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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3388 Teaching & Learning in Early Modern England: Skill, Knowledge, and Education

40 creditsClass Size: 12

Module manager: Dr John Gallagher

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Today, we know that education can have a transformative impact on individual lives. But what and how did people learn in the past, and what can the history of education tell us about one of the most exciting and vibrant periods of British history? This module explores the social and cultural history of early modern England through the history of education and skill. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw enormous changes in the educational culture of early modern England. The seismic changes of the Renaissance and the Reformation made themselves felt in schools and universities, while the rise of print meant that literacy became a coveted skill for many across the social spectrum. In homes, schools, and public spaces, education shaped individual lives, societal debates, and cultural change. This period witnessed an 'educational revolution'. Fencing-schools run by immigrant swordsmen jostled for space with private academies teaching writing and accounting to apprentices or trainee merchants. Would-be learners could choose between private tuition in singing, dancing, or languages; new academies teaching cooking and needlework; and coffee-house lectures in experimental science. At the same time, England witnessed an explosion of printed how-to books and instructional literature, feeding a desire of for knowledge and skills among an increasingly literate public. Education was central to the great questions and changes of the early modern period: in this module, we will explore the relationship between education and religion, gender, labour, state formation, social hierarchies, and social mobility.


The objectives of this module are:
- to develop an in-depth knowledge of the place of education in the social and cultural history of early modern England
- to explore the relationship between histories of education and social, political, and cultural change
- to work closely and carefully with primary materials (print, manuscript, and objects)
- to develop an understanding of the historiography of education, training, and skill, as well as understanding how they fit into broader narratives of social and cultural history in early modern England
- to develop presentation and writing skills alongside other transferable and subject-specific skills

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be able to
- demonstrate a grasp of the history of education, knowledge, and skill in early modern England
- relate developments in the history of education to wider historical changes in the period
- work with printed books and manuscripts from the early modern period
- consult special collections in libraries and archives
- use electronic resources including Early English Books Online, the English Broadside Ballad Archive, the Map of Early Modern London, and the Burney Collection of 17th- and 18th-Century Newspapers
- present arguments orally, in writing, and in poster form.

Skills outcomes
- independent research skills
- use of online resources
- skill in handling and using primary sources in archives & museums
- oral presentation skills
- writing skills
- research skills


We'll study a variety of topics including childhood education (literacy, reading and writing), religious education, gender and education, schools and universities, cookery and medicine, household education, education and social mobility, apprenticeship and craft education, military education, manners and behaviour, educational travel (the Grand Tour), and early modern science.
In hands-on seminar sessions, we'll visit the Brotherton Library Special Collections, Leeds Museums, and the Royal Armouries. We'll be working closely with early modern texts, from manuscript household recipe books and printed how-to guides to travellers' manuscripts and seventeenth-century playing cards. We'll handle early modern textiles, clothing, objects, and weaponry. Students will also have the chance to put early modern skills into practice - ever wanted to learn the handwriting of Shakespeare's era, bake a cake from a seventeenth-century manuscript, or try your hand at early modern needlework? Through studying practices and experiences of education and training - from first steps in literacy to the apprenticeships of boys and girls, and from household education in cooking and crafts to educational travel and the Grand Tour - you will consider new ways of thinking about the social and cultural history of early modern England.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Students will be expected to read primary source extracts and secondary literature in advance of the seminars, as well as pursuing independent reading and research to prepare for class discussion, presentations, and assessments. They will be encouraged to use online resources like Early English Books Online, the Burney Collection of 17th- and 18th-Century Newspapers, and online museum and archive collections in order to build up individual 'source portfolios' for classroom discussion and revision purposes. Students will contribute VLE posts, research and write an assessed essay, and research and present two short in-class presentations during the module.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students' class contributions and VLE contributions will be assessed continuously and feedback offered where necessary. Individual and group tutorials will be offered to students.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 words due by 12 noon on Monday of exam week 2, semester 140.00
PresentationBook review (800 words) and critical source commentary (1000 words), as direted by tutor10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

The 10% mark consists of a book review and a critical source commentary (800 words and 1000 words respectively, 5% each) to be submitted in Semester 1. This allows me as module leader to see students writing on secondary and primary sources in semester 1 and to provide feedback on their writing and argumentative style, which should be helpful in the run-up to the essay (my experience this year was that the essay being the first sustained piece of writing I saw meant there was no opportunity for them to take on criticism and improve across the module, particularly before this major assessment).

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 15:57:32


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