HIS4235 – Modern Global Society: Its History and Historiography

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Course content

Modern global society is the world we live in. To study it, some scholars segment it into social realms, distinguishing the state, the economy, the third sector, and the private sphere. Others take its principles of governance into view, focusing on formal laws, informal conventions, or internalised norms (‘governmentality’). Still others start with the actors populating society, including organisations (companies, clubs, etc.), individuals, and non-human actors like animals and machines. Historians and social scientists focusing on actors point out that relations between them are marked by differences in wealth, status, identity, and belief. They ask how social actors connect nevertheless and find shared cultures, common interests, or the cash nexus holding society together. Pointing out that actors migrate, communicate, and trade around the globe, scholars will agree that modern society is inevitably global in its geographical scope. At the same time, they will acknowledge the continuous importance of the nation as a key component of modern society.

The course pursues two major aims. Firstly, it encourages students to look at modern global society from a historical perspective. Since historical reflection is able to put current issues into fresh perspective, it will zoom in on central aspects of modern society from work to play, from knowledge to consumption to see how these have developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to shape the world we live in. Secondly and in addition to histories of modern global society, the course introduces students to important debates in the historiography of modern society. We ask why historians have turned to certain questions and how they conducted their research and built arguments. Reading pivotal texts on concepts like class and gender, structure and agency, the public and the private sphere, the course intends to deepen students’ understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of historical research on the topic.

The seminar consists of two blocks. The first one focuses on crosscutting issues in social and cultural history; the second block zooms in on more specific topics (or social realms). An introductory meeting will introduce the course in more detail, and a meeting on “how to write a course paper” will give students the opportunity to develop ideas for their papers as well as provide guidance on how to approach the task.

  1. Container, relation, or discourse: what is “modern society”?
  • Individuals, Groups and Collectives
  • The "Private", the "Social" and the "Political"
  • "Women" and "Men"
  1. “Where the action is”: performing modern society
  • The City
  • Work
  • Fun
  • Consumption
  • Knowledge

Learning outcome

Upon completion of this course, students are expected to

  • be familiar with recent and pertinent trends in historiographical research on the history of modern society
  • have knowledge and experience on how to critically engage with historiographical research
  • have insight into influential concepts that inform historiographical interpretations of key topics in the history of modern society


After taking this course, a student will be able to:

  • know how to design and implement an independent paper project on a topic in the history of modern society
  • initiate and participate in discussions of texts and research in the history of modern society
  • read different types of academic texts in a critical and independent manner
  • work with others in small groups and give feedback on others’ work.



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 reserved for students at the master's programme of history and students doing their master's specialization in history at the lecturer education at UiO.


Recommended previous knowledge

To take this course students have to have a basic understanding of the historian’s craft, which includes the ability to find and read research relevant historiographical literature and to identify and analyse primary sources. A good ability to read and understand English is also required.


The course encompasses 20 hours of seminars, where the students will be active partakers. Students are expected to prepare the seminar readings for discussion and to contribute orally to the course. The list of readings is set at 650 pages to allow for a discussion of all texts of the curriculum in class. The students will find literature in addition to this, in order to write their papers.


Obligatory activity

To qualify for the exam, students are required to

  • a) submit a comprehensive bibliography on the topic of the course paper (individual work)  
  • b) chair or introduce a seminar session in collaboration with other students (group work)
  • The learning outcome of this course depends on active student participation. To this end, students need to attend prepared and participate in class. Different types of activities will require participation throughout the semester. Specific information about mandatory activities will be announced at the first meeting and published on Canvas. Absence of up to two seminars can be approved by agreement with the teacher(s).


The course is assessed by written paper. The term paper should be 13 to 15 standard pages (2300 characters without spacing and notes) on a relevant topic, chosen by the student and developed in communication with the teachers of the course.  Detailed information will be given in class and in Canvas.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

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

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in 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

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course

Autumn 2022
Autumn 2021
Autumn 2022
Autumn 2021
Teaching language