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Preparing for History

Here you'll find recommendations from some of our lecturers to help you get ready for your next steps in becoming an undergraduate historian. 

Lecturer recommendations

Dr Eleri Cousins, Lecturer in Roman History

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, very far from the Roman empire! But I had an early fascination with the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, and from there an obsession with Roman archaeology and history. My research focuses on using archaeology to understand how people lived in the western half of the Roman empire, including Roman Britain. I work especially on using religion as a lens for society: how did the inhabitants of the Roman empire use gods and religious rituals to understand their world and their place within it?

On the Edge of Empire: Being Roman in Britain

What does it mean to be Roman on the edge of the Roman Empire? How can we write the history of people who have left very little written trace of themselves? These are questions that I wrestle with in my research, and they are also central to my module 'On the Edge of Empire: Being Roman in Britain'. Our data for Roman Britain are mostly archaeological, and in the module we use evidence ranging from pottery and coins to stone inscriptions and archaeological excavations to explore the lives of the everyday people of Roman Britain, whose voices have largely not come down to us in written sources. What was it like to be a peasant in the Romano-British countryside? Where did women and children live in the military forts of Hadrian’s Wall?

A great online resource for Roman Britain is the Roman Inscriptions of Britain website. You can use it to explore the texts that we do have from Roman Britain, for example the amazing wooden writing tablets from Vindolanda (which include letters written by women married to Roman army officers), or stone altars recording dedications people made to the gods.

Another resource to explore is the website of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records artefacts (from all time periods) found by members of the public. Here are two of my favourite objects recorded through the PAS: the Steane Head and the Staffordshire Moorlands Pan. The website also gives guidance on what to do if you find an artefact yourself!

Other modules I teach include:

  • HIST 119: 49 BC: 'The Die is Cast': Julius Caesar and the End of the Roman Republic
  • HIST211: The Roman Empire: Society and Culture in the Mediterranean and Beyond
  • HIST314: 'A World full of Gods': Lived Religion in the Roman Empire
Dr Eleri Cousins

Dr Jenni Hyde, Lecturer in Early Modern History

I'm one of the Department’s Tudor specialists. The early modern period saw some major upheavals affect the British Isles. The Tudors had the Reformation. The Stuart period saw civil wars and revolution. I’m really interested in how these serious issues affected the ordinary people who lived through them. I look at the big debates of Tudor and Stuart society through the lens of popular culture, and in particular, ballads – the pop songs of their day. I think it’s a really interesting way to combine top-down and bottom-up research as a way into understanding what people felt about politics.

1517: Reformation

'1517: Reformation' is one of the modules I often teach our first-year undergraduates. In the module we examine how Martin Luther challenged the authority and traditions of the Roman Catholic church with his 95 theses. Did one German friar change the course of European history? Or were his actions symptomatic of much wider grassroots concerns about corruption in the church? We explore the religious debates in sixteenth-century Europe, and challenge ‘great man’ theories of history. What I like about this module is that we do lots of hands-on analysis of primary sources, including ballads and satirical images that were used to spread the Reformation among people who couldn’t read. If you’re interested to find out more about these subjects, you might want to read:

  • Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe’s House Divided, 1490–1700 (London: Penguin, 2004)
  • Richard Rex, The Making of Martin Luther (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2017)
  • Lyndal Roper, Living I Was Your Plague: Martin Luther’s World and Legacy (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2021)

You might also enjoy looking at some of the primary sources that are available on the National Archives' Reformation webpage, as well as at the digitised copies of early modern ballads that are available via the English Broadside Ballad Archive and Broadside Ballads Online.

Other modules I teach include:

  • HIST235: Making Modern Britain, c.1660–1720
  • HIST254: Crisis and Continuity: Politics, Religion and Society in Tudor England
  • HIST340: Fake News or Fact? Ballads and News Culture in Early Modern Britain
Dr Jenni Hyde

Dr Michael Brown, Lecturer in Modern British History

I am a specialist in the social and cultural history of medicine, gender, the body, and war. My most recent book, Emotions and Surgery in Britain, 1793–1912 explores the vital, if changing, role that emotion played in British surgery from the days when operations were conducted without pain relief to the modern era of clean and technoscientific surgery. I am currently developing two research projects, the first of which considers the embodied and emotional history of the hand in Victorian Britain, while the second explores the material and emotional history of popular militarism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

'War Machine': A Social and Cultural History of the First World War

The modules I teach reflect my interest in the cultural history of war. One of the modules I often teach for first-year undergraduates is '"War Machine": A Social and Cultural History of the First World War'. This module is closely related to my active research interests. I am particularly interested in the relationship between war, bodies, and masculinity, and I have published an article on the imagined relationships between masculinities and military technologies such as the machine gun in the decades immediately preceding the war. In this article I argue that the peculiar prominence of the bayonet in British tactical thinking on the Western Front can be attributed in large part to longstanding anxieties about embodied military masculinities. The module as a whole explores the global history of the First World War from a social and cultural perspective. Thus, while it deals with classic debates, such as the causes of the war and its social and political legacies, it also seeks to understand the impact of the war on gender identities, spiritual and religious beliefs, and artistic expression.

If you are interested in finding out more about these topics, you might want to check out the following books:

  • Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (London: Reaktion, 1996)
  • Michael Roper, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009)
  • Nicoletta Gullace, The Blood of our Sons: Men, Women, and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship During the Great War (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002)

You'll also find some fantastic materials for studying the history of the First World War, including digitised primary sources and insights from historians, on the British Library's website.

Other modules I teach include:

  • HIST348: Gender Identities in the People's War: Experiences, Representations and Memories.
Dr Michael Brown

Dr Selina Patel Nascimento, Lecturer in the History of the Global South

I am a Lecturer in the History of the Global South and an expert on concubinage and concubines in the Iberian Atlantic World. My research and teaching interests connect slavery, gender, sexual relations, and migratory practices. My current research unearths how enslaved and freed Afro-Brazilian women experienced maritime voyages beyond the Middle Passage, as they travelled to Europe, Africa or Asia from Brazil.

'A World Full of Concubines: Sex, Slavery, and Empire in Global Perspective'

My module 'A World Full of Concubines' builds on my research interests by thinking through the various domestic sex/labour arrangements labelled as ‘concubinage’ and how they developed under different empires. On this module, my students consider how sex and slavery were integral to building and consolidating imperial rule. While European overseas expansion and the rise of transatlantic slavery dominate early modern narratives of empire and slavery, this module broadens our perspectives to consider their different concurrent iterations in other parts of the world. We compare the legal, religious, social, labour, and familial implications that concubinage had for women, and we rethink some of the roots of colonial legacies that are hotly debated today, particularly in the context of contemporary social, racial, and sexual inequalities. Taking a global history approach, this module brings together concubinary practices in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1636–1912) dynasties of China, the Ottoman Empire (ca.1300–1922), the Mughal Empire (1526–1857), the Sokoto Caliphate of West Africa (1804–1903) and the Portuguese Empire (1415–1999).

To find out more, why not start with one of these books?

  • Kecia Ali, Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010)
  • Jung Chang, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (London: Random House, 2013)
  • Heidi J. Nast, Concubines and Power Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palace (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005)

Other modules I teach include:

  • HIST105: Histories of Violence: How Imperialism made the Modern World
  • HIST112: Decolonising History
Dr Selina Patel Nascimento

Other resources

There are many other resources to which you might turn.

BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time archive is full of riveting, expert discussions on historical topics, including episodes featuring our very own Dr Sophie Ambler on the Second Barons' War and Professor Sarah Barber on 'Religious Toleration'.

You might also enjoy History Extra's 'Everything you ever wanted to know...' podcast series, including an episode about Prohibition featuring our very own Dr Timothy Hickman.

You might also check out the Historical Association’s 'Transition to university' or consult general studies such as Sarah Maza, Thinking about History (Chicago: Chicago UP, 2017).

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