International History

Global History in the Heart of Birmingham

History at Aston has a resolutely contemporary focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, encompassing international, national and local dimensions. Hubs of interests include nationalism, state-building and inter-state relations; the interplay of culture, society, and technology; religious and ethnic conflict; trauma and memory; and issues of globalisation in the present that can only be understood by looking to the past.




Overview: Global History in the Heart of Birmingham

History at Aston has a resolutely contemporary focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, encompassing international, national and local dimensions. You will study cutting-edge techniques, including digital and public history, and gaining insights into some of the most exciting fields of current historical research. Together with the placement year in Year 3, you will acquire the skills and knowledge you will need to succeed in your career.

As part of your training, you will undertake archival fieldtrips and engage in hands-on experiences with primary source materials.

At Aston, you will have the opportunity to study topics such as nationalism, state-building and inter-state relations; the history of internationalism and humanitarian action; slavery and emancipation; emotions and cultural diplomacy; migration; trauma and memory; history and technology; and the comparative study of contemporary global conflicts.

Our versatile range of joint honours courses means you can pursue your passion for History alongside English language, English literature, politics, international relations, sociology, or Mandarin Chinese.

Here is a selection of modules that we currently offer:*
*These might change over time; topics might also evolve

Year 1

Making Histories I: Methods, Theories, Controversies
– History from below
– Local history
– Public history and memory
– Strategies for effective research and writing

Global History in Perspective
– Colonialism
– The rise of the state
– World wars and peace efforts
– The Cold War
– The post-1989 period: globalisms and nationalisms

Contemporary Britain: From the Boer War to Brexit
– Britain at war (colonial wars, the world wars, the Cold War, the ‘war on terror’)
– Empire and decolonisation
– Thatcher and Blair: modernisation or decline?
– The long road to Brexit and possible futures

Year 2

Making Histories II: Digital and Other Methods
– The history of information technology
– Big data and text mining
– Crowdsourcing and data visualisation
– The democratisation of knowledge

Case Studies in Global History
– What is global, world, and international history?
– Global comparisons and connections
– Varying case studies, currently e.g.:
– China and the World, India and Pakistan, Latin America, The USA beyond the USA

The Atlantic World: Slavery and Emancipation
– The Columbian invasion and the origins of the slave trade
– Runaways, rebellions and the abolitionist movement
– Capitalism and forced labour
– Legacy and impact of the slave trade today

The History of Internationalism: From Karl Marx to Greta Thunberg
– Communist and liberal internationalism
– Black internationalism and pan-Africanism
– The League of Nations and the UN
– Feminist, conservative, religious and environmental internationalism

Humanitarian Action and Foreign Intervention, 1915 – today
– The rise of humanitarian interventions in the 19th century
– Humanitarian politics and genocide (Armenia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia)
– Cold War foreign interventions (Congo, India, and Pakistan)
– The ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and the future of humanitarianism

Year 4

History Dissertation
– Advanced research on a topic of your choice

History Workshop
– Current historiographical debates and controversies
– Historical research in an age of ‘fake news’
– Different forms of historical writing
– Students’ research projects

Bullets, Bombs and Bitcoin: History and Technology since 1900
– Technological development and its political, cultural, social and ecological contexts
– Technology’s role in national and international history
– Pessimism and criticisms of technology
– Technology and violence

Rage, Shame, and Hope: Emotions and Politics from the 19th to the 21st Century
– Varying definitions of emotions and how they affect historical developments
– Examples of different emotions in history: e.g., honour during war, shame in genocide, pride in civil rights and LGBTQ+ movements
– Developing your own research in a topic/time/place of your choice, investigating the role of emotions in shaping it

The United States and the World
– American empire and Manifest Destiny
– Radicalism and protest movements
– Racism and imperialism
– Terrorism and the national security state

Twin Periods? The Interwar Years and post-1989 History
– 1919 vs 1989: victory of liberalism or Western hubris?
– The ‘roaring’ 1920s vs the ‘unpolitical’ 1990s: A vibrant but irresponsible culture?
– The Wall Street Crash 1929 vs the Global Financial Crisis 2008/09: collapse or ‘temporary deviation’ of global capitalism?
– The rise of fascism vs populism today: a double-crisis of economic and political liberalism?



News and Events

Endangered Manuscripts and the Digital Humanities: and the Ethics of Modern Online Manuscript Research
18 March 2020 – 4.30-6pm (MB 108)

LSS Research Seminar delivered by Dr. Valeria Vanesio, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN, USA.

Lest we forget? – Britain’s Internment Camps of the Great War
21 January 2020 – 6-8pm (G11)

During the First World War, Britain interned 50,000 civilians in camps throughout the Empire. These were German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and Bulgarian nationals who had moved to Empire locations before 1914 and were now classified as ‘enemy aliens’. They play no part in official commemoration of the Great War. After reconstructing their history, the lecture introduces a range of public engagement activities which aim to redress this imbalance. This leads to probing questions about national identity and the politics of memory: How do we choose to remember the Great War? How can engaged academia make an impact?

An inaugural lecture by Professor Stefan Manz.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 Years on
14 November 2019 – 4-6pm (MB 504)

Aston University’s Centre for Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture (CCISC) invites you to a roundtable entitled “The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 30 Years on.” Speakers include Dr. Yaprak Gürsoy (Politics and International Relations), Dr Jelena Obradovic (Politics and International Relations), Dr. Volker Prott (History), Dr. Ilaria Scaglia (History), Dr. Brian Sudlow (French/History), and Dr. Uwe Wunderlich (Politics and International Relations). Students, staff, and members of the broader community are invited to join us and to participate in the discussion.

The Special Air Service Brigade during WWII: The Gap between Legend and Facts
17 October 2019 – 4-5pm (MB 574)

This lecture deals with the history of the Special Air Service (SAS), analysing the gap between the facts and legends of its origins. Created during the Second World War, in July 1941, the SAS involved 3400 men: two British regiments, two French battalions, one Belgian company and others units which adopted the same concept (known as SBS, Sacred Squadron). From North Africa via the Mediterranean sea/islands to Norway, the brigade operated in various fronts before being disbanded on 5 October 1945. The French kept a half brigade until 1948, while the Belgians maintained their contingent until 1952, when they renamed their units without the SAS appellation. Two months ago, a television drama about the SAS origins (“Lid the Lift”) was announced as well as the 4th season of the TV show “SAS: Who Dares Wins.” The fame of this unit never decreased, and they are still portrayed as supermen. But were they?

Fanny Pascual is a Senior Lecturer at the University of New Caledonia. Her research focuses on the Second World War, the Special Air Service, and more broadly, on the Pacific War and its representation in museums.

Workshop on Digital Methods and Practices
8 April 2019 – 11am-4pm (MB 758)

This is the inaugural event of the AHRC-funded research network “Connecting Digital Histories of Fugitive Slaves.” There will be a seminar on ethical digital practice from 11-12.30pm, followed by lunch. The discussion will begin with a short, pre-circulated reading. After lunch, there will be an optional workshop on object biographies and mapping from 1.30-3.30pm. Although our focus is the history of enslavement and resistance, no prior knowledge is assumed, and anyone interested in digital methods and practices is warmly encouraged to attend.

Internationalism and the Great War: The United States and Britain
3 April 2019 – 4.30-5.30pm (MB 146)

LSS Research Seminar delivered by Professor Tammy Proctor, Utah State University.