Our BA History and Philosophy gives you the opportunity to study two subjects that will help you to make sense of the world around you.
Through our diverse and inclusive History curriculum you will learn about an array of cultures and identities. What links our work is our focus on people’s history and everyday lives. This is represented strongly in our first year programme, which will give you an insight into the making of the modern world through exploration of beliefs, magic and medicine, campaigns for freedom and equality, Africa and the world, and America from Hamilton to Trump.
In your philosophy modules, you will be introduced to a variety of philosophical issues ranging from the nature of reality, knowledge and mind, to questions about how we should live, what we should value, and what would be the best way of organizing society.
Throughout your degree, the common link between the two disciplines will be the development of analytical skills. As historians you will learn to analyse historical documents and debates among historians, while in Philosophy you’ll assess the arguments of others, arriving at your own conclusions on deep, important issues.
These analytical skills, honed over the course of your studies, will benefit you in the final year, if you choose to write a dissertation. This extended piece of work, available either in History or in Philosophy, will grow out of a topic that interests you. Previous students have been inspired by their year of study abroad. Others have worked on the history of jiu jitsu, women code breakers at Bletchley Park, the Notting Hill riots, and vice and sexuality in 17th-century London. And Philosophy students have worked on the ethical issues of playing video games, the nature of the imagination, and environmental philosophy and the obligations of the state.
An exceptional History team, conducting world-leading research (REF 2014), and a Philosophy team ranked in the 100 best Philosophy departments worldwide (2017 QS rankings).
Stimulating, innovative courses - History students reported almost 94% overall satisfaction with their course (2018 National Student Survey)
A flexible programme of study, allowing you to concentrate on areas you find especially interesting and the scope to write a dissertation on a topic about which you are passionate
The opportunity to expand your horizons by studying abroad at the end of your second year
CV-building potential through work placements and extra-curricular activities
Our students benefit from being part of a diverse and active academic community. Our interactive seminars and workshops help you find your feet in the academic environment, and establish ways of working confidently, creatively and collaboratively. We see our students as fellow researchers, and we place a great deal of importance on sharing and developing skills.
As one of our students, you will have the opportunity to get involved in activities that will complement your studies. Not only do these enhance your experience, they also make for a more impressive CV. Our renowned staff-student Oral History team has taken students to Australia and produced a BBC Radio 4 documentary, which was commended at the 2018 Royal Historical Society Public History Awards. There is also an active student Philosophy Society.
Taking a year’s study abroad is an excellent opportunity to broaden your understanding of the world. Living in another country opens up fresh perspectives and helps create global citizens. For our students, immersing themselves in a host country enhances your learning, giving you a greater appreciation of other cultures and societies, and a deeper understanding of their everyday lives.
Reason and Persuasion - 15 Credits
We live in a world of persuasion. Advertisers would persuade us to buy their products while politicians press their policies on us. In personal life too, others want us to see things their way. We, of course, want others (colleagues, friends and family) to agree with us, to be persuaded by our arguments. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speech and writing. It has been studied both for academic interest and for its practical, business and legal usefulness since ancient times. This module will explore the reasons why some persuasive efforts work while others do not. It will develop your ability to judge when you ought to be persuaded by the arguments of others and to present your own views in a way that increases their persuasive force.
Belief and Disbelief: Faith, Magic and Medicine, 1500 - 1800 - 15 Credits
Many of the debates that define the making of our modern era were concerned with the relationships between religion, science, magic, and medicine. This module begins by exploring the early modern ideas and practices that shaped people’s understanding of the natural and supernatural world in Protestant England and Catholic Europe, and also how these influenced European colonial views of the religions and rituals of other cultures. The module will question how events like the witch trials affected peoples' medical, magical, and theological ‘world view’, and challenge students to consider the extent to which the Reformation and Enlightenment transformed health, faith, and beliefs in everyday life.
Social and Political Philosophy - 15 Credits
How should our society function and what implications does this have for the individual? How should goods (e.g. property, services, rights, liberties, power) be distributed in society? On what basis can some people claim ownership of property? What is exploitation and how might it be addressed? What is equality? On what basis can someone 'in authority' tell me what (or what not) to do? And if I don't do as they say, on what basis can I be punished for it? What is a legitimate way to protest against a state? What are rights? Do all humans have rights or are some to be excluded? What are our obligations to future generations, to non-human animals, and to the environment in general?
Mind, Knowledge and Reality - 15 Credits
Sometimes we misperceive the world. Sometimes, whilst asleep, we take ourselves to be doing things which we are not in fact doing. And, furthermore, there is no evidence we could bring to bear which would eliminate the possibility that an evil demon is continually deceiving us about how the world is. To what extent does all of this undermine our claims to know anything? What is the link between reality and the way we perceive it? Can we at least know that we have a mind, if not a body? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? What is the relationship between mind and body and being a person? What does it take the remain the same person over a lifetime? Indeed, how can anything undergo change and yet remain the same thing?
Ethics - 15 Credits
Can you be harmed by something without ever experiencing it as a harm? Is what we experience all that should matter to us? What should we value? What is an ethical dilemma and is there a good way to resolve them? Can you be held morally responsible for something which is to some extent not within your control? To what extent should you be held morally responsible for anything? Could you eschew morality altogether? Do you ever act altruistically? What are we even doing when we make ethical judgements?
The Fight for Rights: Freedom and Oppression, 1790s-1990s - 15 Credits
This module takes you through 200 years of national and global conflicts over people’s rights, and the complex history of the recognition of human rights. Taking a ‘history from below’ approach, this module will give you critical thinking skills in understanding how global change affects individuals and different communities, and how different social movements fought for rights, including women, sexuality, race and disability. You will investigate the impact of revolutions and new ideas in inspiring different groups across the world to challenge and defend their social, political and economic rights.
Historians' Toolkit - 15 Credits
This module provides you with the 'toolkit' of the historical profession. It supports the transition from secondary education, and those returning to education, by teaching you the history skills needed at university, in a hands-on and relevant way. You will learn about the historical development of the discipline, explore the ways historians interpret a wide range of sources, and develop your essay writing skills.
Africa and the World, 1450-1850 - 15 Credits
The history of Africa is rich and varied but has all too often been viewed through European lenses of prejudice and self-interest; such perspectives shaped by the experiences of Africa’s slave trades and of colonisation. This module explores the history of Africa and its peoples from early settlement to the mid-nineteenth century, and, taking an African perspective, how Africa and Africans encountered and engaged with the people, culture and religions of the wider world. The module will explore how contact with the nations and peoples of Europe, Asia and America forged new political institutions and global trade networks, changed religious practices and social conventions, and drew Africans – willingly and unwillingly – into a global diaspora.
Philosophy of Film and Literature - 15 Credits
The central theme of the module is to investigate what it is possible for film and literature to represent. How do we establish what is true in a fiction? Can the impossible happen in fiction? How, if at all, do we manage to engage with fictions that we take to be metaphysically or morally problematic (such as H.G.Wells' The Time Machine or Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita)? In what sense can film and literature explore not only how things actually are but how things could have been? Is there a difference between what can be represented in film and what can be represented in literature? We tackle these questions by engaging with various films and works of literature to see how they fit within a philosophical framework for thinking about them.
International trade has a significant impact on the way we live. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the gadgets we use and the services we rely on are often created in distant places and delivered to us through complex trading networks. This module will introduce you to the long history of global trade and consumption. We will consider how the desire for foreign commodities helped transform economies, polities and cultures around the world. We will explore the lives of the traders who supplied the goods and seek to understand the desires of the consumers who demanded foreign luxuries. We will also see the impact that consumption in one country has on lives in other places acknowledging the Africans who, as enslaved people, were turned into commodities, the farmers forced into the production of cash crops, and the workers expected to toil in sweatshops to produce cheap goods for multinational corporations.
Introduction to Public History - 15 Credits
From food packaging, to video game characters, to national celebrations and commiserations: history is everywhere. The past is the source of inspiration for societies around the world. Writers use it as the setting for their stories; governments use it to justify their policies; businesses use it to sell their products or services. This module explores how societies use history, and provides students with an understanding of the ways historians can take their skills out into the world, with an emphasis on employability skills. We will use a wide array of examples from around the world and from different contexts to build our understanding of where, when, why, and how the past is applied, as well as the opportunities and challenges that result.
The Heritage Industry in Britain - 15 Credits
This module explores the historical origins of the modern heritage industry and offers a general introduction to its principles and practices. You will investigate the way in which key people, places and events in English history have been preserved, interpreted and presented to the public since the twentieth century. The work of leading heritage bodies in Britain, such as Historic England and the National Trust, will be set in an international context and you will also be introduced to theoretical critiques that have arisen in response to the development of the heritage industry. Topics may include natural heritage, local heritage, icons in English heritage, dark tourism and difficult heritage, and industrial heritage.
Leisure and Lifestyle: 20th Century American Music, Sport and Entertainment - 15 Credits
The influence of the American lifestyle extends far beyond the country’s borders, and this module encourages you to reflect on the historical roots of often-familiar elements of American culture. By focussing on selected moments in twentieth century American music, sport and entertainment, we will consider the historical processes that shaped the continent’s social and cultural history. Building on this, we will also examine how and why the country’s cultural identity has been internationally transmitted and how it has been received. Each week you will learn to connect a specific individual, event or movement to broader historical issues through the use of video, texts, images, and song.
The Meaning of Life - 15 Credits
Does anything give meaning to life? Does the fact that we will die render our striving to achieve anything of significance ultimately futile, even ridiculous? Would God’s existence or non-existence have any bearing on an answer to this question? Does it even make sense to ask about the meaningfulness of our lives? Might we better approach the meaning of life through thinking about what it would take for activities within a lifetime to have meaning?
Graduate Skills - 0 Credits
You will be offered a variety of employment enhancing workshops and online activities such as interview skills workshops, personality profiling and career planning in order to improve your employment prospects after graduation and make you aware of current areas of strength and weakness in relation to employability.
You will also have the opportunity to learn about self-employment options, graduate schemes and will attend speaker sessions with successful professionals in areas of employment appropriate for Humanities graduates so you can learn about the skills and attributes required for these areas and how to enhance your prospects of entering such areas.
You will be required to undertake a certain number of activities chosen by you from a career “menu” and to reflect on what they have learnt in order to complete the module successfully.
Themes in Plato's Republic - 15 Credits
If you could get away with morally unjust behaviour, why should you act morally? What would an 'ideal society' be like? What is the relationship between justice in the individual, and justice in society? This course investigates several major themes in Plato's philosophy. After an introduction to the importance of Socrates and the nature of Socratic enquiry, we shall focus predominantly upon the Republic - one of the most important texts in the history of western thought - in which the above questions are central. The course will aim to show connections between Plato's metaphysics and theory of knowledge, and his ethics, political thought and philosophy of art and literature. Students will develop their skills in reading, assessing and advancing arguments.
The Right and The Good - 15 Credits
Is happiness the only thing of value? According to Utilitarianism, my moral duty is to promote happiness. What do we mean by "happiness"? If our moral duty is to promote happiness does this mean that we are justified in adopting any means, including killing, that might promote happiness? Kant is one philosopher who considers that we should value human beings in their own right and this introduces constraints on what we are morally justified in doing. We have duties to assist and also not to harm other human beings. We study these two theories by looking at Mill's ‘Utilitarianism’ and Kant's ‘Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals’. Application of these theories to moral dilemmas chosen by students will form the topic of the presentation. For example, is it ever morally right to use violence or terrorism in the pursuit of peace? Should we ever assist anyone to commit suicide?
Philosophy of Mind - 15 Credits
What are mental states? How do they relate to human actions? What is consciousness? Is there a real difference between the mental and the physical? This course explores philosophical approaches to understanding the nature of mind which range from dualism to strong forms of materialism. Students will be trained in the use of relevant terminology and will develop their skills in reading, assessing and advancing arguments. Students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of at least two approaches/issues in the philosophy of mind, their use of relevant terminology and their ability to produce structured arguments, which anticipate possible replies, in the form of essays.
USA 1861 to 1969: From Civil War to Civil Rights A - 15 Credits
The module surveys American history from the end of the Civil War in 1865, to the social, political, and economic crises, which engulfed the United States during the 1960s. It concentrates on the major issues of American development: the emancipation of the slaves, the Civil War, and the process of Reconstruction; the rise of Jim Crow and Segregation in the South; the Wild West; Immigration and Industrialisation; Populism and Progressivism; the expansion of political democracy; the emergence of the regulatory state; America's rise to the status of a World Power; the depression of the 1930s; McCarthyism; Civil Rights; Vietnam and the Great Society. Students will be encourage to engage with two important issues: 1. How America transformed from a country made up of a collection of loose states to become a global superpower. 2. How the two principles 'All men are created equal' and racial segregation co-existed side by side.
Knowledge and Discovery - 15 Credits
What kind of justification is required to be able to say not just that we believe something but that we know it? Must we be able to cite reasons for believing something before we can be said to know it, or is it enough for those beliefs to have been generated in a reliable way? Must knowledge rest on a foundation that is immune from error, or are beliefs justified by being part of a network of mutually supporting beliefs? We shall discuss the extent to which the particular observations we make give us reason to believe (or disbelieve) general claims about the world and, further, what counts as a good explanation for why that thing has happened. We shall consider not just beliefs about those things we can see with our own eyes but whether there is any reason to believe in those things which we cannot observe directly (e.g., the very small and the very distant).
Philosophy of Art - 15 Credits
We go to museums, read novels, listen to music, talk about art. But what is art? In this module, we survey the main theories of art throughout history, observing as we go along, that while each theory has added to our understanding of art, it has not defined it once and for all. At the end of the survey, we shall ask whether a comprehensive definition is possible, or even necessary to our understanding of art. The survey will take us through passages from authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Tolstoy, Hume, Kant, Collingwood, Wittgenstein, Danto, Dickie and Wollheim. We will ask ourselves: Is art is a matter of personal taste or are there intersubjective criteria in the determination of art? Where is the boundary between art and craft? How is art related to morality? Is Tracy Emin's My Bed art; if so, is it good art? What makes anything art?
Metaphysics - 15 Credits
Metaphysics asks the most general questions about the most fundamental features of the world. How should we understand space, time and causation? Does time flow? Does the future already exist? Is space a substance? Is it possible for me to do something now so as to affect what happened in the past? What are things and what does it take for them to persist over time? What is it for things to have properties, such as being red? What are properties? Do they exist in the same way that the things that have them do? What else exists? Does reality extend beyond what is actual?
Philosophies of Religion - 15 Credits
This module focuses on the philosophies of religion that arise from the analytic (Anglo-American), European, and Asian (especially Buddhist) traditions. Its primary focus is a body of philosophical texts on religion by classic thinkers from these diverse traditions.
Through these writings, you will be invited to consider how such different philosophical perspectives approach a series of questions they have in common, questions such as: What role do happiness and suffering play in religious thinking and practice? What is the relevance of the body and of embodiment to religion? What role is played by experience in religious faith and practice? How do reason and faith relate to each other? What goal is served by religious language? Is there such a thing as a distinctively philosophical approach to religion, given the differences between these diverse traditions?
Virtues, Vices and Ethics - 15 Credits
The primary focus of this module is a body of writing, primarily by contemporary thinkers, on specific personal virtues and corresponding vices.
We shall reflect upon such 'everyday' issues as pride, humility, gratitude, love, hope, patience and forgiveness. You will be invited to consider the contribution that both philosophy and religion have made to our understanding of the virtues.
An important part of the module will be to ask, in the light of contemporary writings, what difference religious perspectives might make to secular understandings of the nature of virtue and vice, and the implications of this for what the ‘good life’ for human beings might be. The module will typically draw on writings from more than one religious tradition.
Hearth & Heart: Family Life in the Long Eighteenth-Century - 15 Credits
This module examines the history of the family in Britain and Ireland over the long eighteenth-century. It will introduce you to the methodological approaches and historiographical debates in the history of the family, and will cover a wide variety of topics, from family size and structure, to representations of ideal families in literature and art, family relationships, deviant sexuality, and the regulation of the family by church and state. Questions it will consider include: What was family life like in this period? Did parents really love their children? How widespread was pre-marital sexual intercourse? And, in what ways did the family change over time? Close attention will be paid to the role that gender and social class played in shaping family life over the period. The module will make use of a rich array of source materials including, letters and diaries, church court minutes, art and census material.
Propaganda in Twentieth-Century War and Politics - 15 Credits
This broad survey module will encourage you to connect the development of mass communications with domestic and international politics in the twentieth century. Time will be spent on defining public opinion, censorship and propaganda; on examining propaganda channels and techniques; and, on analysing and measuring propaganda effects. Emphasis will be placed on Britain’s pioneering role in the new world communications network via its empire, and on the importance attached to the First World War in changing the face of propaganda. A variety of sources, including film, will be used to assess the increasing sophistication of political persuasion thereafter. Particular attention will be paid to Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia and the international conflicts in Vietnam in the 1960s and the Middle East in the 1990s. Seminars will involve group work centred on core interpretative texts.
Nation & Identity: Newly Independent States in Interwar Europe, 1918-1939 - 15 Credits
This module explores a fascinating period in European history when empires crumbled and new nation-states emerged. The process of state building is investigated in detail. Through an analysis of the settlements that gave birth to the new states, the module seeks to establish the extent to which they influenced and, in some cases, hindered the states’ development. The various political, economic, social, religious and cultural forces that shaped the states will also be examined and evaluated. Close attention will be paid to the various efforts to create national identity through a range of diverse range of forums, including membership of international bodies, major sporting occasions, state-sponsored art and religious events. Building on these themes, the module will subsequently address why some states survived and others collapsed with the outbreak of a second world war.
Making a Historical Documentary - 15 Credits
Historical documentaries are one of the key ways that the public learn about the past. The most successful documentaries take complex issues and communicate them in a straightforward and engaging manner. This practical module will guide you through the various stages of television documentary-making, from generating an idea to actually producing your own short twelve-minute documentary.
Archive research, scripting, filming and interviewing, and editing are among the basic techniques that will be covered. You will also develop the ability to critically assess documentaries, learning to detect strengths and weaknesses. Over the course of the semester, you will gain and expand a range of practical transferable skills.
Making Histories: Pubic History Work Experience - 15 Credits
This module is designed to give you a deep exposure to history and heritage in the workplace and in the world-at-large. Are you interested in getting recognition for volunteer work in a museum or archive? Have you thought of participating in a historical memory project in your local community? Do you have plans to work with history after you graduate? Working closely with the module tutor, you will tailor a heritage-related placement to your specific interests and aspirations.
This module helps you develop your knowledge of history beyond a university context. It aims to provide a stimulating programme of activities so that you gain hands-on, practical experience and a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the work done by heritage organisations. The module is also geared towards enhancing your employability skills in a supportive environment, which includes contributions from heritage professionals.
Postcards from the Empire: Experiences of British Imperialism - 15 Credits
At the empire's height, Queen Victoria claimed sovereignty over nearly one in four of the planet’s human inhabitants. The lives and experiences of each were sculpted by international, national, and local dynamics. This module explores the stories of these everyday lives through snapshots of life in the British Empire up to 1914. Case studies may draw from places including Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Africa, India, Ireland, Canada, America, and the Caribbean. Themes may include race, gender, class, religion, economics, and adventure. A particular emphasis will be placed on exploring the histories of racialized and colonized peoples, with attention to the historical approaches developed over the past several decades that have changed the ability of historians to identify and engage with these voices.
Maladies and Medicine in Early Modern Europe - 15 Credits
This module explores the nature of medical knowledge and treatment between c. 1550- 1750. We will look at a range of illnesses including mental illness and disability and disfigurement. The course will investigate the treatments offered to patients and who they were treated by. A series of lectures will form the spine of the module introducing the key themes and historiographical debates in this field. The seminars will then consider specific examples and particular historiographical issues in greater depth. The module will move through three main areas; medical knowledge and learning, disease and death, and medical provision in the period.
Crime and Society in England, 1550-1750 - 15 Credits
One way of understanding early-modern English society is to examine the nature of criminal activity, and the perception and response to crime in the period. In this module you will be introduced to a wide variety of criminal activities and behaviours, ranging from the pattern and nature of ‘petty’ crimes, such as poaching and defamation, to more ‘serious’ crimes, such as murder and treason. You will be encouraged to reflect on the motives for crime and what such activities can tell us about early modern society. Considerable emphasis will be place on understanding the system of justice and the nature of law enforcement in the period. To this end, you will identify, consult and undertake qualitative and quantitative analyses of online historical datasets and databases, such as The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, and will be encouraged to reflect on the ethical implications of using such resources for historical research.
The Age of the Cold War, 1945-1991 - 15 Credits
This broad survey module will examine the origins, nature and end of the Cold War in a global context between 1945 and 1991. The first section of the module assesses the nature of the Cold War in comparative historical context, before investigating the origins of the Cold War, the nature of superpower conflict, and the global expansion of the Cold War. The module then adopts a thematic approach, concentrating on the ideological, diplomatic, economic, political, military and cultural dimensions of the Cold War of the 1950s through to the 1980s. The module will consider the conflict between the superpowers, but also the effect of the Cold War on the periphery and unaligned nations. The final section of the module deals with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the People’s Democracies in Europe following Gorbachev’s rise to power in 1985, and the diplomacy and events that brought the Cold War to an end.
Everyday Lives: An Intimate History of Twentieth Century Women - 15 Credits
This module offers an intimate history of the everyday lives of women in America, Britain and Ireland. We will explore the lives, roles, experiences and perceptions of ordinary women during the twentieth century will be explored. Students will be introduced to an array of sources – including popular and visual culture, objects and digital sources, oral testimony and literature (fiction and memoir) – and to what they reveal about the manner in which women were perceived and represented; how women viewed themselves; and how women of different generations experienced, negotiated and reacted to social change. Fashion, consumerism, courtship, sexuality, and advertising are among the areas considered for what they reveal about women and the world around them. Such themes will be analysed within the context of continuity and change across the twentieth century and three geographical perspectives. The module will conclude by questioning the extent to which women’s movements were representative of ordinary women.
*Tuition fees are charged annually. The fees quoted above are for the specified year(s) only. Fees may be higher in future years, for both new and continuing students. Please see the University’s
Fees and Finance Policy (and in particular the section headed “When tuition fees change”), for further information about when and by how much the University may increase its fees for future years.
GCSE Maths grade 4 (D) and English Language grade 4 (C) or above.
The University of Hertfordshire is committed to welcoming students with a wide range of qualifications and levels of experience. The entry requirements listed on the course pages provide a guide to the minimum level of qualifications needed to study each course. However, we have a flexible approach to admissions and each application will be considered on an individual basis.
All students from non-majority English speaking countries require proof of English language proficiency, equivalent to an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in each band.