Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Social History of Modern Europe

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION The study-unit is divided in three parts New Dimensions in Social History which is intended to cover some of the main areas of research and theory which today define Social History as a subject. The main topics discussed are: history as a social science: theory and method; techniques employed by modern social historians; social class: formation, structure and experience; urbanization and human movement; gender, sexuality and identity; childhood and upbringing; marriage, household and kinship; crime and punishment; ‘Forgotten’ minorities and history from the margins.

Employing the conceptual tools and historiographical debates discussed in the first part of the course, this section ‘European society before industrialisation’ focuses on the main research themes and debates dealing with the social structures and social relations found in preindustrial European societies. Lectures revolve around these key topics: The notion of ‘Feudalism’ as a social order; Serfdom and the agrarian societies; social class, status and the idea of social station (the triangular social hierarchy); patterns of population movement; the growth of urban centres; class relations/conflicts between the various power elites and the common people; the structure of everyday life: work, leisure and religion; upbringing, the domestic household; the elderly; women in society; marginal groups, riots, rebellion and popular protest; social control of the poor.

European Society during the Industrial Revolution intends to discuss the immediate social effects and the long-term changes brought about by industrialisation in different Western European societies. The main themes of discussion here include: the formation of new social classes; the development of urban societies; industrialisation, the work ethic and discipline; dismantling of ancient social customs and customary rights; wealth and poverty; forms of social inequality and the new industrial system; changes in the family structure, women and the ‘bread winner’ model; the social and environmental costs of industrialisation; the standard of living debate; forms of protest and resistance against the factory system.


This study-unit seeks to cover the main areas of research and theory forming Social History as a subject and to introduce students to the techniques and methods used by modern social historians.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to gain the theoretical and historical knowledge to be able to understand pre-industrial and industrial societies from a comparative perspective.

2. Skills

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- use basic techniques and methods employed by social historians to examine European societies and their development in time;
- gain sensitivity to different social groups, cultural and historical context.

Reading List

• M. Anderson, Approaches to the History of the Western Family 1500-1914 (1995)
• P.Burke, History & Social Theory (N.York, 1993)
• Christopher Hill, Reformation to Industrial Revolution 1530-1780 The Making of English Society, vol.1, New York, 1967
• P. Horn, Children’s Work and Welfare 1780-1890 (1995)
• E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (any edition).
• P.Spierenburg, The Broken Spell. A Cultural and Anthropological History of preindustrial Europe (N.Brunswick, 1991)
• H. Kaelble, Industrialisation and Social Inequality in 19th Century Europe (Heidelberg, 1986)
• E.Yeo & S.Yeo (eds.) Popular Culture and class conflict 1590-1914(N.J 1981)
• P.Stearns, Old Age in Preindustrial society (N.York-London, 1982)
• P. Horn, Life in a Victorian Household (2011)

ADDITIONAL NOTES This study-unit is offered only to History students.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Seminar Paper No 25%
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 75%

LECTURER/S John Chircop

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.