Module Catalogue 2021/22

HIS1105 : What is History For?

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Adam Morton
  • Lecturer: Dr David Hope, Dr Joseph Lawson, Dr Katie East, Dr Nicola Clarke
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module has four aims:

1) to introduce students to the development of History as an academic discipline and different types of History (political,
global, social, cultural, gender, post-colonial, and so on);
2) to compare and contrast different approaches to, and uses of, historical writing in different periods and regions;
3) in doing so, to make them consider the role of power-relations and cultural context in shaping the types of historical
knowledge produced by a given culture;
4) and to challenge students to engage with on-going methodological problems and debates in the discipline.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics covered may include:

- Big Question 1: Does History produce Truth?.
- Big Question 2: “History” & “the Past”: What’s the Difference?
- Chronicle & Providence: Truth & the Divine in medieval historical writing.
- The Renaissance: History as moral truth.
- 19th Century History: Professionalization, Positivism and Colonialism?
- Things get better and better: The Whig view of History and progress.
- The Enlightenment: Reason, Disenchantment and their Legacies?
- History, the nation state, and patriotism.
- Marxism & History: Class & Determinism.
- Peoples' History: History from Below.
- Subaltern Histories.
- Gender in History: From Her Story to beyond the binary.
- Cultural History: Mentalities, Beliefs & Attitudes
- What about the rest? Non-western views of History as a discipline
- Orientalism? Global History as a challenge to the discipline?
- Post-modernism and the problem of Historical ‘truth’.
- Post-colonialism & History.
- Understanding ideology: Historians, language, and discourse.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should:
•       Understand what it means to describe History as a discipline
•       Be able to recognise and explain the major approaches to historical research
•       Understand the context for the development and use of these approaches
•       Be able to distinguish between substantive difference of interpretation, and weak or invalid arguments
•       Have a grounding in the history of History as a discipline;
•       Have a grounding in current debates in the discipline relating to historical truth;
•       Have been introduced to how historical knowledge was conceptualised in the past

Intended Skill Outcomes

This module, along with ‘Evidence & Argument’ and ‘Historical Sources & Methods’, is designed to develop, reinforce, and test the skills students need to study History at degree level, namely:
•       Effective note-taking, both in class and during guided independent study
•       Active learning: engaging with material beyond the lectures
•       Critical reading: use of knowledge and analytical tools to read for argument, not just content
•       Clear and sophisticated written communication
•       Critical self-reflection, based on awareness of the limitations of historical argument
•       Ability to work as part of a team
•       Ability to present arguments orally

In addition, the module is intended to give students a grounding in the intellectual background of the discipline, enabling them to:
•       Recognise underlying types/patterns of scholarly (and non-scholarly) argument, including in readings about unfamiliar topics.
•       Engage with these approaches, e.g. through critical analysis of evidence and reasoning.
•       Deploy appropriate approaches and/or types of analysis in their own assessments and guided independent study.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:00To complete 3 assessments
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:001 lecture p/w
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials61:006:00Part of student contact hours (1 hour recorded lectures p/w)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:003 hours reading per week.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:001 seminar per week (except first and last weeks)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities92:0018:00Two hours preparation task for the weekly seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery51:005:00Drop-in surgery hours to discuss module and assessment content
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study511:0051:00Independent Study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk21:002:00Introduction and conclusion to the module
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

LECTURE MATERIALS 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 and help to evaluate its historical context and worth. Listening and note taking are practiced in lectures. The lectures for 2021-22 will develop these same skills. There will be more scaffolding to facilitate on-line learning. In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to present recorded materials asynchronously and retain timetabled slots for live discussion of these materials

SEMINARS encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability. The seminars on this module will be more focused than undergraduate seminars – helping stage 1 students to work through key texts, they will complement and develop skills in critical reading, note taking, analysis, and argument which students have developed. The seminars for 2021-22 develop these same skills: they adopt the same format as in-person teaching even though delivered on-line. In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to hold live seminar discussions online and retain timetabled slots

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation51M40Students will deliver individual presentations of 7 minutes in length
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1A30Portfolio of short written pieces, drawn from weekly formative assessment of 400 words; 1,250 words in total.
Portfolio1A30Portfolio of short written pieces, drawn from weekly formative assessment of 400 words; 1,250 words in total.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

All of the assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.

Assessment is intended to develop two core skills in History students – written and oral analysis and persuasion – at Stage 1. The portfolio of writing will test student’s abilities in critical reading and analysis: they will produce short summaries and criticisms of key works in historiography over the course of the semester. This ensures that assessment covers the range of the entire module. The presentation tests student’s abilities to a) present and critique complex material in a concise manner and b) to construct persuasive arguments.

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 Coordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Coordinator 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 take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange 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 2021/22 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 2022/23 entry will be published here in early-April 2022. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.