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MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
History Beyond the Nation State: Debates & Dialogues in Modern History

Unit code HIST61221
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Seminars will focus on central concepts and methods employed in the historiography of modern European and world history.

The first seminar will consist of a thematic introduction to the course, and the final seminar will be a dedicated essay workshop.

The main body of the course will be constituted within the following three blocks, consisting of three seminars each, engaging with the following questions and issues:

- Approaches: What methods have historians used to write history outside of national frameworks, why did these develop, and how can they be used?
- Structures & Modernity: What do 'modern' and 'modernity' actually mean? How do historians understand the development and impact of large structures, institutions and forces - such as the state, the public sphere, and technology - defining the modern world?
- Subjectivities & Identities: How can historians recover subjective identities, such as those based around nationalism, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and class? How can we study the forces shaping them, and assess their role in wider historical developments?

Each block will be led by a single lecturer, with the possibility of joint teaching on some sessions. It will consist of two seminars engaging with key conceptual issues, historiographic debates and/or theoretical texts with relevance across world and European history. This will then be followed by one research seminar where students debate and test these concepts through detailed historic case-studies of their own choosing.


To equip students to think comparatively, critically and analytically about modern history.
To allow students to grasp the historiography of modern European and/or World history.
To give students a critical understanding of key concepts and methods useable across the range of modern history.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding :
-Understand and evaluate core concepts and methods used in the writing of modern history.
- Demonstrate a detailed grasp of theoretical and conceptual debates in modern history.
- Approach specialist regional and thematic historiographies.

Intellectual skills :
-Critically apply complex theoretical models and concepts to in-depth case-studies.
- Be able to understand and analyze links and connections across a variety of historical contexts.
- Formulate a research question based on scholarly literature at the forefront of the disciplines studied and adopt an appropriate method for addressing and answering that question.
- To develop analytical skills which can be applied to primary or secondary material.
- To synthesize in a meaningful and incisive manner a wealth of information gathered and analysed through independent research.
- To identify and assess the significance of historical context for contemporary debates and issues.

Practical skills :
- Draw up a specialist bibliography on a research topic.
- Manage a sustained program of regular weekly work.
- Present ideas fluently in writing and oral presentation to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
- Gain experience in problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Transferable skills and personal qualities :
- Organise own learning through self-management and work to deadlines.
- Using ICT for research and presentation purposes.
- Display fluent presentation skills orally.
- Write fluent continuous prose.
- Demonstrate the ability to work in a group and show leadership.
- Identify, analyse and apply a wide range of data to formulate and solve problems.
- Ability to bring analytical and research skills to bear on the formulation and design of proposals.

Teaching and learning methods

Student-centred workshop seminars
Students will be encouraged to form reading groups based on their interests and intended specialisms.

All key readings for the course will be digitized and available on the blackboard site. The essay will be submitted online via Turnitin on BB.

Websites and video links available via Blackboard

Assessment methods

Reflective literature review: 2000 words, 30%

Research-based Essay: 4000 words , 70%

Recommended reading

States and Citizens

Bellamy, Richard (2008). Citizenship: A Very Short Introduction
Turner, Bryan S, 'Outline of a Theory of Citizenship,' Sociology 24 (1990), pp. 189-217
Heater, Derek (1999). What is Citizenship?
Mann, Michael. 'Ruling Class Strategies and Citizenship,' Sociology 21 (1987)
Brubaker, Rogers (1992). Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany
Coronil, Fernando (1997). The Magical State: Nature, Money and Modernity in Venezuela.
Larson, Brooke (2004). Trials of Nation Making. Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810-1910.
Mamdani, Mahmood (1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism.
Sunder Rajan, Rajeswari (2003). The Scandal of the State: Women, Law, and Citizenship in Postcolonial India.

Nation and Memory

Anderson, Benedict (1991). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 2nd edn
Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2000). Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference.
Confino, Alon 'Collective memory and cultural history: problems of method,' American Historical Review, 105 (1997), 1386-1403.
Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, eds (1983). The Invention of Tradition
Lawrence, Paul (2005). Nationalism. History and Theory.
Smith, Anthony D. (2000). The Nation in History. Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism.

Modernity and its Critics

Kalberg, Stephen, ed. (2005) Max Weber: Readings and Commentary on Modernity
Antonio, Robert ed. (2003). Marx and Modernity: Key Readings and Commentary
Habermas, Jürgen (1989). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society
Cooper, Frederick (2005) Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History.
Craib, Raymond (2004) Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes.
Prakash, Gyan (1999). Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India.
Scott, David (2004) Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment.

Power, Knowledge and the Body

Foucault, Michel (1990). The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Vol. 1
Anderson, Warwick (2006). Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines.
Ballantyne, Tony and Antoinette Burton, editors (2005) Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History.
Scarry, Elaine (1985) The body in pain: the making and unmaking of the world
Agambem, Giorgio (1998) Homo Sacer: sovereign power and bare life
Stepan, Nancy Leys (1996) The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender and Nation in Latin America.
Stoler, Ann Laura (2002). Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 300

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christian Goeschel Unit coordinator

Additional notes

In recent decades, historians of both Europe and the wider world have engaged in a concerted effort to decentre history from the national frameworks which have traditionally dominated it.  But what does it mean to write history beyond the nation state, what challenges does this pose, and what insights does it allow?  In this course, students will engage with the dialogue between European and world history which has spurred these developments, and use transnational and postcolonial approaches to examine key themes cutting across the modern period.  Interrogating core concepts of modernity, the state, knowledge, identity and power in a variety of contexts, students will gain a deep and critical understanding of crucial forces driving the history of the modern world, and a range of methods of studying them.

Pre-requisite units: None

Co-requisite units: None

Available as a free choice unit: Yes

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