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Exploring the Past: History

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What is History?

This course will seek to answer this question through a stimulating series of case studies on nation and identity in the British Isles, from the Middle Ages to the present

Where do our national identities come from? Why do we feel Welsh or Scottish or Irish or English?

We will explore issues like national myths, ethnicity and ideas about heritage, whilst also examining some big themes such as what history is and how it is used by different societies.

In so doing, you will gain a set of skills that will enable you to get the most from your study of the past, including source analysis, strategies for research, information literacy and assignment-writing.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through nine in-person sessions.

These sessions will consist of lectures and class discussions and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable you to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  • Introduction: who do you think you are?
  • Who are the Celts? Celts and Concepts of Celticness
  • Gerald the Welshman? Gerald of Wales and Welsh History Writing
  • Communities on the Edge: Borders and Mapping Identity
  • The Anglicisation of Britain?
  • The Politics of Heritage. 1. Scotland and the Wallace Monument
  • The Politics of Heritage. 2. Ireland and Irish Built Heritage
  • Self, Other and National Identities
  • Conclusion: National Identities

Coursework and assessment

This course has three short pieces of assessed work which together should add up to around 1500 words. These pieces of work have been designed to help you in developing the skills and approaches that you need to study the past successfully.

The first of these will allow you to practice putting your ideas in words in an academic form. The second will help you to develop your skills of source analysis, whilst the third will give you the opportunity to write a short essay.

There will be lots of help and support available for all three assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • B. Anderson, Imagined Communities; Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, 4th edition (London, 2006)
  • R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950-1350 (London, 1994)
  • R.R. Davies, Conquest, Coexistence and Change: Wales 1063-1415, 3rd edition (Oxford, 1994)
  • P.J. Geary, The Myth of Nations; the Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton and Oxford, 2002)
  • E.J. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition, 2nd edition (Cambridge, 1992)
  • M. Pittock, Celtic Identity and the British Image (Manchester, 1999)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.