The body and its disposal.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided indendent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork22:305:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire and they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills. They explain historical concepts and set out historical debates and problems. They introduce a range of source material and set out historical debates and problems. They introduce a range of source material and set out and help to evaluate its historical context and worth. Listening and note-taking are practised in lectures. Lectures introduce knowledge and historical concepts that are developed and built on in related weekly workshops and seminars.
Workshops encourage independent study and promote improvements in interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability. They promote the development of skills in problem-solving and critical analysis, interpersonal skills, note-taking and written and oral communication. Together with associated assignments they enable the digestion of a range of historical material and provide an opportunity to consolidate and reinforce understanding by carrying out set tasks (e.g. To summarise and critique historical evidence) on subjects introduced in lectures. Workshop tasks are carried out in teams, so that they stimulate the development of team work and oral communication. Numeracy is promoted by analysis of given spreadsheet data. Participation in online web-based workshops and quizzes, enhances and develops computer literacy. Time management is required to complete workshop tasks.
Seminars provide students with an opportunity to participate in discussion and thus to improve their oral communication and formal presentational skills.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A60unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M402000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes and develops key skills in research, reading and writing. Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress. The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

ERASMUS students at Newcastle One 2,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all work required of domestic students. It remains the case that, if an ERASMUS student specifically requests that s/he be permitted to do the same assessments as the domestic students, that option remains open to them. No variation of the deadlines will be allowed except on production of medical or equivalent evidence

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.