BA History and Sociology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Humanities in Public: The Past, Present and Future of Ideas that Shape the World

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC10411
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The humanities are important for helping us to understand and challenge the cultures and structures through which we live our lives. They encompass a broad set of disciplines ranging from social, legal, political, and economic theory, to theory driven by research in the arts, and to philosophical reflection on how we (should) make sense of the world. Broadly speaking, research from across the humanities impacts communities and the ways in which we approach them.


Through a range of teaching styles, including lectures, seminars, and workshops delivered in partnership with cultural institutions such as the John Rylands Library and the Museum of Medicine and Health, this course highlights the contributions that the humanities have made to knowledge in both universities and academic contexts, as well as in societies and in public contexts. It asks how we develop, categorise, and value different forms of wisdom and knowledge in our quest to cast light on the breadth of our human experiences.


On the course, students will critically consider topics such as the divide between humanities and sciences, interdisciplinarity, the social and political context of knowledge and ideas, the public role of the university, and new trends in the humanities, including medical humanities, digital humanities, and posthumanities. The course will help students to contextualise their learning in other modules, and to begin to critique some of the trends that underpin our approaches to the humanities, as well as to the human face of knowledge more widely.



  • To highlight the diversity of ideas and approaches that have been linked to the humanities
  • To explore different attitudes to the humanities, including critiquing different perceptions of their content and their role or value in society
  • To explore different historical and global approaches to the humanities, demonstrating the importance of contextualising knowledge historically, geographically, and intellectually
  • To introduce students to ways of working across interdisciplinary boundaries and noting the historical and intellectual resonance of ideas across subjects
  • To provide students with a foundation for studying Liberal Arts, which involves critical reflection on the distinctiveness, communication, and application of ideas


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students will have:

  • An awareness of what the humanities are in historical, geographical, and intellectual contexts
  • An understanding of some of the different ways of approaching the humanities and some of the issues with these approaches
  • A familiarity with the importance and value of the humanities as a set of subjects and disciplines facing academy and society


Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the role and value of the humanities in wider contexts, by connecting them to non-Arts subjects and beyond the academy
  • Articulate a critical awareness of some of the methodological tools and approaches of interdisciplinary study, which is increasingly important in contemporary research
  • Apply skills to problem-solving tasks and examination of case studies through workshops and seminars
  • Begin to consider their own degree programme in the broader historical and geographical contexts of knowledge acquisition


Practical skills

This course will enable students to develop the following skills:

  • Critical reading and application of this in development of an argument
  • Group work and communication of ideas in co-operation with others
  • Independent approach to research
  • Reflective and self-aware learning



Transferable skills and personal qualities

This course will equip students with:

  • An interdisciplinary competence that will serve as a foundation for ongoing interdisciplinary work
  • Critical and analytical skills highlighted through engagement with key texts and key themes and issues
  • Self-organisation skills and an ability to plan research in order to meet course deadlines
  • An ability to work independently, including conducting independent research, and to work with others in group work tasks
  • Effective oral and written communication skills



Employability skills

¿ An ability to apply intellectual discussions to real-world situations through case studies and problem-solving activities in seminars and workshops ¿ Familiarity with archival and museum-based source material ¿ An ability to appropriately balance breadth and depth of research ¿ An understanding of different disciplinary approaches and an ability to empathise with, listen to, and respond to different perspectives

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Research essay plan



Research essay



Group poster and individual reflection



Reflective essay 40%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written (and optional oral) feedback on short essay


Written (and optional oral) feedback on summative assignments


Oral feedback on contributions to class discussions from peers and teaching staff



Recommended reading

  • Bod, Rens, A New History of the Humanities: The Search for Principles and Patterns from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford: OUP, 2013)
  • Bod, Rens, Julia Kursell, Jaap Maat, and Thijs Weststeijn, ‘A New Field: History of Humanities’, History of Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 1-8
  • DiYanni, Robert and Anton Borst (eds.), Critical Reading Across the Curriculum, Vol. 1: The Humanities (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2017)
  • Frodeman, Robert (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Oxford: OUP, 2010)
  • Klein, Julie Thompson, Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity: The Changing American Academy (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005)
  • Roche, Mark William, Why Choose the Liberal Arts? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010)
  • Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures (Cambridge: CUP, 1998[1959])


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Scott Midson Unit coordinator

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