HST2013: 1968 in Western Europe: Rebellion and Upheavel

20 credits (semester ?)

Module Leader: Professor Benjamin Ziemann


Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.

Module Summary

'1968' is an emblematic date, signifying political upheaval and mass demonstrations, strikes, cultural rebellion and protests against the war in Vietnam. The module will analyse the significance of 1968 as a dense sequence of events which affected many aspects of social, political and cultural life in Western European societies. The module will focus on selected political incidents and their cultural and artistic reflections in France, England and Germany, and explore some of the political controversies surrounding the events of 1968. It will draw on a wide range of primary sources (both textual and visual), including pamphlets, eyewitness reports, and songs.

Module Aims

This module aims to:

  • Provide you with an in-depth understanding of 1968 as a crucial moment in the history of post-war societies in Western Europe.
  • Introduce you to a range of source criticism skills, including the ability to read images as 'texts'.
  • Introduce you to the study of important social and political concepts.
  • Promote the ability to write informed and cogent essays in clear, structured and grammatical prose.
  • Promote collaborative learning and develop team-work skills.
  • Encourage you to develop your confidence and competence in presenting your ideas orally.

The module will be taught through a series of weekly lecture workshops and seminars. The lecture workshops will introduce you to the basic historical and historiographical context and prime you on pertinent issues and sources. They are an efficient way of providing information, encouraging ideas and guiding your private study. Seminars will provide opportunities for you to present your ideas and interpretations to the wider group. They will be based on systematic study of primary sources prepared in advance and will involve student-led discussions and presentations in order to enhance team-working, presentational and interpretative skills, while involving you in intensive engagement with practices of source criticism.


The module is assessed by:

  • A formative essay of detailed source analysis (33%), which will allow students to advance their understanding of certain thematic aspects of the module through an exercise of independent source criticism, thus helping students to develop skills of analysis and argument, and to improve their writing skills.
  • An unseen written examination (50%) will require candidates to demonstrate that they have absorbed and understood the material and that they are able to compose a structured argument and analyse primary sources in clear prose under pressure of time.
  • Oral presentations and participation in seminars (17%), in which students will demonstrate their team-working and analytical skills and their ability to analyse different types of primary source material in their historical context.
Selected Reading

 To follow.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

  • An advanced understanding of the caesura of ‘1968’ in three Western European countries and the ability to identify some of the historical controversies about it
  • The ability to recognise, manipulate and interpret a wide variety of primary source materials and to apply these skills in writing commentaries on source materials under pressure of time
  • The ability to understand the implicit narrative structure of images as one particular source genre.
  • The ability to understand the difference between the semantics of key concepts in the past and their current analytical usage.
  • The ability to use an analytical understanding of primary sources to engage with current historiography and to formulate independent conclusions, both orally and in well-written, grammatical prose.
  • Ability and experience in presenting material orally in seminars and engaging in discussions with the tutor and other students.