Innovation and opportunity

A tradition of innovation and opportunity

100 years of research-led teaching

In 1909, the School pioneered the inclusion of a dissertation, an extended piece of written work based on original research, within the undergraduate history degree programme. As Professor Grant stated at the time, ‘the primary object of the dissertation is to bring them in touch with first-hand authorities, and to show them the basis upon which our knowledge of history rests’. Since then, our undergraduates have produced exceptional studies of topics as diverse as the Spanish economy between 1940 and 1958, perceptions of homosexuality in twentieth-century Uganda, and hair in early modern Venice. Today, the Final Year Project, an independent piece of research, is a key feature of the Leeds curriculum, and a common element of all degree programmes at the University of Leeds.

The special subject embodies the integration of research and teaching which is at the heart of our student experience. Established by 1911, this module has always involved the close study of primary sources on a topic closely related to the tutor’s research interests. The School of History now has more than 25 different special subjects on offer, each taught in small weekly seminars throughout the final year of the undergraduate degree.

Women and the School of History

The School has always been open to women. Alice M. Cooke (1867-1940) was the second academic to join the School, one of the earliest female academic appointments in the country. In recent decades, female members of academic staff have included Wendy Childs, a medievalist with interests in European trade and communication, and Katrina Honeyman (1950-2011), an economic historian whose research highlighted the role of women and children in industrialisation.

Women have long studied history as students, too. The first history graduate at Leeds was a woman, and 12 out of 15 graduates in 1920 were women. Today, more than half of our graduates are women, and the Alice M. Cooke prize is awarded each year to the best overall performance by a female student. Marion Sharples, a teacher with interests in British agrarian history who studied in the School as a mature student between 1987 and 1993, bequeathed a legacy to the university which supports the award of an annual prize for the best MA dissertation in the School.