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MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Landscapes of Modernity: Cities & Urban Culture in Historical Perspective

Unit code HIST65192
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The past 150 years has witnessed the irrepressible rise of the modern city. This course considers the ways in which modern cities such as Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Calcutta have been understood as sites of control and crisis as well as sites of freedom and unlimited opportunities. We will address the relationship between space and identity, looking at how cities shaped the performance and experience of class, race, gender and sexuality. Particular attention will be paid to the dynamics and thresholds of centre and periphery in the urban setting, particularly the spatialized relations between privileged and underprivileged classes, metropolitan and colonial spaces, and local and global processes.  Importantly, we also tackle methodological approaches to space as a category of analysis and distinct element of capitalist reproduction. By focussing on key theoretical texts as well as empirical case studies, the module uses the rise of the modern city to interrogate key concepts that lie at the heart of recent historical scholarship, especially the concept of modernity.



To offer students an informed knowledge of the key intellectual and theoretical issues related to the history of modern cities. Students are encouraged to think critically and imaginatively and to employ interdisciplinary methodological approaches to the study of the modern city. The module aims to develop students’ understanding of key theoretical frameworks which are applied to specific detailed case studies.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a strong understanding of key theoretical and historical texts on the history of the modern city
  • Command a variety of approaches and understandings towards important themes relating to urban history, such as power, experience, images and representations, identities, marginalization and resistance.

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluating critically current research and advanced scholarship in urban history
  • Engaging with relevant theoretical frameworks and influential theoretical texts in the field of urban studies.
  • Developing analytical skills which can be applied to primary or secondary material
  • Synthesising in a meaningful and incisive manner a wealth of information gathered and analysed through independent research
  • Identifying and assessing the significance of historical context for contemporary debates and issues. 

Practical skills

  • Synthesising large amounts of material, make sound intellectual judgments in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Producing well-written, concise and analytically precise reports and reviews.
  • Compiling systematic bibliographies and to present them according to scholarly conventions
  • Formulating and designing a range of proposals; identify appropriate intellectual, methodological and resource toolkit for successful completion of proposal.
  • Managing a sustained program of regular weekly work.
  • Gaining experience in problem solving, leadership and teamwork.  

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrating originality and independence in approaching problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a high level.
  • Dealing with complex issues both systematically and creatively, synthesise large amounts of material, make sound intellectual judgments in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly in a range of formats.
  • Organising own learning through self-management and work to deadlines.
  • Using ICT for research and presentation purposes 

Employability skills

¿ Analytical skills: critical analysis of different types of sources and the reasons for the success and failure of past planning projects ¿ Communication skills: the ability to develop well-structured answers in seminars and communicate key points effectively, using language appropriate for specialised contexts such as urban planning ¿ Advocacy skills: ability to assess complex information and make recommendations on the basis of research

Assessment methods

Essay 100%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on essay provided via Turnitin.



Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)


Feedback on online discussion board contributions – can be written as part of the discussion boards or verbal in seminar session



Recommended reading

Leif Jerram, Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe’s Twentieth Century (Oxford, 2011).

David Harvey, Paris, Capital of Modernity (London, 2003).

Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London, 2003)

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford, 1991)

Doreen Massey, Space, Place, and Gender (Minneapolis, 1994)

Gyan Prakash and Kevin M. Kruse eds., The Spaces of the Modern City: Imaginaries, Politics, and Everyday Life (Princeton, 2008)

Jen Jack Gieseking et. al., The People, Place and Space Reader (London, 2014).

Stephen Legg, Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities (Oxford, 2007).

Anindita Ghosh, Claiming the City: Protest, Crime, and Scandals in Colonial Calcutta, c. 1860–1920

(Oxford, 2016).


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 16.5
Independent study hours
Independent study 133.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anindita Ghosh Unit coordinator
Marcel Thomas Unit coordinator

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