An Introduction to Change and Continuity in History.
In this series of classes students will explore pivotal historical events to evaluate how far they transformed the world we live in. The classes will focus on key moments in political, social and cultural history, from the Protestant Reformation to the French Revolution and Civil Rights movement. Students will deepen their historical knowledge and develop their analytical skills, working directly with historical primary sources. Students will also be encouraged to interrogate the arguments of historians, some of whom see history as a series of big events and others who emphasise slow but significant long-term change.
Participants can join for the whole course or join on a session-by-session basis. When joining any paid class participants will receive access to a video recording of previous sessions in the series.
- Class 1: Change and continuity: the bedrock of history.
In this session, students consider why some historical events are considered pivotal and why others are overlooked. Exploring the rise and fall of ancient Athens and the causes and impact of the Vietnam War, students will learn what has driven and prevented change throughout history and consider what shapes our view of the past. Students will also discuss whether we learn more by studying major events or by tracing the less obvious, long-term trends that have transformed the world.
- Class 2: War, revolt and coup d’état.
In this class, students will interrogate some pivotal moments in history, considering what drove change and what effect they really had. Using evidence from the period, students will enrich their understanding of well known events like the French Revolution of 1789. They will also learn about the impact of less studied moments like the Boxer Rebellion, when Chinese Nationalists rose up against foreign rule. Through these case studies, students will begin to question how we judge and define historical events, considering why we describe some movements as revolutions and others as seditious rebellions.
- Class 3: Knowledge is power: Ideas and Change.
In this session, students will consider the role of big ideas in historical change, taking an in depth look at the causes and course of one of the most transformative events in world history: the Russian Revolution. Through this fascinating case study, students will look at the human experience and cost of dramatic political and social change. They will also evaluate the impact of ideas like socialism, considering whether the revolution came about because of charismatic leaders with high-minded ideals or a populous genuinely convinced of a radical, new ideology.
- Class 4: Revolutions of the mind: Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment.
In this session, students will explore the history of the Italian Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation: two events that transformed the intellectual, cultural and political life of Europe in the early modern period. Looking at writing, artworks and other evidence produced at the time, students will deepen their knowledge of the ideas, beliefs and actions that characterised these two movements. Students will also discuss why certain ideas and changes of mentality took root at a particular time and place in history.
- Class 5: What can we learn from failed revolutions?
In this class, students will consider why some revolutions fail and what this shows us about the nature and importance of continuity in history. The case study for this class is the Interregnum, a period when Britain underwent a radical experiment in Republican government after the execution of King Charles I in 1649. Students will explore the country’s prospects after the death of the monarch and discuss why the experiment ended with the return of Charles’s son to the throne just 11 years later.
- Class 6: Slow, sweeping and stuttering change: Civil Rights from Jim Crow to today.
In this session, students will trace the history of African-American civil rights from the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves right up to the present day. Looking at key events and evaluating their impact, students will consider how far the famous speeches, protests and legal changes of the 1950s and 60s changed the lives of African Americans and how far changes in law transform mentalities throughout history.
- Class 7: Perspectives on the past 1: Revolution, revolt or repression?
In this class, students will think critically about whether we can and ever do learn from pivotal moments in our history. Students will discuss the appeasement of Adolf Hitler before the Second World War, considering why people disagreed about whether the dictator could be sated with political concessions. Students will also learn about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, investigating how historians using the same evidence can produce conflicting accounts and how their work shapes popular understanding of major historical events.
- Class 8: Perspectives on the past 2: Continuity, stability or stagnation?
In this lesson, students will consider how history has been used for ideological and political ends. They will discuss whether politicians and campaigners should or can avoid using the past for their own purposes. Students will study the words of the freed slave Sojourner Truth, and discuss how and why they were used and manipulated by campaigners for African American civil rights and the feminist cause. Students will also look at the words and projects of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who fashioned himself as an emperor for the modern age.
The course will be led by Jessica Dalton. Jessica taught History at St Andrews University where she also graduated with a PhD in History. She is a published professional historian, an engaging speaker and a highly experienced tutor in History, History of Art and academic writing skills.
- Format: Live online group classes
- Maximum Class Size: Class sizes are kept deliberately small, ensuring participants have the opportunity to interact with the course teacher through Q&A discussions within each session
- Platform: Lessons will take place on Zoom. All sessions are recorded and made available to participants, allowing you to review material or catch up on any missed sessions.