Study Modern History with our Oxford Summer School 2017 | Students aged 13-15

Also available for students aged 16-18.

Class Summary

There’s more to History than the dim and distant past; historical events within our own lifetimes are paramount in shaping the culture, politics and economics of our present day. This course looks at recent history, how it is studied, and its continuing repercussions on the international community. While the course will look at the changes and trajectories around the world from the end of the Second World War onwards, its focus will be on the late 20th century, approximately from the fall of the Berlin Wall, up to the present day. Much of the course content will cover history that is within or nearly within the lifetimes of its students (for instance 9/11), some of which they themselves may even be able to remember clearly.

From their school history courses, students may be used to thinking of history as something that has happened before living memory, that must be investigated through archaeology, or that contains mysteries that we can never really unravel. At best, they are likely to think of history as something that extends to the end of the Second World War. Our Modern History course reconfigures students’ view of history and encourages them to see it as something that is happening right now, shaping interpretations right up to the present day or even the present hour. It helps students assess how narratives of history are constructed even when we have all the facts to hand, and how we can work out the importance of events or the establishment of themes even as these processes are still ongoing.

There are next to no photos of the planes hitting the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001; had such an event happened ten years later, when almost everyone has a high-definition camera in their pocket in the form of a smartphone, there would undoubtedly be countless photos. By looking at these events in recent history, seeing how they are recorded and seeing how we consequently choose to represent them and fit them into existing patterns and paradigms, students on the Modern History course can truly come to understand how history is made. The cliché is that history is written by the victors; on the Modern History course we assess the truth of this statement and see how, when history comes to be written, historians decide what to put in and what to leave out.

As this course covers world history, it benefits particularly from the broad range of cultural backgrounds and experiences represented on any New Perspectives course. Students will get to see how their peers in other countries interpret the same set of events, and how history is filtered through different cultural and national lenses. Students will get to discuss not only how our narratives of history are shaped, but also how they think those narratives should be shaped and how historians can ensure that a balanced picture of the past is preserved.