Historiography: Module Spotlight
Historiography I and Historiography II were core modules for us as Second Year History students this year. They were 15 CATS (credits) each, so we did I in Term 1 and II in Term 2. In this blog, I want to share my experience of the module(s) and give you an insight into Second Year History.
Historiography is the more theoretical side of History. It essentially means the study of the methods historians use to write their histories. We looked at historical methods from 1750 to 1990 in I, and 1990 to present in II. This meant that we could chart the evolution of historical study over time, and could better understand the changes and why they happened. We first looked at how History emerged as an academic discipline in the eighteenth century. We explored a different theory or method each week, and eventually reached History today. The module encompasses so many different themes and perspectives, which I think made it more accessible and interesting for everyone (to give a few examples: linguistic histories; feminist histories; histories of disability; emotions history; and postcolonial histories).
I found this all to be really interesting — I think often we take the methods we use as historians for granted (or maybe even neglect to think about them at all). Taking the time to think carefully and critically about historiography has provided me with a deeper understanding of my degree on a theoretical level, and I think that’s really valuable. Studying History is about so much more than learning a chronological catalogue of events, but forging narratives in accordance with historiographical methods. An understanding of historiography is a really key skill, and one that I think is essential to the historian’s toolkit.
I’ve already found it to be so applicable across my other modules. I’m really glad that we learned about it in Second Year because I have the opportunity to apply it to my work now and properly engage with that material.
It can be quite a challenging module. Being so theoretical and abstract at times, it was sometimes tricky to get my head around all the ideas and feel like I had fully understood them. Thankfully, seminars were a great opportunity to iron all those questions and uncertainties out. The tutor would often give a recap of the lecture and reading material, which I found to be very useful because another explanation would often help the content to click for me. We would then share our thoughts, opinions, and questions, and I could leave the seminar with a consolidated grasp of the topics.
Another big positive for me is that there are no exams for these modules. As they only last a term each, and are technically separate modules (despite the continuity of the content), they are each fully completed within a term. That meant that the majority of our grade is based on coursework essays, and a small proportion to seminar participation and smaller tasks. This suited me very well as I much prefer coursework to exams, but of course will vary from one person to the next.
I really enjoyed the module, and would recommend it to all History students even if it is not compulsory for you. I think the module has given me a crucial set of skills for my degree and beyond, and it’s shifted the way I think about History in a really meaningful and interesting way.