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History Skills I

First Year Module

Module Leader: Dr Harvey Osborne

This module will introduce students to the skills and methods necessary for succesful historical research, analysis and writing at BA level. In addition to assisting students in acquiring and reflecting upon the generic study skills required to succeed in Higher Education, it will also introduce the analytical, technical and linguistic tools necessary for the creation of historical knowledge.There will be particular emphasis on: the skills required to write history; primary and secondary source analysis; and research strategies.

The content can be divided into two main sections. The first relates to an understanding of the nature of history and its role in contemporary society, key to that will be the consideration of what historians do and how they do it. This section of the module will consider approaches to historical sources, problems with their interpretation and the nature of historiography. It will also discuss why and how concepts are used by historians. In addition, we will consider the tension between different understandings of history and the questions generated, for example, does a Tudor Day at Kentwell Hall have as much value as a research trip to read the sixteenth century court papers at the National Archive?

The second section will train students in more practical skills, including those required to write history, conduct source analysis and undertake research. There will be a series of exercises relating to: writing, including summarising, paraphrasing, using quotations, style and presentation, referencing; textual analysis, including techniques to differentiate argument from evidence, note-taking, practices to avoid plagiarism; and those relating to research, including the compilation of bibliographies and the use of the internet. Through the analysis of texts and the consideration of technique, the module aims to make students aware of the relationship between the creation of historical knowledge and precise, structured writing. History is about analysis, but it is also about the ability to construct an engaging narrative: the best historians tell great stories.

Learning and Teaching Strategies:

This module will be delivered through weekly lectures, seminars and workshop sessions.The first session of each week will focus on issues relating to the nature of history, historical sources and concepts. The second session willgenerallywork with similar materials but will be focused on practical skills. In each session, students will collaboratively engage in a series of textual commentaries and/or short exercises and present their conclusions. Peer feedback will form an important part of the learning process.


Recommended introductory reading:

M.Abbott, History Skills: A Student Handbook, 2nd Edition, (London, 2009)

L.Jordanova, History in Practice, (London, 2000)

J.Tosh The Pursuit of History, 5th Edition (London, 2009)

J.Arnold, History - A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford, 2000)

S.Cottrell, The Study Skills Handbook, 5th Edition, (London, 2019)

N.B. A full reading list is included in a module handbook which will be provided in the first week of teaching.