We live in what we think of as the ‘modern’ world – but what exactly is modernity and how did society become modern? What was western society like before it became modern? What changes formed our world and what impact did they have upon the lives of the people who lived through them? These questions are central to this course and are considered through lectures, tutorials and workshops. The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of many of the events and ideas associated with modernity such as individual liberty and human rights, freedom of the press, capitalism and consumerism and the Industrial Revolution. This course considers the significance of such challenges to the old order and the ramifications for both the lives of those who lived through them and for historical study.
History is concerned with change and continuity and in the last couple of decades historians have highlighted the importance of the role eighteenth-century Britain (and particularly England) played in the birth of modernity. Indeed, this course examines closely eighteenth-century England’s claim to have effectively forged the modern world with a focus upon Georgian London (1714 - 1830) because so many of the events and ideas studied occurred there between these years.
A consideration of the nature and development of modernity is one of the two aims of this course. Its secondary aim is to explore the role of twenty-first century technology in the study of history. It offers students the unique opportunity to gain a sense of what life in Georgian London might have been like. Students conduct a research project in a virtual reconstruction of eighteenth-century London in Second Life™ which helps to bring the sights, sounds and experiences of Georgian London to life in preparation for the major essay. This takes the form of an interactive 3D environment; an assignment designed to develop and demonstrate students research skills and thereby enrich their understanding of the texts and events of this fascinating and colourful period. This is also very much in keeping with the spirit of the period which was itself interested in innovation.
By the end of the semester, students have a deeper understanding of the nature and development of modernity. They are able to reflect upon the people who lived in this period and the far-reaching changes they wrought upon society; the extent to which they characterised the turbulent and fascinating eighteenth century and upon how they shaped our own world. Students also develop research skills using new technologies and are able to reflect upon their value in the study of History.
Students attend one two hour lecture and a one hour tutorial each week. Two early tutorials are dedicated to workshops on Second Life™. Assessment includes a reflective journal, attendance and participation, a research project and a research essay. For the research project students work in pairs and construct an interactive demonstration of their research in Second Life™. The research essay is designed to build upon the research already completed in the earlier assessment.
Throughout the semester students are given instruction, support and encouragement in using the technology. The assessment is based upon evidence of research, not on their skills as graphic artists, and this is heavily emphasised. In order to participate students construct an avatar and are encouraged to enter into the names, clothing, manners and etiquette of the period. To facilitate this and their research projects they are also given a limited number of 'Linden dollars' and links to free 'department stores' to purchase and obtain items in the virtual Georgian London.