History Thematic Course: Emotions (V1469)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

Examine the theme of ‘Emotions’ from the early modern to the modern period, across different countries and cultures.

While it’s agreed that there are some universal, basic emotions (such as fear, anger, love), the way in which emotions have been expressed, regulated and understood has varied widely in different periods and cultures. The decline in homicide rates and feuding since the Middle Ages suggests that the way people express anger has changed over time. Are we now less violent, or is our violence simply manifested in different ways? Do people feel love and desire differently now to how they did in the past, and how have emotions been intertwined with ideals of gender over time? Why, for instance, were women seen as the more carnal sex in the early modern period, but then considered the more modest sex in the Victorian era? And how can historians begin to find emotions in the past: through diaries, letters, objects, trial records, clothing, music, photographs and art?

We introduce you to the history of emotions, highlighting the changes over time in:

  • our emotional worlds
  • how we feel and show our feelings
  • what language we use to express emotion
  • the social acceptability of particular emotional expressions.

You’ll encounter some key concepts or approaches used by historians to understand how emotions worked in the past. We use a range of examples from the medieval to the modern and across the world that highlight the diversity of emotional experience.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Group presentation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: