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BA History / Course details
Year of entry: 2022
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Course unit details:
The Stuff of History: Objects Across Borders, 1500-1800
|Unit level||Level 2|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This course teaches students a brand new methodological toolkit of historical research: how to study history through objects. Material culture studies is a thriving and dynamic field of research that revolutionises how historians understand the past. The early modern period was characterised by fundamental material transformations: new global encounters between different peoples of the world led to a diverse and interconnected material world of goods that changed the way people ate, thought, socialised and behaved. The course examines how these new global connections and material goods enriched societies in early modern Europe. This course explores the ways in which objects shaped every dimension of people’s lives, from the consumption of new spices, intoxicants (like tobacco, tea and coffee), foodstuffs, materials like feathers, and luxurious clothes from early America, India and China, to new technologies like clocks and street lights that reordered the daily lives of early modern communities.
This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas.; and CLAH-owned programmes. Available to students on an Erasmus programme, subject to VSO approval.
- To investigate how historians can interpret the past through the analysis of surviving material objects.
- To assess how the objects that were produced, consumed and circulated within Europe’s expanding global borders, shaped the tastes, habits, behaviours, beliefs and routines of early modern communities.
- To investigate the potential of new technologies, and the socio-cultural contexts in which they were embedded, to reshape aspects of the early modern human experience.
- To teach students why collections in museums and heritage organisations are crucial source materials for our understanding of history – and its tangibility.
- To assess the entangled nature of social, economic, cultural and political relations between Europe and the wider world in a transformative era of global travel and exploration.
Knowledge and understanding
Manifest knowledge and understanding of:
- Techniques of interpreting material objects as primary sources for historians.
- The growing circulation of and access to material goods in early modern Europe.
- The socioeconomic and technological transformations that reshaped early modern lives.
- The global entanglements of early modern European markets, tastes and behaviours.
- Develop an ability to use objects critically as sources for understanding the past.
- Combine the analysis of material artefacts with other primary and secondary sources from the early modern period.
- Develop an understanding of why a focus on material objects has dominated recent historiographies of early modern Europe, in reference to the ‘material turn’.
- Essay writing and the organisation of research into a coherent argument.
- Write an object-led assignment in a lively and accessible manner suitable for the wider public (guidance and specific links to databases will be provided).
- Seminar participation and the ability to articulate a response to various primary and secondary sources, as well as to comments by other students.
- Using electronic databases to research early modern history.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Locating and summarising relevant research materials.
- Written and oral communication skills.
- Teamwork skills developed through discussion with other students.
- This course is designed to encourage students to think about their History degrees as a possible pathway to a career in the Museum or Heritage sector. They will become familiar with the collections of many such organisations in Manchester, and beyond, and they will learn how to bring history to life for wider public audiences by illuminating historical artefacts through historical research and writing.
Formative or Summative
Written feedback on assignments 1 and 2
One-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)
- ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/
- Findlen, Paula (ed.), Early Modern Things: Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800 (London: Routledge, 2013).
- Hamling, Tara, and Catherine Richardson (eds), Everyday Objects: Medieval and Early Modern Culture and its Meanings (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010).
- Jardine, Lisa, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (London: Macmillan, 2006).
- MacGregor, Neil, A History of the World in 100 Objects (London: Penguin, 2012).
- Trentmann, Frank, Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First (London: Penguin, 2017)
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Sasha Handley||Unit coordinator|