Honours Course

History Honours

Post-graduate study in the History Department allows students the opportunity to explore History at a more sophisticated level than at undergraduate level. Honours classes are small and students benefit from the opportunity for in-depth learning that this provides.

The honours students also have the opportunity to tutor in the department and attend tea with other post-graduates and staff members.

Students wishing to enter Honours will need at least 65% for their final History 3 mark. Applications are made in the third and fourth terms.

Honours Courses and Course Requirements

Honours students are required to take three courses (out of a choice of six) and produce a research essay. It may be possible for students, at the discretion of the Head of Department, to write a fourth paper instead of the research essay. Certain courses are evaluated by exams, whilst others may require an extended essay or assignment.

The research essay should be a minimum of 15 000 words in length (excluding end matter), and must be submitted for examination by 3 November.

Students writing the research essay will take three other courses, two in one
semester and one in the other semester, choosing from the following offerings.

First Semester


This course examines the history of historical writing, showing how approaches to history have developed and changed since the Enlightenment. The main focus will be on trends in the discipline in recent times. Students will also be exposed to the philosophical and methodological problems associated with the study of history.

This course is compulsory for Honours students.

The course is team taught by members of the Department.

Students partake in seminars where work will be presented. There will be a 3-hour exam in June.

African Intellectuals

Through an engagement with oral traditions, autobiographies, historical writing, fiction, and other literary genres this course will attempt to trace the broad arc of the development of African intellectuality. It includes an examination of work produced in pre-colonial Africa, the diaspora consequent to the slave trade, the anti-colonial struggles and post-colonial Africa.

The questions running through this course will include the nature of intellectuals and intellectuality as well as the role of literary and oral cultures in intellectuals. The course begins with the Sundiata, includes thinkers like Olaudah Eqiuano, Sojourner Truth, Cheikh Anta Diop, Aimè Cèsaire, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Steve Biko, Nguni wa Thiong'o, Mahmood Mamdani and Achille Mbembe.

Lecturer:  Ms Jagarnath

Students to partake in seminars where work will be presented. There will be a 3-hour exam in November.

Themes in Environmental Justice

This course arises from the conviction that the extent of the world environmental crisis requires all of us to actively contribute towards replenishing our environment, rather than merely seeking solutions towards 'sustainable development'. It rests on the premise that existing definitions of environmental justice and sustainable development are flawed, largely as a result of their anthropocentricity. Participants will be encouraged to develop alternative definitions which place humankind as simply one strand in a complex 'web of life' (Capra). However, as humans are the source of environmental degradation and injustice, it is up to them to find alternative strategies to rejuvenate our planet.

Beyond the philosophical issues, it explores the history of environmental justice movements, and similar initiatives, both in South Africa and in other parts of the world, and interrogates the reasons for their successes and (sometimes spectacular) failures. In doing so, it raises the question of whether or not it would be more profitable to focus on small local, or regional, initiatives, rather than broader national structures.

Participants are expected either to have been actively involved in organizations dealing with environmental issues, or to become active in local or national structures during the course of the module.

Lecturer: Dr Kirkaldy

Students will present work in seminars and write tailor-made essays relating to the course. There will be a three-hour examination in June.

Second Semester

Cold War Studies

Cold War Studies emerged as a new field of enquiry in the early 2000s. Crossing the more established disciplines of History and Politics, Cold War Studies has also drawn on newer disciplines like Cultural Studies, Media Studies and Memory Studies closer to its central interest which is the intellectual project of the Cold War.

The seminars will tackle questions such as: What are Cold War Studies? What are the origins of the Cold War? Why did the Cold War end? What is the legacy and significance of the Cold War? There will be scope to examine the regional impact of the Cold War on life in southern African and eastern Europe. More thematic topics, including the role of intellectuals, the media, public policy and memorialisation, will also be explored.

Lecturer: Professor Baines

Evaluation will be based on seminar participation and a research essay.

Oral Studies Methodology

This course introduces students to a range of issues and practical experience in the art of generating social data from oral sources. A range of professional uses for oral evidence will also be explored including archiving, documentaries, archival storage and memory therapy.

Lecturer:  Professor Wells

Each student undertakes an individually-tailored research project, under close supervision.

Themes in Land and Agrarian History

Land is a finite and fundamental life-giving resource. Yet over the past 400 years we have seen land falling under fewer hands through wars of conquest, class-driven dispossession and the advent of private property regimes. This course looks at land and agrarian questions from a historical point of view,
with a special focus on South Africa's  history of dispossession. We look at the shifting nature of land access and ownership and how these have shaped social structures and the economy.  We will ask questions about the implications of this history for present day land issues.

Lecturer: Dr Mkhize

Students will present work in seminars and write an exam in November.

Last Modified: Tue, 16 May 2017 12:07:45 SAST