Classics > Courses > Undergraduate > Ancient and Modern History > Finals Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions: Honour School Examinations (Finals)

The following provides an example of courses typically available. It cannot be guaranteed that university lectures or classes or college teaching will be offered in all subjects in every academic year.

For details of modern history courses please see the Faculty of History website.

Paper I

One of four periods of Greek or Roman History:

Greek History 478-403 BC

Victory over Persia led to the rise of the Athenian Empire, conflict between Athens and Sparta and Sparta‟s eventual victory in the Peloponnesian War. These years cover the transition from archaic to classical Greece, the Periclean age of Athens, the masterpieces of art, architecture and literature which are the supreme legacies of the Greek world, the contrasting lifestyles of Sparta and democratic Athens, and the careers of Alcibiades, Socrates and their famous contemporaries. They are studied the History of Thucydides, antiquity‟s most masterly analysis of empire, inter-state relations and war, which Thucydides claimed to have written, justifiably, as „a possession for all times‟. The issue of Thucydides‟ own bias and viewpoint and his shaping of his History remain among the storm centres of the study of antiquity and are of far-reaching significance for our understanding of the moral, intellectual and political changes in the Greek world. The period is also studied through inscriptions, whose context and content are a fascinating challenge to modern historians.

Greek History 403-336 BC

Greek History in the years immediately after the Peloponnesian War is no longer dominated by the two super-powers, Athens and Sparta. Cities which in the fifth century had been constrained by them acquired independence; groups of small cities, such as Arcadia and Boiotia, co-ordinated their actions to become significant players in inter-city politics. Areas in which the city was not highly developed, and particularly Thessaly and then Macedon, were sufficiently united by energetic rulers to play a major role in the politics of mainland Greece, and the manipulation of relations with Persia preoccupied much of Greek diplomacy. This society gave rise to the political theorising of Plato and Aristotle. The wealth of varied information, the multiplication of sources, and the need to weave together the stories of many different cities, present a challenge quite distinct from that offered by earlier periods of Greek history.

Roman History 146-46 BC

In 146 the Romans destroyed Carthage and Corinth. In 133 a popular tribune was beaten to death in front of the Capitol by a mob led by the High Priest. At the other end of the period, in 49 Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and in 46 crushed his enemies at the battle of Thapsus, celebrating his victory with an unprecedented quadruple triumph. Despite repeated deeply threatening crises, Rome survived – capital of an increasingly large and organized Mediterranean-wide empire, its constantly growing populace more and more diverse, its richest citizens vastly wealthier, and its cityscape more and more monumental. But the tradition of the ancestors, the rule of the aristocracy, the armies and their recruitment, the sources of wealth, the cultural horizons of the literate, the government of allies and subjects, the idea of a Roman citizen, the landscape of Italy, and Roman identity itself had all changed forever. This subject studies how. For the earlier years, from the Gracchi to the Social War, we mainly have to rely on the writings of later historians and on contemporary inscriptions, although Sallust and Cicero offer some near-contemporary illumination. But for the latter part of this period our knowledge is of a different quality from that of almost any other period of Roman history thanks to the intimate light shed by the correspondence, speeches and other works of Cicero, with strong backing from Caesar‟s Gallic War and the surviving works of Sallust.

Roman History 46 BC - AD 54

Beginning this period in 46 BC immediately presents us with issues of uneasy adjustment and faltering responses to shattering social and political change. The Civil War, fought from one end of the Mediterranean to another, raised problems about the nature of Urbs and Orbis, city and world, and their relations. Caesra drew his own solutions from the widest cultural range. The first years of the period set the scene for the developing drama of the transformation of every aspect of the societies of the Mediterranean world ruled from Rome, and of the identity of Rome itself, as experiment, setback and new accommodation succeeded each other in the hands of the generals of the continuing war-years, and finally, after Actium, of Augustus and his advisors. The central problems of this subject concern the dynasty, charisma and authority of the Roman Emperor, the institutions of the Roman provincial empire, and the most intensely creative age of Roman art and Latin literature, and how these were related. The sequel addresses very different rulers. Tiberius, Gaius Caligula and Claudius, whose reigns did much to shape the idea of an imperial system and its historiography, which we sample through Tacitus and the biographies of Suetonius, and the virulent satirical sketch by Seneca of Claudius‟ death and deification. The subject invites consideration of the changing relations of Greek and Roman, and the increasing unity of the Mediterranean world; and also of the social and economic foundations of the Roman state in the city of Rome and in the towns and countryside of the Italy of the Georgics and Eclogues. Within Roman society, political change was accompanied by upward social mobility and by changes in the cultural representations of status, gender and power which pose complex and rich questions for the historian.

Paper II

For details of modern history courses please see the Faculty of History website.

Either, one of eighteen periods of General History as specified for the Honour School of History.
Or one of seven periods of the History of the British Isles as specified for the Honour School of History.

Paper III

Choose from either:

a. A Further Subject in Ancient History

Athenian Democracy in the Classical Age

This subject includes the constitutional, social, economic and cultural history of Athens from 462 to 321 BC. The paper will range over such topics as the workings of the Assembly and Council, military organization, the development of political leadership, the workings of the Athenian law courts, legal procedure and the law code, citizenship, theoretical attitudes to democracy and its alternatives, public festivals and public entertainments, attitudes to religion and the rights of the individual, freedom of speech, kinship organizations and the position of women, the provision of education, the status of metics, slavery, the workings of taxation and liturgy systems, the organization of trade (especially the corn trade), the characteristics of Athenian manufacturing industry and the workings of the silver mines. Opportunity is given to study the archaeology of classical Athens. Only such knowledge of external affairs is expected as is necessary for an understanding of the workings of the democracy.

Politics, Society and Culture from Nero to Hadrian

The subject covers the reign of Nero and the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, the Flavian dynasty, and the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian which ushered in what is normally regarded as the most prosperous and peaceful period in the history of the empire. The period is documented by a remarkably rich array and variety of sources – literary, epigraphic, monumental and visual. It offers the opportunity to study the growth and development of the empire, tracing the changes in dynastic power, and the extension of Rome's rule and the processes of „romanization‟ in both eastern and western empire. It encompasses a range of synchronic themes which focus on urbanisation, literary and visual culture, building, social and economic developments and cultural interaction in Rome, Italy and the provinces.

Examples of topics studied in this course include: Emperors and the imperial court. Politics, literature and culture in the Neronian court. Literary panegyric and imperial representation. War and imperialism: narrative and iconography. Rome the cosmopolis: the empire on display. Imperial administration: the senate, the equestrian order and the emperor‟s service. „Romanization‟ and the frontiers of empire. The social world of Pliny and Tacitus. Social status and identity in life and death. Religions old and new. Rome and Judaea – conflict and the emergence of Christianity.

Religions in the Greek and Roman World C. 31 BC – AD 312

The aim of the course is to study the workings and concepts of Greek and Roman religions, including relevant aspects of Judaism and Christianity and other elective cults, between around 31 BC and AD 312. You will be encouraged to be familiar with the relevant literary, epigraphic and archaeological evidence. The texts prescribed for study in translation are included in the bibliography on WebLearn.

The Greek and the Mediterranean World 950-500 BC

This course explores, through the archaeological evidence, the period during which Greek society expanded rapidly from relative isolation and poverty to a fully-fledged structure of flourishing city-states. As recent controversial claims have highlighted, contacts with the non-Greek world played a vital role in this period: trading posts were established in the Levant and later in Egypt, colonies were sent out to Sicily, Italy, North Africa and the area of the Black Sea, and hostile pressure was increasingly faced from Anatolia and Persia. A major part of the course is devoted to the reciprocal relations of the Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples, as traced through the movement of Greek and imported goods and through Greek reactions to, and uses of, foreign motifs and conventions.

Art under the Roman Empire, AD 14-337

The long imperial Roman peace has left the densest and most varied record of artistic and visual representation of any period of antiquity, and at the height of the empire more cities, communities, and individuals than ever before came to invest in the „classical‟ culture of monumental representation. The course studies the art and visual culture of the Roman empire in its physical, social, and historical contexts.


b. A Further Subject in Modern History

For details of modern history courses please see the Faculty of History website.

Anglo-Saxon Archaeology c.600-750: Society and Economy in the Early Christian period
The Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad, 527-c.700
The Carolingian Renaissance
The Viking Age: War and Peace, c. 750-1100
The Crusades
Culture and Society in Early Renaissance Italy, 1290-1348
Flanders and Italy in the Quattrocento, 1420-80 (suspended in 2012-13)
The Wars of the Roses, 1450-1500
Women, Gender and Print Culture in Reformation England, c.1530-1640
Literature and Politics in Early Modern England
English Society in the Seventeenth Century (suspended in 2012-13)
Court Culture and Art in Early Modern England 1580-1700
The Military and Society in Britain and France, c.1650-1815
The Metropolitan Crucible, London 1685-1815
The First Industrial Revolution, 1700-1870
Medicine, Empire, and Improvement, 1720-1820
The Age of Jefferson, 1774-1826
Culture and Society in France from Voltaire to Balzac
Nationalism in Western Europe, 1799-1890
Intellect and Culture in Victorian Britain
The Authority of Nature: Race, Heredity and Crime, 1800-1940
The Middle East in the Age of Empire, 1830-1971 (new subject)
Imperialism and Nationalism, 1830-1980
Modern Japan, 1868-1972
British Economic History since 1870 (as prescribed for the Honour School of Philosophy, politics and Economics)
Revolutionary Mexico, 1910-40 (suspended in 2012-13)
Nationalism, Politics and Culture in Ireland, c.1870-1921
A Comparative History of the First World War, 1914-20
China since 1900 (New title)
The Soviet Union, 1924-41
Culture, Politics and Identity in Cold War Europe, 1945-68
Britain at the Movies: Film and National Identity since 1914
Scholastic and Humanist Political Thought
The Science of Society, 1650-1800
Political Theory and Social Science c.1780-1920

Paper IV

Choose from either:

a. A Special Subject in Ancient History (two papers)

Alexander the Great and his Early Successors (336 BC–302 BC)

Aged twenty-five, Alexander the Great defeated the combined might of the Persian Empire and became the richest ruler in the world. As the self-proclaimed successor to Achilles, he led an army which grew to be bigger than any known again in antiquity and reached India in his ambition to march to the edge of the world. When he died, aged thirty-two, he left his generals with conquests from India to Egypt, no designated heir and an uncertain tradition of his plans. This subject explores the controversial personality and resources of the conqueror, the impact of his conquests on Asia, the nature and importance of Macedonian tradition and the image and achievements of his early successors. The relationship and authority of the surviving sources pose large questions of interpretation on which depend our judgement of the major figures‟ abilities and achievements. The career which changed the scope of Greek history is still a matter of dispute both for its immediate legacy and for the evidence on which it rests.

Cicero: Politics and Thought in the Late Republic

This subject examines both the private and public life and the varied literary output of Marcus Tullius Cicero, one of the major political figures of the later Roman Republic and one of the greatest writers Rome ever produced. As Cicero‟s letters and speeches are the major source for the political history of his time and his rhetorical and philosophical treatises the principal evidence for the cultural history of the period, the man is inevitably studied in historical context.

The emphasis is, however, on studying Cicero himself in the round. His writings show him thinking about the major political issues of his time, such as the nature of the Roman constitution and of Roman imperialism, but they also reveal his religious and moral attitudes. They show him concerned with his political and literary ambitions, but also with the management of his property and of his difficult relatives. Above all, they show him anxious to believe and demonstrate the value of a broad and liberal education to the orator and statesman. One can study how he tried to apply his theoretical knowledge to his practical life and to use his practical experience to develop theories less abstract than those of the Greek models he used.


b. A Special Subject in Modern History (one paper and one extended essay).

For details of modern history courses please see the Faculty of History website.

St Augustine and the Last Days of Rome, 370-430
Francia in the Age of Clovis and Gregory of Tours.
Byzantium in the Age of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 913-959.
The Norman Conquest of England.
Royal Art and Architecture in Norman Sicily, 1130-94 (suspended 2010-11)
Saint Francis and Saint Clare.
England in Crisis, 1374-88
Joan of Arc and her Age, 1419-35
Painting and Culture in Ming China
Politics, Art and Culture in the Italian Renaissance: Venice and Florence, c. 1475-1525.
Luther and the German Reformation
Government, Politics, and Society in England, 1547-58.
The Scientific Movement in the Seventeenth Century.
Commonwealth and Protectorate, 1647-58.
English Architecture, 1660-1720.
Debating Social Change in Britain and Ireland 1770-1825
Church, State, and English Society, 1829-54. (suspended until further notice)
Growing up in the middle-class family: Britain, 1830-70
Slavery and the Crisis of the Union, 1854-65.
Political Pressures and Social Policy, 1899-1914. (suspended for 2010-11)
Art and its Public in France, 1815-67.
The Russian Revolution of 1917.
India, 1919-1939: Contesting the Nation.
The sex age: gender, sexuality and culture in 1920s Britain
The Great Society Era, 1960-70.
Nazi Germany, a racial order, 1933-45.
France from the Popular Front to the Liberation, 1936-44.
War and Reconstruction: ideas, politics and social change, 1939-45.
The Northern Ireland Troubles, 1965-85.
The Evolution of a Modern Metropolis: London 1955-75.

Paper V

Disciplines of History

The intention of Disciplines of History is to encourage students to reflect on the changing nature of the historical discipline, on differing historical methodologies and on comparative history.

Paper VI

A thesis from original research

You must offer a thesis, to be submitted by the end of Hilary Term of your Final year, as part of your Final assessment. The thesis may be in either Ancient or Modern History.

Paper VII

An optional additional thesis

In addition to Paper VI, you may also submit a second thesis. The thesis may be in either Ancient or Modern History.

Paper VIII

An optional language paper

a. Intermediate Ancient Greek

(This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in ancient Greek above AS-level or equivalent)
Candidates will be required to show an intermediate level knowledge of Greek grammar and vocabulary (including all syntax and morphology, as laid out in Abbot and Mansfield, Primer of Greek Accidence).

The set texts for the course are: Xenophon, Hellenica I-II.3.10 (Oxford Classical Text) and Lysias I (Oxford Classical Text). The paper will consist of a passage of unseen prose translation, three further passages for translation from the two prescribed texts, and grammatical questions on the prescribed texts.

b. Intermediate Latin

(This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in Latin above AS-level or equivalent)

Candidates will be required to show an intermediate level knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary (including all syntax and morphology, as laid out in Kennedy‟s Revised Latin Primer).

The set texts for the course are: Cicero, letters in D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Cicero: Select Letters (Cambridge, 1980), nos 9, 17, 23, 27, 39, 42-3, 45, 48, 52, 58, 63-4, 70-1, 79; Tacitus, Agricola (Oxford Classical Text); Pliny, letters in A. N. Sherwin-White, Fifty Letters of Pliny, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1969), nos 1-3, 6-7, 9, 15-20, 25, 27, 29, 33-4, 36, 38-40, 47-8.
The paper will consist of a passage of unseen prose translation, three further passages for translation from the prescribed texts, and grammatical questions on the prescribed texts.