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BAModern and Contemporary History

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Studying Modern and Contemporary History is exciting and rewarding. It will help to satisfy your curiosity about our recent past and allow you to acquire an in-depth understanding of the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As well as an in-depth knowledge, Modern and Contemporary History students also develop essential skills of analysis, argument and communication – all highly valued in today’s competitive employment market.

Our internationally renowned academics are developing the very latest thinking on historical problems; this cutting edge knowledge informs the curriculum and will enhance your learning experience. By studying at one of the largest and most influential departments in the country, you will have access to a range of course options. This degree allows you to study a range of issues in modern and contemporary history and through our courses you will learn how to analyse these issues in different ways – from the biographical, looking at Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela; the national, by studying, for instance, modern British or American history; and the thematic, with options such as the history of global terrorism, and modern political thought. You will also study leadership and government and the broader social and cultural contexts, to form a holistic view of modern history.

You will receive individual attention and learn in small teaching groups, whilst having access to some of the richest facilities for historical research anywhere in the world; in addition to the College’s substantial library collections, there are the National Archives, British Library and other libraries of the University of London.

Programme structure

Year 1

History and Meanings
This module examines the development of historical writing and debates around the meaning of history. Overall, the framework is chronological, taking you on a journey from Herodotus and other historians of the ancient world, through to the development of history as a professional discipline in the nineteenth century, and finally on to more recent debates about ‘postmodernism’. Both western and non-western history-writing traditions are discussed for comparative purposes. On the way, in both lectures and in small tutorial groups, you will need to think about the nature of historical ‘truth’ and objectivity, and will be asked to reflect upon your own status and practice as historians.

Public History
History has never been so popular. This course explores the development in recent years of ‘public history’, or the ways in which the past is used and written about by academic and popular historians, the heritage industry, journalists, the state, and the wider public. The module examines the nature of ‘public history’ through a series of case-studies, including topics such as how history is presented on the television and in film; history in museums and heritage sites; community and oral history; the memory of the Holocaust; debates in European societies about ‘making amends’ for slavery and the colonial past; and the uses of history in contemporary South Asia. You will be given the opportunity to make your own contribution to the field through your own ‘public history’ project.

Doing History 1
Where and how do historians ‘do’ history? In dusty and damp archives, for sure, but in reality, history is everywhere, in everything, in the very fabric of our everyday lives. There is nothing in human culture that does not have a history. One of the roles of the historian is to take not just documents but also artefacts, landscapes and the remnants of private lives (clothes, diaries, bones) and make these ‘talk’ to later generations. Using lectures and seminars, these courses aims to give you an insight into the practices and processes by which ‘sources’ are turned into ‘history’. You will be introduced to a range of primary source material – written, material, oral, and visual – and encouraged to reflect upon its potential for historical study by examining how historians today use and think about evidence.

Doing History 2
Building on Doing History 1, you’ll further develop your skills at reading and extracting the historical arguments from social, cultural, political, diplomatic, military, feminist, Marxist, revisionist, local and economic perspectives. By the end of this module you’ll be confident in using apt and appropriate evidence, such as citations from diaries, examples of trial records, statistics of consumption or wage earning, to support the arguments you make when writing essays and your dissertation.

British and Social Economic History, 1914 to 1945
This module aims to draw out the particular features which made the economic and social history of Britain in the three decades between the beginning for the First World War and the end of the Second, and to study them in depth while incorporating basic economic statistics as a tool for analysis. Your focus will primarily be on the years of turmoil during the 1920s and 1930s, and will deal with the social impact of economic change as much as the economy itself.

British and Social Economic History, 1945 to 1997
This module focusses on the basic economics necessary for you to understand the nature and workings of economies at the national level. This will be done through consideration of some of the recurring themes in modern Economic History – individuals’ welfare and the State, growth, labour supply, overseas trade and national accounting. These topics will be considered using examples drawn from British History between 1945 and 1997.

Year 2

Independent Essay
This module allows yous to undertake a small research project of your own. You will sign up for one of approximately twenty-five advertised thematic ‘workshops’ run by academics within the department, and through a series of seminars will explore key themes and debates that allow you to identify a project of your own choosing. The course also includes training in research and writing skills, and is excellent preparation for your final-year dissertation.

Research Skills
This module will ensure that you have a cogent, practicable and interesting research topic to write your independent essay, and that you are equipped with the appropriate skills and a timetable for undertaking and producing research and writing in a timely manner. You will be encouraged to consult with the module leader and your supervisors to develop your research topic.

Year 3

This module explores the key theories, debates and developments that have emerged within the writing and practice of History, in particular over the last 50 years, and which today collectively inform and invigorate its study. The course is delivered through a series of lectures that cover broad topics such as nationalist historiography; Marxist historiography; subaltern studies; the history of women and gender; the history of emotion; space and place in History. The lecture series is supported by seminar discussions that focus on the work of particular historians, allowing you to pursue your own interests. The module allows you to bring together the knowledge and skills that you have acquired over the three years of your undergraduate degree programme.

You will write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of your own choosing, with an academic supervisor who will provide regular consultation.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Career opportunities

A Modern and Contemporary History degree gained at Royal Holloway provides valuable training that allows entry to many professions, and the focus on modern history is particularly useful for careers such as government or civil service, where a knowledge of contemporary history and public policy is highly valued. The degree is well-regarded by employers because of the skills and qualities you will develop. It demonstrates that you enjoy being challenged, are able to understand complex issues and have a understanding other values and cultures, which equips you to operate successfully in a fast-changing and increasingly globalised and multi-cultural environment.

Apply now! Fall semester 2021/22
This intake is not applicable

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States

Apply now! Fall semester 2021/22
This intake is not applicable

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States