A word that strikes fear into any University student, a 10,000 word project written, researched and developed solely by one person , you.
The reality of this undertaking is becoming all to real, having attended a second year History meeting recently, it was pointed out to us the next half of this academic year will draw much of our focus towards the planning of these titans.
In the next week or so we will be embarking upon the first steps of this process, meeting with our personal tutors to discuss our ideas. Some may already have an exact plan and a question waiting to throw to the mercy of their tutor’s questioning. Others may only have a vague idea of areas that interest them, both are more that okay.
What is needed now is to convert this fear and dread into excitement and enthusiasm. From what I’ve been told, I will be eating these word this time next year, but I’m hoping against this. In a sense I am excited about writing such a body of work, one aspect that has truly captured my imagination came from my tutor. She told me one of the greatest joys of composing a dissertation is becoming an expert in the field you choose to study. Whether this it true or not, I will find out in time, but it certainly caught my attention.
The themes of Class, Gender and Identity, more specifically their advent, awareness and actualisation are key debates that have reverberated throughout historiographical discourse. As historians struggle to define history and maintain its relevance within the fluidity of modern society these themes find themselves subject to the forces of redefinition, modelling and structuring.
During the latter part of the twentieth century the paradigm of history changed. The inclusion of gender history, born from feminist movements, brought to light the necessity of attitudes within the profession to change. The significance of both genders was now to be studied equally. Gender history itself is often misunderstood due to its roots, this avenue of discussion is not a drive from women’s attempts to assert some form of female dominance throughout history, but recognise their impact interwoven throughout its course.
Class is far from a new line of analytical thought. Class has been used to define the socio-economic status of individuals for countless years. Debate rages around the concept of Class consciousness, the idea of a class becoming aware of itself and its political voice. Perceptions range from a more Marxist & Weberian view, that class is defined by the control of the means of production to ideas Class Consciousness rose from the conflict of the other. That is the attempt of those in varying positions of social standing and wealth, seeking to define themselves as much as by who they are as who they are not.
Identity is a much more complex matter. The cultural dimensions of this theme inevitably render it exponentially more troublesome. Identity can span transnational borders, the Republic of Letters for example, in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sought to spread and engage in epistemological debates across Europe. Members of this society identified and saw themselves as much a citizen of this republic as they identified themselves with their home nation. The prominent problem perpetuated by the parameters of defining the word Identity. You can Identify yourself with any number of things: whether that be a philosophical or political viewpoint; your nationality; a group or organisation. These things can define an individual or can be used as part, or the whole of an individuals Identity. To study the formation and changes to Identity, is to study the relationships those you are trying to define had with the world they inhabited.
Not to disregard other analytical methods of studying history, such as Economic. It is these factors that truly define the practice, and I would suggest they are the three key ways history is engaged with.