HIS4310 – History and the Social Sciences - a Nervous Romance? Themes and Theories of Social History since the 1960s

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

Historians have studied the past in different ways and with changing interests. They have tried to assess the importance of 'great figures' and pivotal events and traced the ordinary lives of ordinary people. They have looked for cultures and economies, experience and mentalities, emotions and ideas as key factors in human development. They have focussed on towns, regions and nations, on the West, the East and the connections between them. Historians' questions, objects of study and methods change, because they constantly debate the validity of their interpretations among themselves and take inspiration from other disciplines. This is called historiography and has, as all things human, a history.

The course is looking at social history as a particular episode in the history of historiography. This period began with many historians turning towards workers and social-economic structures and the application of models and methods derived from the social sciences. The course presents major themes, theories and debates of social history since its rise in the 1960s. To this end, it takes Geoff Eley's book A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society (2005) – an intellectual autobiography of a former social historian turned cultural historian – as a starting point to explore the potential and problems of social history and delve into exemplary studies. The first part of the course covers the growth of social history and its subsequent critique from the 1960s into the 1980s, looking at developments in the US, Britain, Germany and Norway. The second part focusses on current research on the history of class, capitalism, consumption, culture and labour to reflect on the opportunities of present-day social history.

Learning outcome

● a critical awareness of the theories, methods and concepts utilised by historians to explain social relations and historical change

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

● knowledge about class, capitalism, consumption, culture and labour as major themes of modern social history


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.


The course will be taught in the form of twelve two hour lectures (2x45 min), and four two hour seminars.


The take-home examination assignment will be published here: Assignments

3-days take-home examination: 

  • The students have 3 working days available for them to complete the assignment.
  • The length of the assignment should be 6-10 standard pages (2300 characters without spacing).
  • The assignment should be complete with a front page containing the following information:
    • candidate number (not name)
    • subject code
    • the title of the assignment
    • name of department (IAKH)
    • semester

Submission of assignment:

  • The home exam is to be submitted electronically via Canvas, not in paper format.
  • The file must be submitted in the format of a pdf.
  • If you need assistance in converting your file into a pdf, we recommend that you follow these instructions.
  • The students are responsible to make sure that the documents are complete upon submitting them in Canvas. The submissions will be assessed in the form by which they are uploaded by the students. Unreadable or incomplete documents are assessed as they are. 

The examination of this course is integrated in the teaching of the course and it is therefore not possible to sit for the examination other than by being admitted to the course.

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

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






This course if offered on an unregularly basis


Teaching language