Teaching and Learning Programme

The teaching and learning methods used in the Creating Histories courses are designed to enable you to attain the outcomes described above. These courses are based on the use of set texts which illustrate different theories or approaches to the problem of what happened to the Roman Empire between c.250 and 550.

Set Texts

Each text has been selected to illustrate a way of approaching the fall of Rome and a way of approaching history in general. You should familiarise yourself with the set texts assigned for the course, by following the programme of reading specified in the Seminar Outlines. The set texts can be downloaded in pdf format by using the links found in these outlines. Your fees for the present course include a payment for the use of these texts which will be collected by the Copyright Licensing Agency. The set texts will be discussed in both the lectures and the seminars.


There will be a weekly lecture throughout the Lent Term, but none in the Summer Term. Lectures will take place on Thursdays at 3.00pm in the Elizabeth Livingstone Lecture Theatre (Bowland North). You are strongly advised to attend lectures. Beginning with an overview of events, the lectures will discuss the major theories as to what happened to the Rome Empire between AD 300 and 600. They will provide suggestions as to the forces driving the development of these theories, contextual guidance and information will help you to make sense of the set texts. The theories will be considered in the historical order in which they emerged, beginning with those that were devised in the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries. The Lecture Schedule is as follows:

Date Lecture Topics
15 January Introduction: The Problem of the ‘Fall of Rome’
22 January Edward Gibbon and the Fall of Rome
29 January Professionalisation and Scientific History: From Edward Gibbon to J. B. Bury
05 February Liberalism and the Roman Economy, c.1910–1939: M. I. Rostovtzeff and Henri Pirenne
12 February Marxism and Conservatism, 1945–1975: Moses Finley, Michael Grant and Ramsey MacMullen
19 February Rethinking the Barbarians: From Walter Goffart to Walter Pohl
26 February Religious Revisionism: Peter Brown and the Invention of ‘Late Antiquity’
05 March The 1980s: New Histories of Women, Sexuality and the Other
12 March The 1990s: Post-Modernism and the Religious History of Rome
19 March The Noughties: Secularist Scepticism and the Return of the ‘Fall of Rome’


This course is taught by weekly seminars lasting fifty minutes during which you will be expected to contribute your own views of the set texts and of the theories they present. You will need to consider the context in which each text was written – its authorship, date of publication, political or cultural circumstances at the time of writing, nationality, gender and background of the author, what kind of publication the text consists of or forms part of, its purpose and intended audience. In this way you will be able to establish a basis for accurate comparison of the texts, and thus to assess the position of each text within the historical literature on the Fall of Rome.

Most seminars will take the form of small-group discussion of the set texts designed to develop your oral and team working skills. This means that you will need to demonstrate that you have engaged with the material and that you are able to express your thoughts in discussion with your peers. It means speaking up when the opportunity arises to do so, listening to what others have to say, and being prepared to learn from their insights and ideas. Seminars are intended to provide you with opportunities to ask pertinent questions, to express opinions, to present arguments, and to show that you have understood the issues raised by the course. Your seminar performance will affect the final mark you receive for the course. All seminars will take place in Furness College B62. The topics to be covered are outlined in the Seminars Section of the present website.

Time Management, Worksheets and Seminar Preparation

University guidelines regard the student’s working week as comprising about 40 hours. This course comprises half your work in History, but your total work for Lent Term. You should spend about one-third of your time on this course in Lent Term – that is, around 13 to 14 hours a week. Some of that time will be taken up with seminars and lectures, but the rest of it is meant to be taken up with reading, with preparation for seminars and with the production of assignments. It is especially important that you develop a personal strategy in order to keep up. In order to help you to structure your time, to feel confident you that are well-prepared for seminar discussion and to acquire the skills that will support your studies whether in history or elsewhere, most of your Part One history seminars are supported by the preparation of seminar worksheets. The worksheet questions for Hist119 are set out along with the seminar topics below. The questions have been devised so as to channel you towards a solid understanding of the topic itself: it is seldom possible to cover every aspect of a given topic in a seminar session, but you should still attempt as many of the questions as you can manage.

As you are new to studying history at this level, we want you to have the opportunity to acquire the prerequisite knowledge and skills before these are assessed with your two assignments and through your seminar performance grade. The contents of the worksheets will therefore not be graded, offering you the opportunity to practice the skills upon which you will subsequently be graded without you having to fear making mistakes at this stage in your university career.

However, poor seminar preparation affects not only your experience of the course, but also that of your peers. Your tutor will therefore be monitoring your worksheet preparation and an egregious failure to complete the expected worksheets (other than in cases where an individual exercise has been excused) will affect your final grade for this course. If, by the end of the taught seminars, your ‘portfolio’ of worksheets is deemed egregiously inadequate, up to ten marks will be deducted from your final grade for this course. Since the average grade for coursework is typically around 56-60% in most years, such a deduction may well prevent you attaining the grade required for progression to Part Two in History (i.e. an average of 45% for your part one history courses). Seminars are, of course, compulsory, but should you miss a seminar you must still submit the worksheet for that session. It should be handed in as soon as is convenient, ideally at the following week's seminar.


Two essays are required for this course, a short essay and a long essay. Writing essays is a key part of the learning process in history: it is through the exercise of having to research a topic, to devise an original answer to a question, and of having to re-organise your material to support that answer that one comes to a deeper grasp of the issues it raises. Essay-writing has long been the method of choice for assessment in history, the reason being that no other method provides as effective a means of testing a student’s comprehension of a topic. We want you to show us that not only have you acquired a knowledge of the topic but also that you understand the topic and the issues raised by it. Essays test understanding by asking you to select and re-organise relevant material in order to produce your own answer to the set question. In the process of selecting and gathering information, furthermore, your ability to read and analyse will be sharpened. You should treat the two essays you will be asked to write for this course as precious learning opportunities not to be squandered.

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