This course is discontinued

HIS4012 – Theory in Practice: Classics of History

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course provides the opportunity to do close readings of a series of texts that have had major influence on current historical writing, with an emphasis on social, cultural, and global history. The texts are divided into six groups, according to common topics, ideas, and perspectives:

  • The Marxist tradition and the concepts of class and capitalism
  • The relationship between history and sociology
  • Historical perspectives on globalization
  • History and anthropology
  • History and language
  • History and post-colonialism

This classification is of course not exhaustive, and all the texts under study deals with a wide range of topics, such as economy, gender, and knowledge. What they have in common, is that they are not primarily theoretical works: They deal with the past. These are works of source-based, empirical history, written with strong emphasis on theory and methodology. It is their combination of theoretical reflection, methodological clarity, and historical insight that makes them «classics» in our discipline.

The course aims at helping the participants to become better readers. It consists of a series of readings and discussions of the texts, and is based on active student participation. We will deepen our understanding of how theory informs our understanding of history and of how big theoretical and methodological questions can inform and enrich the writing of a master’s thesis. The course will also improve the students’ understanding of the development and some important debates of 20th and 21st century historiography.

Learning outcome

  • recognise theoretical models and understand how they are deployed in modern writings on history
  • have substantial understanding of key debates and issues in modern historiography
  • make informed and relevant theoretical and methodological choices when writing a master thesis
  • strengthen your skills in oral discussion of general and theoretical problems of historical research


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.


Recommended previous knowledge

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

It is recommended that you have passed HIS4010/4011, or have aquired similar competence on historiography, theory, and method, prior to signing up for this course.

Overlapping courses

This course can replace HIS4120 – Realhistorisk leseemne (kan ikke knyttes til masteroppgaven) in the MA programme in history.


The course consists of six seminars, each lasting three teaching hours.

The course is based on student attendance and activity during discussions in class. Attendance in class is mandatory (i.e. 4 out of 6 sessions); activity is essential. Students are required to read the relevant texts in advance.

Qualifying exposé: In order to qualify for the exam, students need to submit an exposé for their essay (semesteroppgave), with a relevant, motivated research question and a bibliography. Guidance on how to write an exposé will be given during the course. The exposé is due about half way through the course.

This is how you apply for a valid absence from compulsory activities/compulsory attendance


The course is assessed by a written essay (en semesteroppgave).

Students are expected to write an essay of 10 standard pages (2300 characters without spacing and notes). The topic, question and approach of the paper is to be developed by the respective student with the help of the lecturer.

The term papers are to be submitted in Inspera.

The papers must be in .pdf format.


Use of sources and citation

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.

Language of examination

You may submit your essay in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Spring 2019

This course is offered on an unregularly basis.


Spring 2019

Teaching language