Philosophy of History - PHIL6690

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 6 30 (15) David Corfield checkmark-circle


In this module we consider what it is that history studies—individual actions, social structures, states, empires, religious movements, social classes, periods and regions, civilizations, large causal or law-governed processes. We explore whether history as a whole has meaning, structure, or direction, beyond the individual events and actions that make it up and the nature of causal influence among historical events or structures that underwrites historical explanations.

We continue by examining what is involved in our knowing, representing, and explaining history by asking what role is played by the interpretation of the "lived experience" of past actors in our historical understanding, and how the historian arrives at justified statements about this lived experience. Can we arrive at justified and objective interpretations of long-dead actors, their mentalities and their actions, or does all historical knowledge remain permanently questionable?

Finally, we consider the extent to which human history is constitutive of the human present. Can historical understanding of events in the past inform our policies and actions in current situations judged in important respects to be sufficiently similar?


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Group Presentation (15 minutes) – 15%
Essay 1 (1,800 words) – 30%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) – 55%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices.
The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of, and ability to evaluate, the major philosophical theories of history as a discipline;
2 Engage critically with some of the central issues and controversies in the philosophy of history through their study of the relevant arguments (e.g., for the nature of historical causality, or the possibility of counterfactual history), and ultimately support a solution to a particular issue;
3 Recognise, critically evaluate, and demonstrate understanding of the implications of positions addressing the questions of the certainty of historical knowledge, and of its current relevance;
4 Demonstrate the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of the major texts in the philosophy of history and refer to these to support their own position.

The intended generic learning outcomes.

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1 Demonstrate their skills in analysis and articulating a coherent position;
2 Engage in oral and written argument and use such arguments to support a coherent position;
3 Demonstrate their skills in critical analysis, argument, and supporting a particular position through their engagement with major texts, through reading, writing, and discussion;
4 Work well alone, taking responsibility for their own learning;
5 Demonstrate their ability to clarify complex ideas and arguments, to develop their own ideas and arguments, and to express them orally and in writing.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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