The Department of History at the University of Essex was founded in 1972.
Since then it has developed a strongly individual character. We pride
ourselves on being a Department that refuses intellectual straitjackets. We
enjoy the mix of areas and specialisms found along our corridors.
The pattern of appointments to our Department has deliberately brought together
a group of scholars with a wide range of approaches and fields: Britain,
Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia are all represented, as are the relations
between them. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise the Department came
second after Imperial College London, and the University overall was ranked
as one of the top ten universities in the country.
The Department has always been known for its friendly atmosphere, with good
staff-student relationships and innovative teaching and learning methods that
are reflected in consistently high student satisfaction ratings.
We offer a wide variety of undergraduate degrees that cover the history of Britain,
Europe and the world from 1500 to the present day. In addition to our BA in
History, we offer some fifteen other BAs, including specialised ones in modern
history, contemporary history, American (US and Latin American) history, and
British and European history. Our joint degrees include innovative schemes such
as modern history with international relations, history with film studies, and
history and criminology.
We strive to teach in ways that reflect the evolving
nature of history as a discipline. In addition to major modules, such as
Culture and Politics in Europe 1500-1750 and
Making of the Modern World, 1789-1989, we offer a very wide range of
optional modules, on
subjects as varied as early-modern witchcraft, the history of death and burial,
state surveillance, the Thirty Years War, the book trade in Britain, Black
America, poverty, South and Southern Africa, Stalin's Russia, and the Third
Reich. We encourage students to appreciate the complexity and diversity of past
events, situations and mentalities and in the course of their studies to acquire
the key skills of research, analysis, and oral and written communication.
We have a lively postgraduate community engaging in MA and PhD programmes,
with many students from overseas. We pride ourselves on research training and
careful supervision. We are recognised by the Economic and Social Research
Council (ESRC) as an outlet for research training and funding.
What makes us distinctive as a history department can be summed up under four
headings: 'comparative', 'interdisciplinary', 'international', and 'at the cutting
Although most of us have published specialist works which deal with
particular countries and localities, we do not believe in History in 'One
Country'. Our concern in our teaching and research is with the larger
historical issues. Concern with these necessarily leads to a comparative
approach. Even where we study a particular phenomenon – whether racial
segregation in the Americas or violence in early modern Europe – we are
conscious that the best history is informed by knowledge of the phenomenon
in other periods and societies.
The Department belongs to the Faculty of
Humanities and Comparative Studies, which was set up by the founders of the
University of Essex precisely to break with intellectual parochialism of all
kinds. The Department has never wavered from this commitment, to which our
scholars specialized in non-European history make a particularly decisive
History at Essex has strong links with the Departments of
Literature, Film and Theatre
Studies and Art History,
and also with the interdisciplinary Centres of
United States Studies,
Latin American Studies,
and European Studies.
The Department is also interested in theory, but is not theoretical in any
dogmatic sense. Students interested in using concepts – whether derived from
sociology, psychoanalysis, political economy or philosophy – in their
research will find a congenial and testing environment here.
As befits a Department committed to comparative history and global
perspectives, the very nature of our teaching and research team is
international. Our corridors are cosmopolitan. Several members of staff are
from overseas, and they bring with them contacts and concerns that
complement those of their colleagues from Britain. International students –
who constitute a high proportion of our postgraduate body – will find that a
number of their teachers were themselves once overseas students, and that
they are aware of both the difficulties and excitement of study away from
one's home country. There are also opportunities for British students at
By describing ourselves as 'at the cutting edge', we do not mean merely
that a number of our scholars are leaders in their fields, nor that history
at Essex incorporates dimensions not found elsewhere. We mean that the
nature of much of the work undertaken in the Department is breaking new