Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
History from Below: Approaches to the Study of Social History
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials Introduction and 6 x 2 hour seminars plus individual essay tutorial


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment TWO ASSESSED ESSAYS OF 3,500 WORDS.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to.
Identify and critically analyse historical texts that exemplify varying approaches to the writing of `history from below'.

Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant historiography, its evolution and the key problems currently addressed by historians in this field.

Discuss the interpretative problems and prospects associated with this topic.

Illustrate, analyse and evaluate the relevant historiography in an extended written discussion.

Brief description

The term `history from below' has been used to categorise a variety of writing on social history since the 1960s. It denotes a shift in viewpoint, from writing history from the perspective of political elites, using the documentary record that they left behind, to writing history from the perspective of social groups who had previously been largely hidden from history, including industrial workers, peasants, racial and ethnic minorities and the urban poor. This module examines the assumptions and methodologies of practitioners of this form of history, noting the varying political assumptions that they have brought to it, the varying sources and methodologies that they have employed, and the influence of varying national traditions on the study of social history. It provides a case-study in the development of modern historiography which can form part of an MA in Historiography as well as a useful option module for other MA programmes.


This module introduces students to an important aspect of recent historiography and equips them to understand it through examining a number of key texts exemplifying different approaches to the study of social history.


Introductory seminar

1) `History from Below': the making of the English working class
2) Approaches to the study of the medieval peasantry
3) The slave community: a case study in `history from the bottom up'
4) Medical history from below: the patient's view
5) `Totalitarian' dictatorships: perspectives from below
6) Cat massacres and cock fights: the `cultural turn' in recent historiography

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Seminar discussion and essay-writing. The latter is formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Seminar and tutorial discussion; tutors' feedback.
Information Technology Locating source materials and surveying the historiography on the subject uses of various search tools. Essay-writing and presentation
Personal Development and Career planning Studying the module puts students in direct contact with librarians and archivists at the National Library and elsewhere in the course of researching the location of primary texts and the development of the historiography
Problem solving Students will be expected to identify and respond to historical problems and carry out appropriate research before the seminars and before writing essays. This will be assessed through essay writing.
Research skills Locating and assessing source materials. Assessed through the essays.
Subject Specific Skills Develop a knowledge of, and familiarity with, a range of different sources.
Team work Seminar work


This module is at CQFW Level 7