Module Catalogue 2021/22

HIS3331 : God's Terrible Voice: the experience and impact of Plague in England, 1500 - 1722

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor 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



The module aims to take students through the key trends and historiographical debates concerning the impact of plague in early modern England, placing the use and interpretation of primary sources at the core of their experience.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will provide students with an in-depth study of the impact of plague epidemics in early modern England. Topics studied will include an introduction to plague, death and disease in early modern England;
Bubonic Plague: the nature of the disease and its history; Plague demography: counting plague in early modern England; Plague in London before 1665 ; Samuel Pepys and the last ‘Great Plague’ 1665; Plague in towns: Ralph Tailor’s Summer: Plague in Newcastle; Plague in the countryside: the Roses of Eyam?; Plague: Counter measures and social control; Plague and religion: God’s scourge?; Plague and medicine: doctors and plague ; The disappearance and feared return of plague: Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Knowledge and understanding:
1. That students should be able to use multiple types of sources to understand the impact of plague on the economy, society and culture of early modern England

2. That students should be able to critically understand and address the work of historians of plague and the key secondary debates in the field.

3. That students should be able to understand the key features and chronology of plague outbreaks, and understand the underlying reasons for observable patterns.

4. That students should be able to understand changes and differences in the impact of plague and be able to think critically about the contemporary responses to the disease

Intended Skill Outcomes

Practical skills

•       to use and critically evaluate primary sources
•       to identify and retrieve information from a wide variety of sources
•       to construct a reasoned defence of an interpretation of an event or aspect of society in the past

Key skills

•       to achieve effective oral and written communication
•       to show initiative, self-discipline and self-direction in learning
•       to improve performance through reflection, self-assessment and using feedback from the tutor effectively
•       to respond flexibly to a wide range of challenges

Cognitive (thinking) skills

•       To critically evaluate, analyse and discuss a wide range of source materials.
•       To construct extended written and oral arguments supported by relevant historical evidence.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion451:0045:001/3 of guided independent study
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00Online asynchronous, part of student contact hours
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading451:0045:001/3 of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00Seminar, present in person or online as required
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities113:0033:00Online asynchronous
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study441:0044:001/3 of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

As a special subject, aside from an in-depth understanding of the content of the module, the teaching methods, which focus on small group work, independent research and writing, relate to the core learning outcomes of supporting students in developing sophisticated research skills across a wide range of sources, being able to synthesise the information they collect and form convincing and coherent arguments.

Independent learning is essential to this module: students are expected to develop skills of source evaluation, critical reading and note-taking in an independent and effective manner. Seminar teaching complements these skills by allowing students the opportunity to share and debate information gathered independently. Oral skills of argument and presentation will be developed. Moreover, a significant part of seminar teaching will test the development of primary source analysis.

Small group teaching will allow the students to explore ideas and patterns together in a structured way, and great emphasis will be placed on primary sources and their interpretation.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A7524 Hour Take Home Paper
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M25Essay/documentary commentary of 1500 words (including footnotes, but excluding bibliography).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Exams test 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

Documentary commentary exercises and examinations test knowledge and understanding of the texts set for the module. The ability to compare and contrast related source texts on a common subject. The ability to expound and criticize a textual extract lucidly, succinctly and with relevance in a relatively brief space and in an exam, under pressure of time

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.
Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.
All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
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

As this will be the first time the module has run (semester 1, 2017-18 session), there are no past exam papers; however, specimen papers will be provided to students as a revision tool.

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.