HIS4354 – The History of Consumption

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

What we choose to consume, and what we refuse to consume, has become an important part of how we define ourselves. Consumer activists, for example in anti-sweatshops movements have contributed to give high visibility to consumer advocacy. It is, however, hardly a recent political cause. Why and when did we start speaking of consumption society? How has consumption become central in defining human activity? What is a citizen-consumer?

In this course we will explore the emergence of new forms of consumption from the late 19th century, and read about the critiques addressed to them. Answering critiques, enterprises and public institutions have in turn developed skills to communicate with the consumer. The line between information and persuasion will be a topic of debate in the course, as well as the transfers and exchanges in know-how and experts. Cases will approach the history of multinational advertising agencies, the evolution of marketing and propaganda techniques under totalitarian regimes, and renewed forms of consumers’ activism. These questions will be further explored up to and including the Cold War.

Learning outcome

After you have taken this course you are expected to be able to:

  • Understand and discuss the dynamics of consumption societies, situated in the wider context of European and American modern history
  • Explore the ways consumption has become an topic of interest to historians and historical research
  • Critically read and discuss case studies on relevant aspects of consumer cultures
  • Develop your skills in reading critically, thinking independently, and writing clearly, especially through the writing of your own essay on a topic related to the course


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.

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


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with HIS2354 – The History of Consumption


The course will be taught in the form of seminars via discussion of assigned readings (24 h.).

Students are expected to be present in class and engage in discussions and group work.

Resources and information in this course will be given in Canvas.

Compulsory assignment:

Participants shall write an obligatory exposé (1.5 to 2 pages) on a topic of their choosing but within the framework of the course, to be submitted by the penultimate week of the course. If accepted – subject to possible revision – this will qualify for the final examination. More information will be given in class.

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.


he final examination will take the form of a term paper:

  • 4,000-5,000 words (approx. 8-10 pages).
  • based on the exposé, students will choose their topic and research question with the help of the lecturer.
  • the term paper is to be handed in Inspera.
  • the file must be submitted in pdf-format and we stress that the student is responsible for making sure that the files are readable. If you need assistance in converting your file into pdf, we recommend that you follow these instructions.
  • The file must be named with your candidate number (not your name) and the course code (HIS2354/4354)
  • The assignment should be complete with a front page containing the following information:
    • candidate number (4 digit code, not name or studentnumber)
    • subject code
    • the title of the assignment
    • name of department (IAKH)
    • semester (spring/fall and year)

Submission of assignment:

  • The home exam is to be submitted electronically via Inspera, 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. 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. 

Submit assignments in Inspera

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

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.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

Students may choose whether to write their assignments in English or Norwegian.

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.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2020


Autumn 2020

Teaching language