Pasts and Presents: British Historical Culture, c. 1600-1900 (HIC3001)

StaffDr Martha Vandrei - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This course aims to be a thoroughly interdisciplinary exploration of the history of history and historical culture, touching on aspects of cultural and intellectual history, literature (including novels, drama, and poetry), art, architecture, and the built environment. It aims to provide an immersive introduction to the cultural/intellectual history of Britain in the period c. 1600-1900,

and to contemporary debates around historical and moral truth, fictionalization, and the formation of “spheres of knowledge”. It also aims to provide students with a firm foundation in the theoretical literature around the philosophy of history and the history of ideas in Britain. Throughout, students will have the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of source material and approaches, and to engage with a range of theoretical approaches and concepts, both in seminars and in their own independent study. As an interdisciplinary module, students will also be encouraged to reflect on their own disciplinary practice and to consider how these practices developed during the period under discussion.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the various ways in which people in Britain related to the past, 1600-1900, and of the intellectual and cultural contexts of historical production in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to critically engage with relevant scholarship in the history of history, the history of ideas, philosophy of history, etc.
  • 3. Demonstrate willingness and ability to identify and engage with conceptual and philosophical problems inherent in historical production across time.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Formulate appropriate questions relating to a body of source material and utilize that material to answer those questions
  • 5. With minimum guidance, develop and sustain historical arguments in a variety of literary forms, using appropriate terminology
  • 6. Display a command of comparative perspectives
  • 7. Analyse at a close and sophisticated level original sources and assess their reliability as historical evidence
  • 8. Evaluate critically the reasoning of discourses current in the period under study

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Combine independent, autonomous study with the ability to work collaboratively
  • 10. Set tasks independently and solve problems, formulating appropriate questions and marshalling relevant evidence to answer them
  • 11. With minimum guidance, digest, select and synthesise evidence and arguments to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument

Syllabus plan

The lectures will provide a spine of ideas and information. These will form a basis upon which students can build their own interpretations and explore concepts and issues further in the seminars. The seminar work will comprise (1) discussions of particular topics and sources relating to the subject matter of the module and (2) group presentations on particular topics,

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Seminars
Guided independent study267Privat study and preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source commentaryUp to 1500 words1-8Written and verbal feedback
Draft essayUp to 3000 words1-8, 10-11Written and verbal feedback
Group presentation20 minutes1-11Verbal feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1251500 words1-8, 10-11Written and verbal feedback
Essay 2251500 words1-8, 10-11Written and verbal feedback
Essay 3503000 words1-8, 10-11Written and verbal feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (1500w)Essay 1 (1500w)1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period
Essay 2 (1500w)Essay 2 (1500w)1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period
Essay 3 (3000w)Essay 3 (3000w)1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

R.G. Collingwood, The idea of history (1946 and subsequent editions)


J.C.D. Clark, English society, 1688-1832: ideology, social structure and political practice during the Ancien Regime (1985)


F. O’Gorman, The long eighteenth century: British political and social history, 1688-1832 (1997)


B. Hilton, Mad, bad ,dangerous people?: England 1783-1846 (2006)


R. Porter, Enlightenment Britain and the creation of the modern world (2000)


S. Collini, R. Whatmore, B Young (eds.), History, religion, and culture: British intellectual history, 1750-1950 (2000)


J.W. Burrow, The Crisis of Reason: European thought, 1848-1914 (2002)


C. Kidd, Subverting Scotland’s Past: Scottish Whig historians and the creation of British identity (1993)


J. Burrow, A history of histories (2007) [for a very general (entertaining) introduction; not much on Britain specifically]


T. Blanning, The romantic revolution: a history (2011)


D.R. Kelley, Faces of history: historical inquiry from Herodotus to Herder (1998)


A. Grafton, What was history?: The art of history in early modern Europe (2007)


T.D. Kendrick, British antiquity (1950)


D.R. Woolf, The social circulation of the past: English historical culture 1500-1730 (2003)


D.R. Woolf, The idea of history in early Stuart England (1990)


C. Kidd, British identities before nationalism (1999)


H.T. Roper, Enlightenment and history (2010)


M. Phillips, On Historical Distance (2013)


M. Phillips, Society and sentiment: genres of historical writing, 1740-1820 (2000)


D. Looser, British women writers and the writing of history, 1670-1820 (2000)


K. O’Brien, Women and Enlightenment in eighteenth-century Britain (2009)


R. Sweet, Antiquaries: the discovery of the past in eighteenth-century Britain (2004)


S. Smiles, The image of antiquity: ancient Britain and the Romantic imagination (1994)


D. Forbes, The liberal Anglican idea of history (1952)


J. Burrow, A liberal descent: Victorian historians and the English past (1981)


C. Delheim, Face of the past: the preservation of the medieval inheritance in Victorian England (1982)


C.A. Simmons, Reversing the conquest: history and myth in nineteenth-century British literature (1990)


R. Ashton, The German idea: four English writers and the reception of German thought, 1800-1860 (1980)


A.D. Culler, The Victorian mirror of history (1985)


I. Hesketh, The science of history in Victorian Britain (2011)


A. Swenson, The rise of heritage: preserving the past in France, Germany and England, 1789-1914 (2013)


A., Rigney, Imperfect histories:  the elusive past and the legacy of romantic historicism (2001)


R. Strong, And when did you last see your father?: The Victorian painter and British history (1978)


B. Melman, The culture of history: English uses of the past, 1800-1953 (2006)


P. Mandler, History and national life (2002)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

Britain, seventeenth century, eighteenth century, nineteenth century, historiography, history of ideas, literature, identities