History Undergraduate Summer Research Project

University of Glasgow

Course Description

  • Course Name

    History Undergraduate Summer Research Project

  • Host University

    University of Glasgow

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland

  • Area of Study

    History, Research

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • SCQF Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    In this course you will pursue an independent research project in History guided by a supervisor with group seminars in historical methods. Projects will draw on the University of Glasgow’s outstanding research library, local archives and printed and online primary sources. You will produce a research paper and share your findings in a mock conference.

    You will be required to indicate your top three research project choices on your application.

    Ideally students will be in the second year of their undergraduate degree. Students who have completed only their first year may be considered where a strong performance in History (potentially including AP History) can be demonstrated.

    Please note: Places on this course are limited and applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis.

    What you will learn:

    This course aims to:

    • Provide students with an opportunity to undertake a historical research project.
    • Develop familiarity with historical methods and transferable skills in critical analysis, argument and oral presentation.

    By the end of this course students will be able to:

    • Assess scholarly literature and available primary sources to formulate a viable research question in History
    • Contextualise and critically analyse primary sources to produce a convincing historical argument
    • Express historical analysis and argument in written and oral forms.


    Teaching Pattern:

    Weekly seminars specific to History, twice weekly supervisor meetings, and weekly seminars as part of the wider Summer School research community.


    Topic Details:

    1.Evaluating Glasgow's Memorial Landscape 

    After recent worldwide events focused on problematic elements of memorial heritage, a report aimed at providing guidance to public bodies titled ‘Reviewing Contested Statues, Memorials, and Place Names’ was produced in 2021 to provide ‘a fair, transparent process for reviewing and acting in relation to contested heritage’.  This project provides an opportunity to evaluate monuments erected in Glasgow during its time as the Second City of the Empire using the new guidance developed for public bodies.  Starting with archival sources, students are invited to first research one of Glasgow’s problematic nineteenth- or early twentieth-century portrait statues erected for the public in George Square or Kelvingrove Park to evaluate hidden or contested histories around the subject, as well as the intentions of the statue’s commissioners.  This evidence can then be evaluated through the 2021 guidance to determine possible courses of action a public body might take to ensure that history is neither obscured nor imposed in the built environment.  Along with applying case studies to contemporary debates in public history, student projects may also focus on interdisciplinary topics such as cultural memory, urban planning, art and symbolism, post-colonialism/decolonisation, and/or inclusivity in public heritage.

    2. Attitudes to Greek Resistance (1941-1944) and the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) in the British and Scottish Press

    This research project focuses on the Greek Resistance (1941-1944) and the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) and their portrayal in the British and Scottish press. The project can examine specifically how the attitude towards the communist-led Ethniko Apeleutherotiko Metopo (trans. National Liberation Front) changed as the Civil War became more prominent following the liberation of Greece in 1944 and with Winston Churchill’s prohibition of any favourable mention of the EAM by the BBC in 1944. Attitudes towards the National Liberation Front and afterward the Dimokratikos Stratos Ellados (trans. Democratic Army of Greece) will be placed within the broader context of British policy towards Greece in the aftermath of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War. Working with their supervisor, students may choose to examine the efforts of the League for Democracy in Greece to create a counter-narrative surrounding the prosecuted resistance fighters in Greece and to ensure amnesty for all prosecuted democrats. Students are invited to use a variety of sources, such as archival documents, including from the National Archives, the British Newspaper Archive (available online) and the Marx Memorial Library.

    3. A Collective Biography of Scotland in the First World War

    This research project introduces students to the methodology known as collective biography which draws on the biographies of groups of individuals in order to explore wider historical networks and experiences. With the rise of digitisation and computerised analysis, there are increasing opportunities for the employment of this methodology, particularly using documents created between 1914-1921. Working with their supervisor, students will develop a small scale-scale study that draws on biographies collated during the 2014-18 Centenary. There is also potential to employ digitised genealogical and local history documents held in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, the National Records of Scotland and the University of Glasgow Archives. Through this project students will relate individual experiences and connections to wider societal trends in Scotland during the First World War. Potential case studies could be based on local memorials, honour rolls, civilian businesses and institutions, social groups, military formations, and various other aspects of contemporary Scottish society.


    4. Britains’ Toy Soldiers: Representations of War and Conflict

    In the first half of the twentieth century, William Britains of London was one of largest toy companies in the world. Their hand-painted sets of lead toy soldiers were the LEGO of their time. Instantly recognisable, with a global reach, they dominated shop windows and children’s playrooms across the Western World. This topic offers students the opportunity to conduct research within the growing fields of Games Studies and the History of Play. Working with their supervisor, students will devise their own unique project based on the artefacts produced by William Britains between 1893 and 1965. Projects could draw on documentary evidence found in contemporary catalogues and newspapers, or take a material culture approach to the rich body of surviving sets and figures. Students may wish to focus on the clear link between toy soldiers and the military; or other aspects such as the implicit messages of empire, colonialism, racism, and gender inherent in these toys.


    5. When Scots Returned from India: Wealth, Race and Cultural Strategies, 1757-1820

    This research project explores Scotland’s participation in Britain’s expansion in India, from the battle of Plassey (1757) to the early 19th century. At a time of revolutions, global competition and endemic corruption, the involvement of Scots in the business of the East India Company, particularly prominent in commercial and military operations, was also visible in the transformations of Scottish society, landscape and culture. After years of service, during which they often adopted an Anglo-Indian lifestyle, most Scots returned permanently to their home country. Students are invited to evaluate the extent to which these returnees – known as ‘Nabobs’ – shaped ideas of race, family and social status at home. Working with their supervisor, students may choose a case study to explore the impact of Scottish involvement in India, drawing from a range of potential primary material (notebooks, wills, correspondence, official records). Students may also engage with material culture and visual sources to uncover the consequences of company service on the private lives of Scottish individuals (including perceptions of gender, class and race). Students are encouraged to use material from Scottish museums and archives to reflect on the much-neglected importance of colonial India in the early-modern period, and its legacies in contemporary Scotland.


    6.Russian Autocracy: Ideology and Praxis, 1682-1906

    This research project will examine the ideology and practice of Russian Imperial government from the accession of Peter the Great to the 1906 Constitution. Historians have debated the nature of the Imperial political system, with some depicting the Tsars as despotic and the Russian people as servile and oppressed, and others insisting on how autocracy was tempered by commitment to religious morality, concepts of honour, and a practical need to build consensus. Working with their supervisor, students will engage with primary sources (in translation) ranging from government documents to private correspondence, literature, and art, in order to explore how the Tsarist autocracy was conceptualised, and how these ideas related to the reality of the Russian people’s experience of it. Students may focus on a specific case study, such as the reign of a particular ruler, or a political/philosophical movement, such as the Slavophiles or Narodniki, and their relationship to Tsarist power.


    7.Golden Liberty: Polish Political Thought from 1385 to 1795, and Beyond

    “For our freedom and yours”, or some variation of this phrase, was a defining slogan for Polish patriots throughout the periods where Poland disappeared from the world map (1795-1918 and 1939-1945). By implication, it proposes that the Poles were not merely fighting for their own freedom, but for the very idea of freedom itself, conceptualising Poland’s struggle as epitomising, in the minds of Polish people, a universal human struggle for liberation. Students pursing this project will be encouraged to explore the origins of these ideas in the birth of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in 1385, how they affected Poland’s political development, and how they influenced Polish intellectuals after the Commonwealth’s destruction. Further avenues for research might include how other events influenced, or were influenced by, this (such as the French Revolution), or how, paradoxically, the Polish elite’s obsession with freedom undermined the cohesion of the state, costing them the very liberty they claimed to cherish.


    8.Human and Animal Relationships in Early Modern Scotland, c.1500-1700

    This research project will examine the relationship between human and animal in early modern Scotland, introducing students to the discipline of historical animal studies. In this period, animals were a central part of everyday life; all stratas of society, from members of the royal court to the pastoral farmers who made up the majority of the population, interacted with animals daily, and they played a central role in cultural belief systems. Students will have the opportunity to explore themes such as religion and supernatural belief, hunting and violence, or dietary practices. In doing so, students will be invited to engage with the wider scholarship and methodology, which emphasises the value of decentring the human within the historical narrative and encourages the employment of a radically interdisciplinary supporting literature. Working with their supervisor, students will develop a research paper focusing on one aspect of human-animal interaction in early modern Scotland, utilising historical sources such as parliamentary acts and charters, church records, criminal trials, and account books. Projects may opt to focus on a particular region or decade, or may take a broader approach, considering belief or cultural practice over time.


    9. Echoes of Empire: Byzantine Culture and the Palaeologan Renaissance, 1261-1453

    This research project will examine the cultural power and influence of the Byzantine Empire during the so-called Palaeologan Renaissance, from 1261-1453. During this period the temporal power of the Empire was diminishing, but it remained an extremely vibrant and influential cultural force across Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean world. Students will be encouraged to engage with written primary sources (in translation) as well as images and objects to explore Byzantine influence within the Greek-speaking lands of the Rhomaioi, as the Byzantines called themselves, and the wider world. They may wish to focus on a particular artistic or architectural style, or on religious/philosophical movements such as Hesychasm. Other avenues for research might include how the Byzantine government exploited their cultural influence to offset their declining material resources using, for example, their status as the centre of Orthodox Christianity to manage their relationships with other Orthodox polities.


    10. Medieval London and Queenship: The Cartulary of the Priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate

    The University of Glasgow Special Collections holds only one cartulary, that of Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate, London. Cartularies, collections of documents gathered by religious institutions or families, are some of the most important primary sources for the study of local medieval societies before 1300. Aldgate’s cartulary is a crucial source for medieval queenship, particularly as its narrative history claims it was founded in 1108 by Queen Matilda, wife of Henry I of England, the last Anglo-Saxon princess and daughter and sister to kings of Scotland. The cartulary is also an important record of medieval London’s social and economic history.

    Despite this significance, historians tend to rely on a published Calendar (a list of its contents) because the manuscript is in Glasgow. This project is intended to determine whether the cartulary would be worth a longer-term investigation and a fully published edition. Following engagement with the cartulary’s manuscript, students will formulate projects on the exercise of twelfth-century English queenship, medieval London, or the accuracy of the Calendar. Translations of the most important entries are available, but a willingness to engage with Latin with the supervisor’s assistance is desirable, irrespective of the student’s current ability. This project offers students the chance to interact with medieval manuscripts, gender and urban studies, as well as the potential to contribute to a prospective full edition of the cartulary.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.


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