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Option Courses

Option Courses

Students are required to select two options, normally one in Michaelmas Term and one in Lent Term. All options are taught as two-hour weekly discussion seminars over eight weeks and attendance is compulsory.

For each option, students will be required to write a 3–4,000 words essay which will count towards 10% of the overall mark.

Please note that this list of options changes from year to year and options may not run depending on demand and staff availability.  

At the discretion of the MPhil Director and Course Convener, students may be able to take options from the Faculty's other MPhil courses in place of an option on their home MPhil, or they may be able to audit additional classes. 

Options for 2017-18

Approaches to the Long Eighteenth Century (Dr Renaud Morieux)

This Option is an advanced introduction to eighteenth-century history, primarily focusing on Britain and Europe. It aims to introduce students to the latest research topics, methods and debates in eighteenth-century history. The Option is designed for graduate students, primarily those writing dissertations on aspects of the long eighteenth century, but all students in the MPhil in Early Modern History and the MPhil in Modern European History are welcome to take the Option.

The Option takes advantage of the History Faculty’s exceptional and diverse strength in eighteenth-century history and involves the participation of a number of colleagues. It is organised primarily as a series of approaches to eighteenth- century history from the standpoint of different methodologies or sub-disciplines.

Unlike many MPhil Options, the design is (selectively) synoptic, seeking to provide or broaden students’ background. The Option will provide an opportunity to reflect on the relations – both compatibilities and incompatibilities – among different historical sub-disciplines and methodologies. It is expected that this diverse approach will help students place their own research in the appropriate contexts. The basic assumption of the option is that individual research is enhanced by a thorough and wide understanding of current historical research in the field. 

Becoming Victorian: transitions to ‘modernity’ in nineteenth-century Britain (Dr Ben Griffin)

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.
[Tennyson, Locksley Hall]

Britain in the nineteenth century was a society transformed by astonishing population growth, spectacular urbanisation, unprecedented migration of population and the development of mass print culture. At the same time, older political and religious structures were fundamentally recast in new moulds as Britain moved towards mass enfranchisement and religious equality. Simultaneously, the British struggled to manage the forces unleashed by growing global rivalries and interdependencies. At times the pace of change seemed overwhelming, and it demanded new institutions, new ways of living and new ways of thinking about the self. Historians of ‘modern’ Britain might understandably point to those changes as signs of ‘modernity’. And yet in the twentieth century ‘modernity’ came to be defined as a rejection of nineteenth-century responses to each of these developments. Twentieth-century observers associated ‘modernity’ with a turn against nineteenth-century politics, social policies, religion, literature, and architecture – all were all condemned as non-modern and were pejoratively labelled ‘Victorian’. So what do we mean when we speak of ‘modern’ Britain? Is ‘modernity’ a meaningful concept? This course examines a number of areas in which nineteenth-century Britons were conscious of breaking with the past as they remade their society, and thereby seeks to explore what it meant (and means) to be Victorian.

Sexuality and Gender (Dr Lucy Delap)

This MPhil option aims to introduce students to a range of methodological and critical approaches in the history of gender and sexuality, through examination of a series of case studies spanning roughly 1850-2000. Through seminar debates and examination of sources, students will explore how questions of gender and sexuality have been framed, approached and presented in recent scholarship. This option will provide a strong grounding in some emerging and innovative fields of historical inquiry, including queer history, parenting and childhood and histories of war. The two opening sessions will look at theoretical developments and ways of framing the history of sexuality and of feminism. A further five classes will explore different facets of the history of sexuality and gender, and a final class will allow students to present their assessed work ahead of submission.

Unpacking Sectarianism: class, nationalism, and religion in Ireland since 1891 (Prof. Eugenio Biagini)

This M.Phil. option explores a range of historiographical and critical approaches in Irish, through examination of a series of case studies spanning the ‘long’ twentieth century. In seminar debates and examination of sources, students will explore and unpack some of the most powerful factors in the making of our world, by focusing on a country which in many ways anticipated the development of forms of social and political behaviour which dominate the world at the beginning of the twenty-fist century. The two opening sessions will examine the historiographical debates and the development of alternative traditions (‘revisionisms’ and ‘counter-revisionisms’). A further five classes will explore different facets of the history of the Irish people at home and abroad, with the last two focusing on concepts which had long been neglected – because incompatible with the predominant unionist and nationalist grand narratives – such as class and gender. A final class will allow students to present their assessed work ahead of submission.