HIS33010 Global History before AD 1000

Academic Year 2023/2024

Global history in the first millennium AD is a constantly growing field. As its name suggests, it asks big questions about world history, but it also asks how a global perspective can inform regional histories and vice versa. Typical questions that historians have been asking include: what did the Roman Empire have in common with the Han Dynasty in China? Why did religious change in Europe in the early centuries AD coincide with religious change in Arabia and the Eurasian Steppes? To what extent was the world connected by trade? How far did knowledge travel? And how did contemporaries perceive the world beyond their immediate environment? Global history in the first millennium differs from global history of the pre-modern or modern eras, in that it is free from questions about European colonialisation and influence. Consequently there is less Eurocentrism. The reasons for this are that Europe was not yet recognised as a cultural entity of any coherence and that its kingdoms and empires were not dominant on the world stage. Instead, students of global history in the first millennium tend to spread their attention more evenly across Eurasia and Africa (Australia and the Americas are poorly evidenced in this period) and instead of concentrating exclusively on direct connections they seek more comparative approaches. This module will introduce students to regional histories across the globe and the way in which these regional histories articulate with global events and phenomena. We will compare political systems, the lived experiences of those at the lower rungs of the social ladder, the acquisition and spread of scientific knowledge, people's familiarity with the wider world, and also phenomena that are outside human control, like pandemics and climate change, which impacted on human history. The module will also address the challenges of writing a global history, including where to look for evidence, how to conduct valid comparisons, how to conceptualise periodisation, and how to understand places whose cultures and languages are very different from those with which we are familiar.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The module will aim to foster critical thinking skills among students, to enhance their writing skills, to develop presentation skills, and to let them acquire research skills. Students will gain knowledge about regional histories (China, South Asia, North Africa, Insular and Continental Europe) and global history in the first millennium AD. They will learn about settled and nomadic societies, political systems, economic regimes, trade, religious change, social order and inequalities, literacy and science, and the effects of pandemics and climate change. Just as important are the methods and methodological challenges that beset the writing of global history in this period: the module will address the state of the art, the strengths and limitations of comparative history, the availability and absence of evidence, the problem of incommensurability across distant cultures, and the differences in historiographies from Europe, America, China, and Japan.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The module consists of a weekly one-hour lecture and weekly two-hour seminar. The weekly lectures provide an introduction to the week's theme, consisting of an overview of pertinent events, personalities, sources, and the historiography on the topic. The weekly seminar is based on active participation, focused task-based learning, group work, peer review exercises, and reflection on pre-prepared reading assignments. The seminars will develop the students' ability to engage with complex historiographical challenges, and to find and interpret primary sources. A weekly reading journal submitted in response to the weekly readings will foster critical thinking and develop independent learning skills. There is an emphasis on autonomous learning and student-led class discussion and discussions focused on central issues in the historiography which enhance problem-based learning. Research skills, critical thinking, advanced academic writing skills, and citation conventions, are developed through the final essay, which is 4000-words long. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Weekly reading journals. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded Yes


Assignment: End of term essay of 4000 words. Week 12 n/a Graded Yes



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.