Studying History as an Undergraduate

Why History?

History is virtually unique amongst the humanities in the emphasis it places on understanding people, actions, events, and processes in context and on their own terms.  It can offer incredible insight into how and why society has changed, and how we have come to be who we are today.  The academic staff of the School are world-leading experts in their fields, researching an enviable breadth of topics, and engaging in a range of methodological approaches.  The School has won major funding awards from esteemed bodies such as the European Research Council, the Irish Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  We are ranked amongst the top 100 Schools in the world, an accolade won not only for the quality and impact of our research, but also for the attention we pay to teaching.  We reflect deeply on employing the best learning strategies to offer a rich and rewarding environment in which to study.  Studying history offers a vital set of transferrable critical skills in research, analysis and communication, which can better equip us to understand not just past societies, but also the world we live in today.  These same skills are prized by employers, from the heritage industry to the financial sector. 

  • We are ranked among the top 100 Schools of History worldwide
  • The oustanding research profile of academic staff with an extensive range of expertise
  • Our committment to public engagement.  Our staff are commited to public history, and to using their expertise to inform current social, cultural and political issues
  • We have one of the largest groups of history students in Ireland, and it is a vibrant community
  • We are based in the capital of Ireland
  • We support a range of study abroad exchanges

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There are no special requirements for students who wish to take history modules at First Year level.  It is absolutely not necessary to have taken History at Leaving Certificate.  What is required, however, is an interest in the past, and a willingness to engage with what is an exciting and deeply rewarding subject. As a first year student you are introduced to some of the core skills required of an historian, and are offered a background in some momentous periods of history such as medieval and early-modern Europe, and early-modern and modern Ireland.  

 Core Module

History students are required to take this module

HIS10390 Creating History

This is a module about the importance of critical thinking to the study and the writing of history. It will examine the relationship between what happened (or what might have happened) in the past and how we think about it now. We will attempt to look behind the scenes of the history books, articles, documents, films and other sources that you will encounter during the course of your studies and ask how history is written and debated. Also, we will ask what history is, what an historian is and what exactly do they do?

Optional Modules

HIS10070: The Making of Modern Europe, 1500-2000

This course offers a sweeping introduction to some of the momentous changes which have taken place in Europe over the past five hundred years. It explores some of the major landmarks in Europe's social, political, and economic development: the development of European Empires, religious change, witchcraft, the industrial revolution, democratic change, war in the modern world, the Cold War and socio-cultural change since 1945. There will be one lecture every week which will introduce students to these themes, but the heart of the course lies in the seminars. Here, students will be encouraged to challenge interpretations of the past, to debate ideas and to draw on primary evidence.


HIS10080: Rome to Renaissance

This course provides an introduction to European history during the middle ages, from the fall of Rome in the fifth century to the Renaissance of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The middle ages, once dismissed as a time of stagnation and superstition, is now regarded as an exciting period of ferment, innovation and creativity. The social, political and cultural foundations of modern Europe were established in the middle ages, and the modern era cannot be understood without an awareness of this formative millennium. But equally, the study of the middle ages often means encountering the strange and unfamiliar, and this too is an essential part of being a historian. This course will study the period by focusing on a range of significant events which illustrate some of the most important developments of the period. These include the sack of Rome by barbarians, the influence of the Irish on the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the trial of Joan of Arc, and Columbus's 'discovery' of America. By the end of the semester not only will you have a grounding in medieval history, society and civilisation, but you will have experience of dealing directly with historical evidence, and evaluating and interpreting it in order to reach conclusions about events and people from the past.


HIS10310: Ireland's English Centuries

In 1460 Ireland was a patchwork of lordships including an English Pale, by 1800 the country was poised to enter a United Kingdom with England and Scotland. In 1460, all Irish people shared the common religion of Western Europe, by 1800 three groups – Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters dominated. In 1460, only a tiny number did not speak Irish, by 1800 English was spoken by well over half the population. During these 340 years Ireland experienced massive transfers of land-holding, invasions, bitter civil war and a huge expansion of population. This module explains the complex blend of identities, allegiances and social changes that shaped the past and continue to shape the Irish present.


HIS10320: From Union to Bailout

This course takes students through two centuries of modern Irish history, examining key events, themes and milestones from the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in 1800 to the collapse of the Irish economy in the early twenty-first century. It covers political, social, economic and cultural dimensions of Irish history during tumultuous times, the experience of Anglo-Irish relations, Catholic emancipation, famine, the evolution of Irish nationalism and unionism, the land war, the revolutionary upheavals of the early twentieth century, the impact of partition, the quest for sovereignty in the Free State, the experience of life in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and continuity and change in the latter part of the twentieth century.

A wide range of modules are available at levels 2 and 3.  For a full list, see the UG Syllabus for 2018

Knowledge and appreciation of history are vital to any civil society.  The skills which are learnt in the process of pursuing a degree in history are also vital to career development.  Studying history can also provide training essential for the heritage and cultural sectors.  In our experience, however, the vast majority of our graduates go on to employment in a truly breathtaking range of occupations, including (but not limited to) management, financial services, the civil service, teaching, and the media.