Approaches to Cultural and Social History

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
22 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA V10012 History,
MA V100MO History,
MHISV199 History,
MHISZV98 History,
MHISZV99 History

Module description

This module focuses on the theoretical and methodological implications of the 'cultural turn'. It introduces students to key concepts in the field, exploring debates about the meanings of such terms as 'subjectivity', 'identities', and 'discourse'. The latter part of the course pursues the possibilities opened by cultural approaches, as reflected in new and emerging debates and themes such as childhood, public and private, sex, the psyche, and memory.

Throughout we will be asking questions such as: what makes cultural history distinctive? What are its sources? How does an emphasis on representation change or challenge accepted notions of the relationship between language and experience, evidence and interpretation, the economic and the cultural?

Module aims

This module explores some of the developments that have influenced the writing of social and cultural history over recent decades. Although the confidence that social history displayed during the 1960s to the 1980s has been challenged of late, new theoretical perspectives and new questions and sources are redirecting the subject productively, not least into a closer relationship with cultural history.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you should have come to understand some of the developments that have influenced the writing of social and cultural history over recent decades.

Module information

You will want to do some introductory reading, to orientate yourself and make sure you are acquainted with the background to the themes of this module. Your best starting point are the two books cited below of which Peter Burke is sole author, but all those listed will provide useful background and are books you may want to return to over the course of the term.

Peter Burke History and Social Theory, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2005)
Peter Burke What is Cultural History?, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2008)
Peter Burke ed. New Perspectives in Historical Writing, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2001)
Anna Green & Kathleen Troup, eds The Houses of History: a Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1999)
Ulinka Rublack ed., A Concise Companion to History (Oxford, 2011 [reprinted with corrections 2012)]
Quentin Skinner ed. Return of Grand Theory in the Human Sciences (Cambridge: CUP, 1985)

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2 hour seminar per week


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Xun Zhou, email:
Dr Xun Zhou
Senior Student Administrator, Department of History, Telephone: 01206 872190



External examiner

Dr Paul Corthorn
Queen's University Belfast
Senior Lecturer in Modern British History
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.