Core Class + Tutorial: History of Material Culture

Course Description: 

The Core class can be taken with and without the tutorial. They both worth 2 credits.

Recent developments in historical research reflect an increasing interest in the field of material culture. This interest has moved away from dealing with isolated and de-contextualized objects and artefacts used by people in the past which one can often find in studies of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Scholarship now concentrates on relationships, interdependencies, and influences as well as on trans- and interdisciplinary approaches.

The class is an introduction to this field of research. Special attention is paid to the theoretical and methodological aspects of analysis, to the usage of the various types of sources (written material – from inventories to letters, images – from manuscript illumination to broadsheets, archaeological evidence – from pots to bones), and to their critical interpretation within a number of historical sub-disciplines and with respect to cultural heritage research. We also concentrate on questions of source intention, representation, image and “reality”, norm and practice, social agency, contrasts, connotations, ambiguities, and ambivalences. The context of material and non-material culture plays an important role that has to be considered in any analysis. Emphasis is put on developments and changes in the role of material culture in society from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century and on Central European source evidence.

There will be a special attempt to stay as close as possible to individual students’ research interests and personal preferences in topics.

Learning Outcomes: 

Ability to synthesize information. Assessment: fortnightly class journal; in-class written exam. Ability to employ higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Assessment: class participation. Ability to contextualize a variety of information. Assessment: tutorial.


Regular class attendance is mandatory. All seminar members are expected to be active participants in the course. Each class will include the discussion of the assigned readings. Credits and marks are given on the basis of class participation (20%) a fortnightly class-journal (summary of lectures and of reading assignments) (50%) and an in-class written exam (twelfth week; 30%).