Seminars

Students select one seminar to dive into for the three-week program. Mornings at Oxford are spent in 12-person seminars taught by British university scholars—tutors, as they are known in Oxford—who are experts in their field. These gifted and experienced instructors are passionate about sharing their knowledge.

Courses cover unique themes that change every year. Examples include Brexit and the European Union, King Arthur, Shakespeare, the role of the English country house (providing a window into TV’s Downton Abbey, and much more!

At the end of each course, students are required to write a paper on a subject of their choice that relates to their seminar. Papers are approximately 1,500 words in length and provide an excellent way for students to summarize what they learned and their experience as scholars at Oxford. Additionally, Continuing Education (CE) units are offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

The Arts and Crafts Garden | Richard Bisgrove

Course Description: Our Oxford Berkeley Program seminar on The Arts and Crafts Garden explores the influences on the development of the Arts and Crafts movement in general and traces the many strands of thought which shaped the gardens of the period. The seminar begins with a very brief résumé of English garden history in order to set the Arts and Crafts garden into context, then examines the work of such designers as William Morris, Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, Reginald Blomfield, Thomas Mawson, William Robinson, Alfred Parsons, Edwin Lutyens, and Gertrude Jekyll.

When the German philosopher-turned-architect Herman Muthesius visited Britain in 1896, he was deeply impressed by the quiet restraint of English domestic architecture of the period and by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement. In 1904, he published his observations in Das englische Haus, a book that had major influence on the development of the Bauhaus School.

For advocates and practitioners of the Arts and Crafts, the ideals of Das englische Haus encompassed all aspects of life. John Ruskin sowed the seeds of the movement during his time in Oxford, as a student at Christ Church from 1836 and as the first Slade Professor of Art from 1869. His acolyte William Morris, a central figure in the Arts and Crafts movement, had much to say about the unity of house and garden and the importance of the garden as an expression of a civilised way of life. However, the Arts and Crafts movement was a statement of principles rather than a distinctive style and the gardens of the period show influences from “old England”, Italy, and Japan. Indeed, the concept of the Arts and Crafts garden is so broad that it embraces the work of both William Robinson and Sir Reginald Blomfield, whose vehement criticisms of each other came to a head in 1892 with the publication of Blomfield’s The Formal Garden in England and Robinson’s reply in his Garden Design and Architects’ Gardens. Their fierce battle of words was resolved by the artist-gardener Gertrude Jekyll and the architect Edwin Lutyens creating a “balanced union of both principles” in the words of Lutyens’s biographer Christopher Hussey. The result: the charming and often sophisticated English cottage garden was also given impetus by a colony of “Henry James” Americans who settled in the Cotswolds north of Oxford adding their own relaxed international flair, a combination which has influenced the world of garden makers to the present day.

About the Tutor: Richard Bisgrove gained a First Class Honours degree in Horticultural Science at Reading (1965) and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan (1969), then worked briefly as a landscape architect in Florida before returning to the University of Reading to lecture in Amenity Horticulture. In 1986, he was responsible for the introduction, at Reading, of Britain’s first degree course in Landscape Management. He retired in September 2009 from his position as Senior Lecturer and Course Director for Landscape Management and has also served for 19 years on the Gardens Panel of the National Trust. He has lectured internationally and written seven books on aspects of garden design and garden history.

Reading List: Note: None of these readings are mandatory, and none are required in Oxford.

  1. Thomas H. Mawson, The Art and Craft of Garden Making (Batsford 1900 – 1926)
  2. Gertrude Jekyll and Lawrence Weaver, Gardens for Small Country Houses (Country Life 1912-1926 and Garden Art Press 1999)
  3. Judith Tankard, Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement (Abrams 2004)
  4. Richard Bisgrove, The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll (Frances Lincoln 1992)
  5. Richard Bisgrove, William Robinson: The Wild Gardener (Frances Lincoln 2009)

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $420, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

Visits may include William Morris’s seminal Red House and his later home at Kelmscott Manor; Gertrude Jekyll’s home Munstead Wood that was designed for her by Edwin Lutyens; the beautifully restored Jekyll garden at Upton Grey; and Rodmarton Manor, the creation of Ernest and Sydney Barnsley.

Elizabeth I and the Politics of Courtship | Dr. Janet Dickinson

Course Description: Elizabeth I has a claim to be the most famous woman in history. A queen who ruled alone for 44 years, her reign encompassed a fast-moving period of social, religious, and cultural upheaval as Europe discovered the New World and religion fragmented in the aftermath of the reformations. Elizabeth’s queenship is remembered for its longevity and a great victory over the Spanish Armada. But what do we really know about Elizabeth? This course will take students beyond the myth of the Virgin Queen to understand more about how she lived and operated within her world. We will focus in particular on Elizabeth’s relationships with those around her: the women of her Privy Chamber; her courtiers, counselors, and favourites. The lives and attitudes of these men and women will be explored through the rich variety of materials with which they surrounded and expressed themselves, from correspondence, books and drama to architecture, portraiture, textiles, and tomb monuments.

Students will analyze and debate the key issues and events of Elizabeth’s reign through the eyes and actions of her court. The great figures of the reign—William Cecil, Robert Dudley, Walter Ralegh, Robert Devereux—will be discussed, along with less celebrated but no less important figures such as Walter Mildmay and Nicholas Bacon. The dynamics of decision and policy making will be discussed—just how did you get a famously intransigent queen to make up her mind? How did Elizabeth manage to maintain the support and loyalty of her subjects over the long course of her reign? Why did she never marry? We will work towards a critical appraisal of the reign, its successes, and its missed opportunities.

About the Tutor: Janet Dickinson specializes in the history of early modern England and Europe, with particular interests in cultural and political history. Her first book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex was published in 2011. Current projects include work on the Elizabethan nobility and the last years of Elizabeth I’s life, as well as court history in general. She is currently postdoctoral researcher on the Texel shipwreck project: ‘From Maritime Archaeology to Cultural History’, investigating the experience of royalist exile in mid-seventeenth century Europe. Janet is Senior Associate Tutor at Continuing Education in Oxford, Conference Secretary for the Society for Court Studies, and Lecturer for New York University in London. She contributes to a number of programs for Oxford and in 2014, 2016, and 2017 was named ‘most acclaimed lecturer’ by her students.

Reading List: It is not a course requirement to bring any of these books with you to Oxford. Please note that it is not intended that students should purchase all of these books in order to take the course. Most are available at affordable prices, sometimes secondhand, but some are included in case you can find them via a local library. Books marked with an asterisk are particularly recommended for those wanting an overview of the subject. Beyond that, you should read according to your own lines of interest.

  1. Simon Adams, Leicester and the Court (2011)
  2. Stephen Alford, Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I (2011)
  3. Pauline Croft, ed., Patronage, Culture and Power: The Early Cecils (2002)
  4. Janet Dickinson, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex, 1589-1601 (2011)
  5. Susan Doran, Monarchy and Matrimony. The Courtships of Elizabeth I (1996)
  6. *Susan Doran, Elizabeth I and her Circle (2015)
  7. Mark Girouard, Elizabethan Architecture: Its Rise and Fall, 1540-1640 (2009)
  8. *John Guy, Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years (2017)
  9. Helen Hackett, Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen. Elizabeth I and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1995)
  10. Christopher Haigh, The Reign of Elizabeth I (1984)
  11. *Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I (2000)
  12. Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose (eds.), Elizabeth I: Collected Works (2000)
  13. Natalie Mears, Queenship and Political Discourse in the Elizabethan Realms (2005)
  14. *Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I (2002)
  15. David Starkey, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship (2001) [Also published as The Struggle for the Throne]
  16. Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry (1999)
  17. Anna Whitelock, Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court (2014)

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $396, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

We will visit sites connected to Elizabeth and her subjects during the course, including Kirby Hall, a tribute in architecture to the queen by her ‘dancing courtier’, Sir Christopher Hatton; and Apethorpe Palace where we will gain a sense of the kinds of spaces that Elizabeth and those around her would have lived and worked in. We will also visit Hatfield House, where Elizabeth received the news that she was queen and where Robert Cecil built a grand country house to express his family’s rise to power through royal service and Elizabeth’s favor. Finally, we will carry forward our debates over contemporary notions of queenship by seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays on the subject, providing us with the opportunity to think about how Elizabeth’s subjects responded to her rule.

The Oxford Fantasists | Dr. Emma Plaskitt

Course Description: In this course, we will examine the lives and fantasy literature of famous Oxford alumni William Morris (Exeter College), Lewis Carroll (Christ Church), Oscar Wilde (Magdalen), C.S. Lewis (University and Magdalen), J.R.R. Tolkien (Exeter, Pembroke, and Merton), Susan Cooper (Somerville), and Alan Garner (Magdalen), looking at each writer’s unique take on the fantasy genre. To place readings in context, this course will also explore and compare selected source materials used by these writers, including examples of classic “high” and “low” fairy tales, selections from Norse and Welsh mythology, and Arthurian romance.

Oxford has been a centre of scholarship for centuries, and since the nineteenth century, it has also boasted a considerable number of acclaimed and popular writers of what has come to be known as fantasy literature. William Morris was a designer, artist, poet, and social commentator. Lewis Carroll (real name, Charles Dodgson) was an Anglican clergyman, mathematician, and pioneering photographer. Oscar Wilde was a controversial wit as well as a writer firmly associated with the Aesthetic Movement. What these men had in common was their interest in fantasy, taking inspiration from medieval romance, fairy tales, and even ‘nonsense literature’. In the early twentieth century, friends and colleagues J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis set out to reclaim the genre for adult readers. Though they approached fantasy in highly disparate ways, they firmly agreed that it had major literary merit and should not be dismissed as escapist or childish. They believed that such fiction had fallen out of fashion and Tolkien recalled his friend Lewis saying, “Tollers, there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.” The result was the publication of works like The Hobbit (1937), The Narnia Chronicles (1950-6), and The Lord of the Rings (1954-5). Tolkien is now seen as the master of such fiction and his 1939 lecture “On Faërie Stories” remains a seminal piece of criticism.

Tolkien’s works will form the heart of the course as we enter what he called “the Perilous Realm of Faërie”, discovering how and why he was inspired to create his own epic mythology for England. We will also examine more recent Oxford fantasy writers, Susan Cooper and Alan Garner, to see how they use myth and romance in their own novels and why they choose the fantasy genre over others. Was C.S. Lewis correct when he stated in a 1956 article that, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said”? Why did Tolkien dislike The Narnia Chronicles so much? Would he have approved of The Dark is Rising series? Why do the same motifs appear in myths and fairy tales from around the world, and why does fantasy remain such a popular genre? Is it true that fantasy can fulfill what Tolkien called humanity’s “profounder wishes”, providing readers with a fresh perspective and a world stripped of its dull familiarity? These are some of the many questions we will consider.

Classes will be discussion based, following a detailed introduction to each author, novel, and the cultural and literary background.

About the Tutor: Dr. Emma Plaskitt, Lecturer in English Language and Literature and a graduate of McGill University, Montréal, and Merton College, Oxford, where she wrote her doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century novelists Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson, and Frances Burney. Since 1994, she has taught children’s literature and English literature 1640–1901 for several Oxford colleges, including Brasenose, Worcester, Somerville, and St Hugh’s. She has also taught for a variety of American programmes. Having worked for the Oxford dictionary of national biography, where she was responsible for writing many articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women writers, she now focuses on teaching for SCIO and for Stanford University, for whom she is an Overseas Lecturer. Though a specialist on the literature of the Restoration and eighteenth century, her research interests include the Victorian novel—particularly the gothic novel and novel of sensation—and children’s literature.

Reading List: See below for free online editions. Everything is fairly short, with the notable exception of The Lord of the Rings.

Myth Selections
  1. From Andrew Lang, ed., The Red Fairy Book (1890): “Sigurd and the Dragon”
  2. From The Mabinogion (c.1350-1410): “How Culhwch Won Olwen”, “Owein, or the Countess of the Fountain”, “Peredur son of Efrawg”
  3. From Roger Lancelyn Green (Merton), King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (1953): “The Two Swords”, “The Magic of Nimue and Morgan le Fay”, “Sir Percivale of Wales”, “The Story of Lancelot and Elaine”, “How the Holy Grail Came to Camelot”, “The First Adventure of Sir Galahad”, “The Adventures of Sir Percivale”, “The End of the Quest”, “Lancelot and Guinvere”, “The Plots of Sir Mordred”, “The Last Battle”
  4. From Kevin Crossley-Holland (St Edmund Hall), The Penguin Book of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings (1996): “The Creation”, “The Necklace of the Brisings”, “Balder’s Dreams”, “The Death of Balder”, “The Binding of Loki”, “Ragnarok”

Fairy Tale Selections
  1. Hans Christian Andersen, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Wild Swans”, “The Red Shoes”
  2. Charles Perrault, “Puss in Boots”; “Bluebeard”
  3. The Brothers Grimm, “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Snow White”
  4. Jeanne Marie LePrince de Beaumont, “Beauty and the Beast”
  5. Oscar Wilde, “The Fisherman and His Soul”, “The Selfish Giant”, “The Happy Prince”
  6. George MacDonald, “The Light Princess” (1864)

Oxford Fantasists
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien (Exeter, Pembroke, and Merton): “On Faërie Stories” (1939), Gawain and the Green Knight (translation, 1925), The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-5), i.e. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King
  2. William Morris (Exeter): The Wood Beyond the Worlds (1894)
  3. Lewis Carroll (Christ Church): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
  4. C.S. Lewis (University and Magdalen): The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), The Magician’s Nephew (1955), and The Last Battle (1956)
  5. Susan Cooper (Somerville): The Dark is Rising Sequence (1965-77): Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree
  6. Alan Garner (Magdalen): The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960)

Online Resources
  1. Morris, Wood Beyond the World: available in a scholarly Broadview edition and online
  2. Tolkien: “On Faërie Stories”
  3. Gawain and the Green Knight
  4. Wilde Fairy Tales
  5. MacDonald, “The Light Princess”
  6. Annotated versions of Fairy Tales
  7. The Red Fairy Book, “Sigurd and the Dragon”
  8. Mabinogion: good editions by Penguin Classics, trans. and ed. by Jeffrey Gantz or Oxford World’s Classics, ed. Sioned Davies

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $270, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

Field trips will augment and complement the readings and include visits to The Red House, the “Iconic Arts and Crafts home of William Morris - writer, artist, craftsman and socialist” (National Trust) and Christ Church College, Oxford, where Lewis Carroll met the ‘real’ Alice and was inspired to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We will also go to the Bodleian Library to see the exhibition, “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth”, C.S. Lewis’s home in Headington, “The Kilns”, and possibly the British Museum to see the Sutton Hoo artefacts. Students will be expected to submit an essay of no more than 1,500 words on a topic relating to the course and to make a very brief presentation to the class.

Temple of Art or Gentlemen’s Club? The Royal Academy of Arts from Sir Joshua Reynolds to JMW Turner | Dr. Jacqueline Riding

Course Description: 2018 is the 250th anniversary of the foundation of London’s Royal Academy of Arts. This course will chart the establishment and early decades of the Academy, from its first president, the Grand Manner portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, via its second president, the ground-breaking American history painter Benjamin West, to Britain’s greatest landscape painter, JMW Turner. The Academy was created and run by artists for artists, and was a space for study and training as well as for the promotion of contemporary British art and architecture. The annual summer exhibition quickly became a Society event—a place to see and be seen—while establishing public taste for contemporary art. Although the 40 Academicians were an elite of “brother artists” who viewed the Academy as a social as well as professional environment, formidable rivalries inevitably development, most famously between Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, and Turner and his fellow landscape painter John Constable. Given the roll-call of academicians, associates and students, which include the visionary art rebel William Blake, this period is considered the Golden Age of British Art.

About the Tutor: Dr. Jacqueline Riding specializes in eighteenth and early-nineteenth century art and history. Former Assistant Curator of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) and Director of the Handel House Museum in London, she is now a consultant for museums/galleries, heritage and film. Her recent publications include “Basic Instincts: Art, Passion and Violence in the Art of Joseph Highmore, 1692-1780” (2017). She is a Trustee of Turner’s House Trust (the artist’s recently restored London villa) and was the art historical and historical adviser on Mike Leigh’s award-winning feature film “Mr. Turner” (2014). She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $420, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

The course will include a field trip to the Royal Academy in London to visit the current Summer Exhibition, and a major international loan exhibition to celebrate its 250th anniversary, curated by Professor Mark Hallet, Director of the Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art.

Shakespeare’s Kings and Queens | Dr. Lynn Robson

Course Description: Shakespeare had an enduring fascination with the connections between the demands of rule and the profundities of human experience, and this class will focus on the relationships that lie at the heart of his dramatic exploration of rule and rulers: between king and queen; husband and wife; parents and children; monarchs and their subjects. You will study some of Shakespeare’s best known plays and some that are much less familiar.

As you move from history, to comedy, and tragedy you’ll also experience different stages of Shakespeare’s writing career. You’ll begin with plays that established his reputation as a playwright: King Henry VI Part 3 dramatizes the brutality of civil war and leads to the brilliance and danger of Richard III. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will give you a comic perspective on the chaotic cost of quarrels between monarchs while King Lear explores the tragic consequences of the folly and madness of a king’s love test. In Cymbeline, the tussle for supremacy between the rulers of Rome and Ancient Britain is played out against a story of lost children and marital betrayal. As you journey through these plays you’ll realise that not all of Shakespeare’s rulers are called Richard or Henry, you’ll explore whether kings are born or made and what makes a successful ruler, discover the power of queens, and confront the terrible consequences of weak or foolish monarchs.

Shakespeare wrote for both a queen and a king and, as we discuss why his works continue to enthral and enchant audiences, we’ll consider how Elizabethan and Jacobean culture contributes to our understanding of the plays. Our detailed explorations of the plays will never lose sight of performance and we will think about how they’ve been adapted for stage and screen.

This course is open to all-comers: if you already know something about Shakespeare, come and find out more; if you’ve never studied him before then this is the class that will introduce you to the world’s greatest playwright.

Plays: King Henry VI Part 3, King Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, Cymbeline

About the Tutor: Dr. Lynn Robson is a Tutor in English at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, teaching early modern literature (1550-1760) to full-time undergraduates studying for BA(Hons) in English Language and Literature, Classics and English, and History and English, as well as part-time students studying at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education. She is co-convenor for MSt in Women’s Studies teaching and supervising postgraduates on this interdisciplinary Masters. She is also a tutor on the part-time, interdisciplinary MSt in Literature and Arts, run by the Department for Continuing Education. She is Tutor for Admissions for English and allied Joint Schools and joint Director of Studies for BA (Hons) in Classics and English. She also directs Regent’s Visiting Student Programme, organising and coordinating academic programmes for students from North America and Europe. Her awards include Most Acclaimed Lecturer in the Humanities and University of Oxford Teaching Excellence Award.

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $350, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

The course will probably include trips to see performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London.

The Beatles, Popular Music and Sixties Britain 1960-1975 | Dr. Rikky Rooksby

Course Description: Revered and reviled in almost equal measure, the Sixties continue to fascinate. One musical group rightly dominates accounts of the decade’s music. We will explore how the Beatles made that music, tracing its development from the relatively simple recordings of their first album through the psychedelic experimentation of Sgt. Pepper, and on to the layered techniques of Abbey Road. We will hear new details in familiar songs and identify how the group developed their expressive musical vocabulary. The course also looks at how the Beatles discography has been extended in the past 30 years through remastering and remixing.

Their music is contextualized with many songs by other British groups of the period. We will trace the development of some of the leading genres of popular music during this decade and a half, and information about technological innovations in music. The course also includes some British poetry and prose from the decade, as well as archive film of Swinging London, and touches on some key events in British art and politics.

However well-known you think the Beatles’ music is, you’ll hear more than before. A fab time guaranteed for all.

About the Tutor: Dr. Rikky Rooksby has a Ph.D. in English Literature and is a tutor for the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education and at Regents College. He is a guitar teacher and composer, and the author of many articles, reviews and books on English literature and popular music, including the best-selling 11-volume songwriting series published by Backbeat Books which includes How To Write Songs On Guitar (2000) and Inside Classic Rock Tracks (2002).

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $292, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

Visits may include the Robert Opie Collection at the Museum of Brands in Ladbroke Grove, London; the Tate Britain; and an in-house viewing of film clips and music from the sixties era.

Is the Liberal International Order Over? | Richard Smethurst

Course Description: The institutions established at Bretton Woods in 1944—the IMF, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the World Trade Organization after 1995)—embodied the idea that free trade and capital movements internationally, and the promotion of competitive markets nationally, would spread both prosperity and democracy. But the experiences of the last quarter century, and especially of the decade since the 2008 financial crisis, have brought the performance of global capitalism and the liberal international order into sharp dispute. Have free trade and international capital movements brought prosperity to rich countries at the expense of poorer ones? Do global supply chains and communications companies constitute unacceptable challenges to sovereign nation states? Are the mechanisms of 21st-century capitalism resulting in increasing inequality in income and wealth? Have the reactions to the global financial crisis strengthened the prosperity of global elites whilst causing stagnant incomes for the many? We shall trace the background to these issues from the first rigorous demonstration of the mutual benefits of free trade by David Ricardo in 1817 to the latest discussions of Thomas Piketty’s work on inequality. On our journey we shall consider the theory and practice of trade and payments under the nineteenth-century gold standard, the breakdown of that system in the interwar years, the debates at Bretton Woods, the abandonment of fixed exchange rates, European integration, and the roles of Japan, the ‘Asian Tigers’ and China, mingling history, international relations, and economics.

When the German philosopher-turned-architect Herman Muthesius visited Britain in 1896, he was deeply impressed by the quiet restraint of English domestic architecture of the period and by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement. In 1904, he published his observations in Das englische Haus, a book that had major influence on the development of the Bauhaus School.

About the Tutor:Dick Smethurst was formerly Provost (i.e. head) of Worcester College, Oxford (1991 – 2011) and a pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Throughout his career, he has combined the teaching and practice of economics with a belief in the importance of adult continuing education. A former Chair of the sub-faculty of Economics and of the Social Studies faculty in Oxford, he has served in HM Treasury, the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, of which he was Deputy Chairman (1986 -1989), the Investment Management Regulatory Organization, and on the consumer panel of the Financial Services Authority. He was Director of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (1976 – 1986) and during those years directed and taught on the Oxford-Berkeley Summer School. He was President of the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (1994 – 2001).

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $378, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

Throughout we shall interweave history, international relations, and economics, an approach exemplified by our visits, which range from museums sited in the cradle of the industrial revolution and the heart of Britain’s war effort to a high-tech car factory which is part of a global business. Visits will include Churchill War Rooms, London; the Cowley Mini Plant; and Ironbridge.

Winston Churchill: A Man of his Time? | Dr. Kate Watson

Course Description: In this course we will discover the life and times of Winston Churchill, one of the most iconic political statesmen Britain has ever produced, yet also one of its most divisive politicians, both then and for historians. In the eyes of many, he will forever be a heroic figure, charged with the governance of the country through the dark days of the Second World War and leading Britain to a triumphal victory. Yet for all his undoubted success in this period of dire national need, it is also important to remember that Churchill ended the war on the losing side—not as a military leader, but as a domestic politician. For in the General Election of 1945, with the war yet to reach its full end, Churchill embarked on a contest of a very different kind, locked in a battle for the public vote with his former coalition deputy and Labour leader, Clement Attlee—and was infamously defeated. Furthermore, this was far from the only difficult moment Churchill faced, in a career marked by political controversy as much as it was by political successes. Some of the reason for this lies in the sheer breadth and nature of that career. For in a lifetime than spanned almost a hundred years, Churchill experienced, and sometimes governed through, a myriad of historic moments, from the death of Queen Victoria and the outbreak of the First World War, to the Great Depression, and the beginnings of the 1960s cultural revolution.

To truly understand Churchill then, it is necessary to view the man through the lens of the political times in which he lived, in all its hardships and its hopes. This course therefore places Churchill in that context, in tracing his life from beginning to end, from his early years in late Victorian Britain, through the dark days of war and peace, to his final restorative moments. In the process, we will explore why Churchill appeared such a controversial figure, at his worst seemingly so out of sync with the popular mood, yet at his best appearing to encompass the very spirit of the British people. Throughout the course we will draw on a range of primary source material to help us understand and explain the man and his times, from contemporary acts and speeches, to political cartoons and film. Finally, the course will end with a class debate on the nature of his legacy.

About the Tutor: Dr. Kate Watson graduated from the University of York and won a research scholarship to the Open University, completing a Ph.D. thesis on modern British and European history. She has extensive teaching experience with OUDCE, and previously as a tutor for international programmes at Mansfield College Oxford. She also taught for the Open University, where she was an examiner and moderator. Kate is currently pursuing research on Britain and the French revolutionary experience.

Reading List: The following texts are suggested introductory reading for the topic. None are required reading or needed in Oxford. Beyond this students are encouraged to read around the subject as widely as possible.

  1. John Charmley, Churchill: The End of Glory, Hodder and Stoughton, 1993
  2. Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-2000, Penguin, 2004
  3. Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Hachette, 2014

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $280, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

Chartwell, Kent: “A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted”, Sir Winston Churchill. On this trip we will visit Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s beloved home, tucked away in the southern county of Kent. Home to his family since 1922, the place served as a much needed retreat for the political leader, far away from the public gaze. We will receive a private tour of the home by a National Trust guide, caretakers of the home since 1946, and discover how Churchill and his family lived in the precious time away from public duties. After the tour students will be free to wander the beautiful grounds, including Churchill’s personal art studio.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire: Set in acres of beautiful grounds in the Oxfordshire countryside, Blenheim Palace was Churchill’s birthplace and ancestral home. The house was originally constructed in 1704, and gifted to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, by the then Queen Anne, in recognition for his services to the nation at the Battle of Blenheim. In the 18th century, it became a personal project for the great English designer, Capability Brown, who made substantial and spectacular improvements, to give the building and its settings a majestic sweep. We will receive a private tour of the building by local guides, and visit the permanent Winston Churchill exhibition, detailing the private and public life of Churchill and his many connections to this great palace. After the tour, if time permits, students will be free to walk the extensive grounds independently.

The Churchill War Rooms, London: On this exciting trip, we will visit the Cabinet War Rooms in London, which served as Churchill’s secret base in the Second World War. Designed to provide a safe underground base for government in the event of major conflict, the rooms were originally conceived of in the 1920s, in the wake of the First World War, and became operational in late August 1939—a week before Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. A frequent home for Churchill during the Blitz, where he regularly met with his Cabinet to plan war strategy, he stayed here over a 100 times in the period, and had a set of rooms for himself and his family. Students will be able to view those rooms and others on this trip, and get an invaluable insight into the experience of how Churchill governed under the pressures of wartime.

From Castles to Country Houses | Dr. Gillian White

Course Description: England’s landscape is littered with the power houses of the past: the castles and country houses of monarchs, lords and gentlemen. In this course, we’ll look at a period stretching from the Middle Ages through to the early seventeenth century and consider the transition from castle to country house as the status symbol of choice for the nation’s powerful elite.

Our survey will include architectural and decorative history, but will also consider the changing politics, warfare, social conditions, and culture of the owners of these great buildings. What was the purpose of the castle, and how did its military and domestic functions coexist? What factors encouraged the emergence of the unfortified house? How did sheep and religion affect the development of the social elite and their country estates during the Tudor period? How far did the Renaissance influence the houses of Elizabethan courtiers?

We’ll explore the role of a medieval lord but we’ll also think about the role of women in this society, including the complex codes of chivalry in the male-dominated world of the medieval household. We’ll take a detailed look at the remarkable life of Bess of Hardwick, a four-times-married social climber whose great sixteenth-century house at Hardwick Hall remains remarkably intact. We’ll spend some time with Elizabeth I and think about the lavish arrangements made for her as she went on progress, and we’ll also eavesdrop a little on her relationship with her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose entertainment of her at Kenilworth Castle provides a focus for our final site visit. We’ll use contemporary art and literature to find out about good behaviour and pleasant pastimes, and we shall find out how the great palaces of Henry VIII and his court shaped expectations of comfort and formality. We’ll think about the organisation of households and learn how to be a model servant according to contemporary training manuals, and we’ll also give some thought to the education of children within these establishments.

The course brings together a range of sources to shed light on medieval and early modern England and will be accompanied by site visits to Raglan and Goodrich Castles, Hampton Court Palace, and Kenilworth Castle. Prospective students should note that these visits involve fair amounts of walking and standing.

About the Tutor: Gillian White formerly worked for The National Trust. Since completing a Ph.D., she has taught extensively in The Centre for the Study of the Country House at Leicester University and on courses in OUDCE, as well as freelance lecturing.

Reading List:

  1. Cole, Mary Hill, The Portable Queen (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999)
  2. Morris, Marc, Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain (London: Pan Macmillan Ltd., 2003)
  3. Thurley, Simon, Houses of Power: The Places that Shaped the Tudor World (London: Bantam Press, 2017)

Field Trips and Associated Cost:This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $300, which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

The course brings together a range of sources to shed light on medieval and early modern England and will be accompanied by site visits to Raglan and Goodrich Castles, Hampton Court Palace and Kenilworth Castle. Prospective students should note that these visits involve fair amounts of walking and standing.

Charles Dickens: Crime and Riot in the 19th Century | Angus McFadzean

Course Description: The course takes participants through five major novels by Charles Dickens that span the major stages of his career. In doing so, we will explore two themes that shaped the 19th century: the theme of crime and the criminal underworld (Oliver Twist and Bleak House, Great Expectations) and the theme of political upheaval and rebellion (Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities).

Charles Dickens is the pre-eminent popular writer of the 19th century, second only to Shakespeare in the literary canon for his creation of memorable characters. We’ll survey his amazing achievement by looking at four novels from different periods of his writing career. In doing so, we will set Dickens in the context of his time, one of the most exciting in human history!

From the first period, we’ll look at Oliver Twist (1837-9) and delve into the mysterious events in Dickens’ early life that formed the basis of this powerful novel. Although Oliver Twist is already familiar to everyone from many film, TV, and musical adaptations, it’s a story that has many strange aspect that are often overlooked. Dickens wrote it by installments and learnt how to put a continuous narrative together as a novel as he wrote, so Oliver is full of unused plot lines and narrative hanging threads that suggest other directions the story could have gone. It’s a fascinating opportunity to look over Dickens’ shoulder and see how he composes as he goes along.

In Dickens’ second period, we will look at one of his most interesting forgotten novels, Barnaby Rudge (1841). Now that Dickens knew how to write a novel, he made a bid for literary respectability by writing what is meant to be a more conventional historical novel. Barnaby Rudge is a tale of the Gordon riots in 1780, a real-life anti-Catholic protest through London which in Dickens’ hands becomes an indictment against the violence of the French Revolution. Barnaby Rudge melds a classical melodramatic plot with a warning about the possibility of violence similar to the French Revolution breaking out in Britain in the 1840s. The novel secured Dickens’ literary appeal and proved that he could write ‘proper’ novels.

For the third period of Dicken’s career, we will look at one of his most famous novels, Bleak House (1852-3). Bleak House is the culmination of the series of complex family melodramas that revolve around institutions in English society that he started writing after Barnaby Rudge. Bleak House focuses on the three ‘wards of court’, children whose destinies are wrapped up in the long-running Jarndyce and Jarndyce case, and with the mysterious past of Lady Dedlock of Bleak House. However, Dickens’ novel is also one of the first detective mysteries as well, with a murder, a detective and the revelation of the criminal at the end. It allows us to traces the continuing issue of crime and the underworld in the 19th century.

For the fourth period of Dickens’ career, we will look at A Tale of Two Cities (1859), his novel of the French Revolution. Here, Dickens has another go at a historical novel, and rewrites the concerns of Barnaby Rudge with direct reference to the French Revolution. By comparing this late novel of 1859 to his previous one of 1841 (almost twenty years ago), we can span the divide and get a sense of how Dickens and his era have developed.

Finally, we will look at the summit of Dickens’ career, his timeless novel Great Expectations (1860-1). This novel is in many ways another attempt to represent those childhood events that made Dickens the man and writer, and which he had already represented in Oliver Twist. Dickens draws together his themes of criminality and social unrest in the story of Pip whose rise in society is haunted by his relationship to the felon Magwitch. Its intricately woven plot is the consummate expression of Dickens’s art.

About the Tutor: Dr. Angus McFadzean is from Aberdeen, Scotland. He studied literature at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, obtaining a DPhil in the novels of James Joyce at Wadham College, University of Oxford. He currently teaches undergraduates as a sessional tutor at various Oxford colleges and summer schools with OUDCE.

Reading List:

  1. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (Oxford World Classics)
  2. Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (Oxford World Classics)
  3. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (Oxford World Classics)
  4. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (Oxford World Classics)
  5. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (Oxford World Classics)

Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee (TBA), which covers the field trips you will take over the course of the seminar.

The class will take three field trips. It is hoped that these will include destinations such as the Charles Dickens Museum in London, the Charles Dickens Birthplace in Portsmouth, and the Dickens House Museum in Kent.