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The spring semester Research Course takes place after the term’s tutorials and seminars are complete, in the last month of the semester. This course is an opportunity to explore western European encounters with the rest of the world: historical and imaginative, understandings and misunderstandings. Your task is to select a relevant source (or sources) produced between the classical era and c.1800. This could be a text, an object, or a building, or a small group of any of these. Study it, frame a question or problem about it, and put it into a context. The emphasis is less on volume than on analytical ability. How do you use the text or object to understand a period or a broader issue? Lectures and personal essay supervision meetings will assist in this process, and your essay supervisor will read a draft. The essay will be double-marked, by your supervisor and another scholar.

Your research might touch on topics such as the crusades, conversion, gender, exploration, colonialism, Orientalism, or the ‘noble savage’.  The concepts of ‘Europe’ and ‘western Europe’ are themselves historically contingent, and had little resonance within most of the period of study.  This course also provides an opportunity to look at the construction of ‘outsiders’ within the area that would become regarded as Europe, including classical ‘barbarians’ (in Herodotus or Tacitus, for example), medieval ‘heathens’ and ‘savages’ (such as the vikings), and those who fell outside the mainstream of western Europe: Muslims, Greeks, and Jews and heretics.  Note that projects which focus exclusively on elite culture in Anglophone North America might not fall within the parameters of this course.

The text can be in translation. If you are able to work in a language other than English then that will be welcome, but will not in itself be awarded a higher grade).

Your essay needs to be 6,000 words long, including footnotes.  It also needs to be accompanied by a bibliography (which does not count towards the word limit), and may require images, too.

The aims of the exercise are: 

1) To train you how to do research efficiently and to write a longer paper in a short amount of time.  (This will build on skills developed by the tutorials and seminar essay.)

2) To prepare you for longer research papers that you may have to write as seniors at your home institutions, and/or as graduate students

3) To orientate you in the relationships between Europe and the wider world.