HIS4011 – Historiography and Historical Theory: Accounting for change and continuity

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Historians are concerned with change and continuity and have devised different ways to account for these phenomena. Some tackle the "why" question head-on and try to develop explanations, while others are more carefully pursuing "how" questions, arguing for an intimate understanding of the past's present. Some borrow theories of societal change and people's behaviour from the social sciences, while others look to anthropology or linguistics for analytical models. Some point to ideas and 'great men' as key factors that drove history forward (or even upward), others link historical change and continuity to economic processes, language, values, norms, beliefs, practice or emotions. Some see history progressing, others depict it as fragmenting. Starting from different assumptions about the historical process, historians pose different questions, develop different methods, choose different sources and write different narratives. And, of course, the debate about the epistemology – and quite often about the legitimacy – of different accounts of change and continuity has got its own history.

This course wants to make explicit prominent historiographical approaches to continuity and change. It concentrates on the period since the 1960s, a time in which historiography experienced frequent waves of self-reflexivity and took a number of theoretical and methodological "turns". Following a rough chronology, the course is an introduction to both the history of historiography and to key questions of theory and methodology. The syllabus for this course includes influential theoretical texts as well as examples of historical case studies to make apparent how conceptual discussions translate into empirical research.

Learning outcome

● a critical awareness of the theories, methods and concepts utilised by historians to account for continuity and change in history

● the skills to critically research, read, discuss and write about a set of historiographical arguments and a variety of historical evidence

● an understanding of key trends in modern historiography


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is open to exchange students who are on the master's level.


Recommended previous knowledge

A good ability to read and understand English is required for this course

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with HIS4010 – Historiske grunnlagsproblemer: teori og historiografi


The course is taught in seven fortnightly meetings à two times ninety minutes. The discussion of the texts from the pensum is a central element of each meeting, so it is essential for students to read and prepare for discussion the articles and chapters listed for each meeting. The pensum for each meeting with a short description of the respective seminar’s topic is to be found in the schedule. In addition to plenary discussions, the seminar involves small exercises, group work and similar exercises.

Obligatory activity: In order to be admitted to take the exam, students have to submit an essay of ca. 1000 words before one week before the last meeting. For this text, each student is assigned one historiographical approach and asked to write a story, factual or fictional, on a freely chosen topic that is informed by this historiographical theory. These accounts are collected and distributed to all participants of the course and serve as the basis for the “conclusion and revisions” meeting. The completion of the obligatory activity is a prerequisite to take the exam.

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


The course is assessed by oral examination. The mandatory activity must be approved in order to take the exam.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Facts about this course






This course is replaced by MITRA4010

Teaching language