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Me, Myself and You: Histories of Self and Belonging, 1500 to the 21st Century


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Katherine Hill
  • Assessment: a 5000-word essay (100%)

Module description

What makes someone themselves? And how do we relate to others? These are the key questions explored on this module as we consider the issue of selfhood and belonging in post medieval Europe.

Historians have become increasingly interested in questions about the self, as they move beyond grand narratives focused on institutions and structures. Scholars seek to explain how and why individuals behaved as they did, and unpick the ways in which individual, sometimes emotional and irrational actions shaped communities, culture, and societies. We will use wide-ranging primary material from across the post medieval and modern world to examine the self and notions of identity, as well as ideas of belonging, both more conventional ‘ego-documents’, such as letters and diaries, and other less obvious materials such as financial records and accounts, or collections of objects. 

You will be invited to examine the ways in which men and women thought about their subjective identities and what selfhood meant for them, thinking about key topics such as:

  • race
  • emotions
  • gender
  • family.

The history of the self also demands that we consider broader questions about how individuals were shaped by their interaction with one another and the community, since scholarship has started to move away from the idea of a discreet self which was self-fashioned in isolation. And finally, self and subjectivity throw open our assumptions about social and cultural change and modernity. If historical selves were different, how and why were they different? And how does the history of subjectivity and identity interact with and indeed alter our narratives of key events?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • display a good knowledge of the major themes in early modern historical study
  • compare and contrast the approaches to understanding identity, individuals and the self in history
  • handle primary sources with confidence and demonstrate the ability to use them as a means of critiquing current paradigms
  • understand how and why historians have conceptualised ‘the self’
  • situate debates about the self in the early modern world within wider debates about the development of the historical discipline and methodological approaches.