Module Catalogue 2017/18

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

  • Offered for Year: 2017/18
  • 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
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This course is for the living, but is about death and dying in the past. In a series of lectures and seminars, 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.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of this module you should have: a familiarity with the social history of death and dying in early modern England; Developed an enhanced ability to make comparisons between the historical experience of death and dying in the past with that pertaining in modern Western societies; Have some understanding of key anthropological and sociological theories and how they apply to the historical experience of death and dying; have some knowledge and appreciation of a range of primary source material, and an understanding of how such material should be interpreted historically.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Development of capacity for independent study and critical judgement and of the ability to respond promptly, cogently and clearly to new and unexpected questions arising from this study. Development of associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning, sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of the results.

Specifically, by the end of the module, you should be able to:
- Take an appropriately critical approach to a wide range of historical source materials
- Construct and sustain your own critical arguments backed with evidence and following appropriate technical conventions
- Summarise succinctly and accurately diverse historical material
And you should have practised:
- Locating, reading and digesting significant amounts of historical material
- Note-taking from books, lectures and websites

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Numeracy : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Assessed
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
      • Use Of Computer Applications : Present
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Assessed
      • Decision Making : Present
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Innovation And Creativity : Assessed
      • Initiative : Assessed
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Assessed
      • Adaptability : Present
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Negotiation : Present

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 ActivitiesLecture231:0023:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided indendent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork11:001:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Surgery hours
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.

Seminars provide students with an opportunity to participate in discussion and thus to improve their oral communication and formal presentational skills.

Field trips are designed to provide the students to experience spaces and places, including those they would be unlikely to have visited independently. These trips, thus allow students to learn in and from a different environment compared to the lecture theatre or the seminar room. The field trips allow students to use relevant observational techniques, to gain insights that can only be gained from spatial experience or the “archive of the feet” and to collect information to inform their studies. Moreover, the visits will enable students to relate the knowledge gained from lectures and independent reading to observations and experiences of the outside world.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1351A75unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M252000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

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.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 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 assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2017/18 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2017/18 entry will be published here in early-April 2017. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.