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Study History at UCD

This year UCD School of History has again made places on a number of its courses available to the public through the Open Learning programme.

Open and Lifelong Learning at UCD

Open Learning is an innovative and unique approach to part-time study in UCD. You can choose from a wide range of undergraduate modules for audit or credit. There are no entry requirements to the programme – you just need to find a module or modules that interest you and register!

The School of History at UCD is a vibrant, welcoming centre for the study of history and the perfect environment for anyone who has a love of history. The range and stimulating nature of the curriculum covers both Irish and non-Irish history, from the dawn of the medieval era to the contemporary world.

Our modules – all taught by experts in their field who bring their new research to the classroom – create the opportunity to explore the past. Sometimes this can mean looking afresh at what might appear to be familiar subjects and on other occasions it means investigating entirely new areas of study. It is this willingness to embrace new ideas and new approaches that makes the School of History at UCD one of the top 100 history departments in the world (QS).

This year UCD School of History has Open Learning places available across a wide range of courses. See below for more information on Lifelong Learning modules at the National Library and dlr Lexicon.

Open Learning in 2018-2019

In 2018-19, the School of History will be offering 21 Open Learning modules:

Semester I (September 2018)

Semester II (January 2019)

Those who register for Open Learning modules will receive a UCD student card and have access to all UCD facilities including the James Joyce Library. For registration and fee details go to www.ucd.ie/all, call 01 7167123 or email: all@ucd.ie


Semester I Modules (beginning 10 September, 2018)

HIS10070 - The Making of Modern Europe 1500-2000 (Audit / Credit)

This module offers a sweeping introduction to some of the momentous changes which have taken place in Europe over the past five hundred years. It explores some of the major landmarks in Europe’s social, political, and economic development: the development of European Empires, religious change, witchcraft, the industrial revolution, democratic change, war in the modern world, the Cold War and socio-cultural change since 1945. There will be one lecture every week which will introduce students to these themes, but the heart of the course lies in the seminars. Here, students will be encouraged to challenge interpretations of the past, to debate ideas and to draw on primary evidence.

HIS10310 – Ireland’s English Centuries (Audit / Credit)

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In 1460 Ireland was a patchwork of lordships including an English Pale, by 1800 the country was poised to enter a United Kingdom with England and Scotland. In 1460, all Irish people shared the common religion of Western Europe, by 1800 three groups – Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters dominated.

In 1460, only a tiny number did not speak Irish, by 1800 English was spoken by well over half the population. During these 340 years Ireland experienced massive transfers of land-holding, invasions, bitter civil war and a huge expansion of population. This module explains the complex blend of identities, allegiances and social changes that shaped the past and continue to shape the Irish present.

HIS20820 - The French Revolution  (Audit / Credit)

This module will begin by examining the intellectual, cultural, social and political origins of the revolution. The core of the module will be a narrative of the revolution from 1789 to the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror. In the course of the narrative, the revolution’s varied contributions to the development of modern political culture will be discussed, from liberalism through revolutionary war and nationalism to political violence and the Utopian reign of Virtue. Seminars will be constructed around readings of contemporary documents and secondary literature.

HIS20460 - Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages (Audit / Credit)

Elva Johnston

The first part of this module will examine how Muhammad’s revolutionary new message gave rise to a vibrant culture that changed the east and west forever. Who was Mohammad and what was his message? Why was Islam so successful? How did it transform the ancient world? It will then go on to assess the expansion of Islam and its impact on the early middle ages up to c.750 CE.

The second part of the module will consider the continuation of the Arab conquests in the Mediterranean and southern Europe between the 8th and 10th centuries CE and the Christian recovery of territory in the 11th century, beginning with the Berber landings in southern Spain in 711 and ending with the construction of the cathedral of Pisa in 1064. Throughout the module relations between the two faith communities will be studied through texts. Students will have the opportunity to read a selection of primary sources including key religious works such as the Qur’an, Arab and Christian narrative histories of the period, legal and constitutional texts, literature, letters and epigraphy.

HIS20820 - Nazi Germany (Audit / Credit)

The course provides an overview over some of the most important aspects of Nazi Germany – covering political, cultural, social and military history. The module provides insights into one of the darkest, most disturbing and most formative periods of modern European history.

The module aims to pay particular attention to different and conflicting interpretations of how the Third Reich came into being and why Hitler’s dictatorship proved to be one of the most murderous in history. Particular attention will be paid to racial thinking, the Holocaust and the question of European collaboration with the Nazis. The module aims to improve the students’ capacity to engage with historical interpretations and different methodological approaches.

HIS21120 - Northern Ireland, 1920-2010  (Audit / Credit)

Conor Mulvagh

This course will chart the history of Northern Ireland from its foundation through state building, war, civil rights, sectarian conflict, and the peace process. Relative to its size, Northern Ireland is arguably the most studied and analysed place on earth in the twentieth century. Partition is by no means a phenomenon unique to Ireland. Germany, India, Korea, and Sudan are among the most prominent examples of a phenomenon that has been a major component of the twentieth century world.

The Northern Irish troubles witnessed the deaths of 3,636 people between 1966 and 1999. The conflict has been a defining moment in the modern histories of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Britain. In being a resolved conflict, the solution arrived at in 1998 has become a template for peace processes the world over. 1998 initiated a peace process rather than concluding a peace settlement. That peace has been at times unstable, fragile, and imperfect. This course will progress past the Good Friday Agreement, examining the history of near contemporary Northern Ireland to examine how power sharing, decommissioning, and cultural demobilisation have shaped a new polity, asking what changed and what stayed the same.

HIS20780 – History of Science (Audit / Credit)

Edward Collins

This module provides a broad outline of the history of science, from ancient times to the present, and incorporates a number of fields of study that we today consider to be ‘scientific’. It traces a line from the earliest conceptions of the universe to the evolving views of mankind’s relationship with his world, through the Scientific Revolution to current and emerging scientific theories that challenge our very notions of reality itself.

The course addresses the question of what counts as science, and whether this has changed over time. What, for example, would the idea of ‘science’ or ‘scientific endeavour’ have meant to the earliest geographers, zoologists or mathematicians? What line divides early-modern astronomical navigation from astrology? What is a ‘scientific revolution’? How does the history of science confirm or challenge our ideas of historical narratives?

HIS21150 – Economic History (Audit / Credit)

The 20th century witnessed some of the most turbulent moments in economic history, from the global Depression of the 1930s to the devastation of two World Wars, Soviet collectivisation and the oil and debt crises of the 1970s. It was also an expansive period of growth, marked by postwar reconstruction, industrial automation, the creation of modern state welfare programs, ambitious Third World development initiatives and the growth of international banking and regulatory organisations.

This course provides an overview of these sweeping events, and connects issues of material well-being to broader historical movements for social justice, democratic inclusion and human rights. The course will also introduce important themes in macroeconomic thinking, including the role of the state, the importance of economic growth and problems of rising inequality. In the process, readings will explore how people’s material and daily lives changed around the globe, often in dramatic ways, over the course of the century. Prior familiarity with economics is not required.

HIS32310 – Revolutionary Russia, 1905-1921 (Audit / Credit)

In under twenty years, Russia experienced three revolutions, world war, civil war, the collapse of the three-hundred-year-old Romanov dynasty, and the rise of the Soviet state. This course examines the causes and consequences of these tumultuous years from 1905 to 1921, exploring the rich political, social and cultural world of revolutionary Russia. It looks at the challenges of reform and modernisation in late imperial Russia, the rise of revolutionary politics, the impact of the First World War and the immediate events of 1917 leading to the establishment of Bolshevik power, before assessing the Red victory in the civil war, the consolidation of the early Soviet state, and the cultural dynamism of the period.

In doing so, the course focuses on the centres of power in Moscow and Petersburg and their key actors, but also ventures into provinces and countryside to assess the ways in which political and social change unfolded elsewhere. We will also engage with critical debates in the historiography of the period on the ‘inevitable’ fall of the Romanov dynasty, continuities between the late imperial and early Soviet systems, and the relationship between state, society and the individual before and after the 1917 revolution.

DSCY10050 - War: Ancient and Modern (Discovery Module) (Audit / Credit)

Robert GerwarthWar is as old as mankind, but it has changed its character over the centuries. This module will introduce students to the changing character of war from ancient times to the present, highlighting the latest research results on a large variety of conflicts and themes: wars, piracy and civil wars in the ancient world, the Viking conquests in Europe, the Crusades, the Wars of Religion, the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century and the American Civil War to the total wars of the 20th century. The module takes an inter-disciplinary perspective on war, combining insights from history, classics, politics , medicine and sociology. Together, faculty from these diverse disciplines will introduce some of the latest cutting edge research on violence and gender, medical responses to the outbreaks of war and the ‘new wars’ on terror in today’s Middle East.

Discovery modules are designed to capture the strength of approaching issues from more than one perspective and so offer a unique learning opportunity to students. Each module is taught by experts from more than one school and draws on cutting-edge research to consider an issue of historical or current global significance.


Semester II Modules (beginning 21 January, 2019)

HIS10080 - Rome to Renaissance (Audit / Credit)

This module provides an introduction to European history during the middle ages, from the fall of Rome in the fifth century to the Renaissance of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The middle ages, once dismissed as a time of stagnation and superstition, is now regarded as an exciting period of ferment, innovation and creativity. The social, political and cultural foundations of modern Europe were established in the middle ages, and the modern era cannot be understood without an awareness of this formative millennium. But equally, the study of the middle ages often means encountering the strange and unfamiliar, and this too is an essential part of being a historian.

This course will study the period by focusing on a range of significant events which illustrate some of the most important developments of the period. These include the sack of Rome by barbarians, the influence of the Irish on the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the trial of Joan of Arc, and Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America. By the end of the semester not only will you have a grounding in medieval history, society and civilisation, but you will have experience of dealing directly with historical evidence, and evaluating and interpreting it in order to reach conclusions about events and people from the past.

HIS10320 - From Union to Bailout: Imagining Modern Ireland 1800 – to present  (Audit / Credit)

Susannah RiordanThis course takes students through two centuries of modern Irish history, examining key events, themes and milestones from the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in 1800 to the collapse of the Irish economy in the early twenty-first century.

It covers political, social, economic and cultural dimensions of Irish history during tumultuous times, the experience of Anglo-Irish relations, Catholic emancipation, famine, the evolution of Irish nationalism and unionism, the land war, the revolutionary upheavals of the early twentieth century, the impact of partition, the quest for sovereignty in the Free State, the experience of life in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and continuity and change in the latter part of the twentieth century.

HIS20950 - Early Modern Europe 1450-1800 (Audit / Credit)

Western Civilization in the present day has its roots in the re-discovery of Classical Civilization and Humanism and in the discovery of new continents during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The impact of these forces of change shaped the progress and development of the West in the following centuries. The chronological span of three hundred and fifty years from 1450 to 1800 witnessed a most concentrated and consistent flourishing of intellectual, scientific and creative progress and dramatic change not only in Europe, but through overseas discovery and expansion, worldwide. This Early Modern Period was the first truly global age in which the words ‘Europe’, ‘European’ and ‘Civilization’ acquired new and immense significance.

Through studying the experiences of two major European powers of the early modern period: the Dutch Republic and France. This module examines that crucial period in world history in which the cultural, political, economic, social, intellectual, scientific and strategic foundations of our present world were established. It focuses upon the great events and movements of the period that shaped human development such as Renaissance Humanism, Religious, Cultural and Social Reformations, Exploration, Discovery, Scientific Development, Baroque Art & Neo-Classicism and the rise of Political Absolutism, Modern Military and Diplomatic Strategy and the emergence of the modern power-state, of the nation-state, of overseas dominions, and of supra-national institutions.

HIS20960 - The Irish Experience (Audit / Credit)

This module explores the forces which shaped Irish society in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from the perspective of ordinary lives and everyday experiences, experiences of sickness and health, love and marriage, birth and death, getting and spending. The topics examined will include population increase and decline – including the impact of emigration and disease – the revolution in communications, changes in religious and medical practices, and debates on child and maternal welfare. The Irish case will be situated within broader European and British trends.

HIS21080 - British Empire: 1495-1945  (Audit / Credit)

This module will investigate the origins and evolution of the British empire, from the early adventurers’ journeys of exploration in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to the zenith of British dominion over large areas of the globe in the early twentieth century. Throughout the module, emphasis will be placed on themes such as exploration, trade, slavery, war, humanitarianism, and culture and cultural exchange in relation to the emergence and expansion of the empire. Issues regarding the relationship between the coloniser and the colonised and the centre and periphery will be explored, along with examination of the various ways in which the empire was represented through media such as print, art, cartography, and music.

HIS20470 – American History (Modern America) (Audit / Credit)

This course will survey the evolution of the United States from the consolidation of American independence until the twentieth century. It will address issues such as the evolution of party politics, the opening up of the west, the lead-up to the Civil War and the various platforms of reform that were promoted at popular level during the nineteenth century. The post-civil war lectures will address the impact of Emancipation as well as the impact of industrialisation and the ‘new’ immigration and the background to US involvement in the two world wars of the twentieth century.

HIS20970 – Early Medieval Ireland: Culture, Society and Politics (Audit / Credit)

Elva Johnston

Ireland fully entered recorded history with the arrival of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries AD. Its culture was rooted in the native past as well as in contemporary Europe. These two influences, the old and the new, were creatively combined. The Irish developed a unique form of kingship and a complex social system. Their achievements in literature, art and religion were recognised across Western Europe, to such an extent that Ireland became known as the Island of Saints and Scholars.

This module will introduce students to the history of Ireland between AD 400-1200. It will focus, in particular, on conversion to Christianity, changes in Irish kingship, the evolution of the Church and the impact of the Vikings. It will provide a framework through which the earliest years of Irish history can be understood.

HIS20780 – History of Science (Audit / Credit)

This module provides a broad outline of the history of science, from ancient times to the present, and incorporates a number of fields of study that we today consider to be ‘scientific’. It traces a line from the earliest conceptions of the universe to the evolving views of mankind’s relationship with his world, through the Scientific Revolution to current and emerging scientific theories that challenge our very notions of reality itself.

The course addresses the question of what counts as science, and whether this has changed over time. What, for example, would the idea of ‘science’ or ‘scientific endeavour’ have meant to the earliest geographers, zoologists or mathematicians? What line divides early-modern astronomical navigation from astrology? What is a ‘scientific revolution’? How does the history of science confirm or challenge our ideas of historical narratives?

HIS21150 – Economic History (Audit / Credit)

The 20th century witnessed some of the most turbulent moments in economic history, from the global Depression of the 1930s to the devastation of two World Wars, Soviet collectivisation and the oil and debt crises of the 1970s. It was also an expansive period of growth, marked by postwar reconstruction, industrial automation, the creation of modern state welfare programs, ambitious Third World development initiatives and the growth of international banking and regulatory organisations.

This course provides an overview of these sweeping events, and connects issues of material well-being to broader historical movements for social justice, democratic inclusion and human rights. The course will also introduce important themes in macroeconomic thinking, including the role of the state, the importance of economic growth and problems of rising inequality. In the process, readings will explore how people’s material and daily lives changed around the globe, often in dramatic ways, over the course of the century. Prior familiarity with economics is not required.

HIS32380 – Genocide and Mass Violence in the 20th Century (Audit / Credit)

Was the twentieth century uniquely violent? If so, why? This course explores the question of genocide and mass violence in the twentieth-century world. In this class, we will engage with theories of genocide and political violence, and also examine the validity of these explanations for the causes and consequences of mass violence by examining four case studies in depth.

Looking at Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in the period of the First World War, Jews on the Eastern Front during the Second World War, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, and Rwanda in 1994, this class will ask: what is the context for these acts of mass violence? Who were the perpetrators of these acts? Who were the victims? Why did they happen at this time and in this place, and not at another time? What was the tipping point between persecution or repression and mass murder? What was the role of belief or ideology? Did the geopolitical situation in each time and place matter? What were the roles of individuals, groups, and the state? Students will engage with the historiography of twentieth-century genocide, political violence, warfare and civil war, as well as reading and viewing a range of primary sources including victim and perpetrator testimonies, trial records, and documentary film.

2DSCY10050 - War: Ancient and Modern (Discovery Module) (Audit / Credit)

Robert GerwarthWar is as old as mankind, but it has changed its character over the centuries. This module will introduce students to the changing character of war from ancient times to the present, highlighting the latest research results on a large variety of conflicts and themes: wars, piracy and civil wars in the ancient world, the Viking conquests in Europe, the Crusades, the Wars of Religion, the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century and the American Civil War to the total wars of the 20th century. The module takes an inter-disciplinary perspective on war, combining insights from history, classics, politics , medicine and sociology. Together, faculty from these diverse disciplines will introduce some of the latest cutting edge research on violence and gender, medical responses to the outbreaks of war and the ‘new wars’ on terror in today’s Middle East.

Discovery modules are designed to capture the strength of approaching issues from more than one perspective and so offer a unique learning opportunity to students. Each module is taught by experts from more than one school and draws on cutting-edge research to consider an issue of historical or current global significance.

More Information

Open Learning gives adult learners the opportunity to study a range of undergraduate modules at UCD. There are no entry requirements and these courses are open to everyone. Learners can take any combination of modules for interest only (audit) or complete the course assessments (credit).

Go to www.ucd.ie/all/study for more information on UCD Access and Lifelong Learning.

Lifelong Learning at the NLI and dlr Lexicon

UCD also offers Lifelong Learning courses in history in partnership with the National Library of Ireland and dlr Lexicon in Dún Laoghaire. Lifelong Learning courses are part-time specific interest courses that are participative, engaging and facilitated by experts in their field. The courses are open to all and provide a chance to explore a subject without concerns about assessment. The Lifelong Learning courses for 2018-2019 include:

Click here for more information on the Lifelong Learning history courses.