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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 2018-19

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

Britain in the nineteenth century was a society transformed by astonishing population growth, spectacular urbanisation, unprecedented migration and the development of mass print culture. At the same time, older political, intellectual 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 new 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 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.


Social Knowledges and Social Authority in Twentieth-Century Britain (Dr Sam James)

This MPhil option will focus on the intersection of, and interaction between, ways of knowing about human beings and society in twentieth-century Britain and patterns of social hierarchy and authority from the late nineteenth century to the present. The course will address general questions about the practice of intellectual history, as well as about the relationship between the history of ideas and the wider social, cultural, and political history of modern Britain. The relationship between intellectual expertise and other kinds of authority – political, cultural, familial, and so on – will be a central concern.

All seminars except the last will be based on the discussion of assigned readings. The first two classes will consider some general frameworks for thinking about social stratification and authority in modern British history, and for approaching intellectual history. The main body of the course – five seminars – will then consider a series of case studies in the history of social thought and social knowledge in modern Britain. In the final class, participants will present their work for the assessed essay to the rest of the group.


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.


This information is provided for illustrative purposes only.