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Cityscape of Oxford. Oxfordshire, England, UK

Oxford Berkeley Program 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!

Participate in weekly field trips getting hands-on experience with seminar subject matter.

NEW FOR 2024: Final papers are no longer required by participants. Those interested in writing a formal paper can still submit work to Oxford tutors for grading and feedback.


2024 Seminars

Finest Hour: The BBC at War 1939-1945 | Dr. Tim Barrett
Course Description: Throughout World War Two the British Broadcasting Corporation played a pivotal role in purveying truth and offering hope to Britain, its Empire and the millions of people in Europe subject to Nazi rule. Using archive material and historical overviews we examine the Corporation’s unprecedented relationship with government, armed forces and ordinary citizens. Topics include Churchill and the BBC, war journalism, technological innovation, the European resistance movements and Berlin’s English-language propaganda war. We hear, too, how the BBC informed and entertained troops and civilians throughout those dark days, becoming Eisenhower’s broadcaster of choice to cover the D-Day landings and the liberation of Europe.

About the Tutor: Dr. Tim Barrett lectures in political history and the history of science and has been a tutor for the Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education for fifteen years. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University, Staffordshire.

Reading List:
  • Hickman, Tom, What Did You Do in the War, Auntie?, BBC at War, 1939-45 (1996)

  • Overy, R.J, The Origins of the Second World War, (1998)

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost: Field trips may include visits to RAF Duxford Museum in Cambridge, Churchill War Rooms in London, and Wood Norton Hotel in Evesham. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    The Victorian Ghost Story | Dr. Emma Plaskitt
    Course Description: The Victorian Era (1837–1901) may be said to be haunted. In spite — or perhaps as a result of the trappings of modernity, the general public eagerly and indefatigably sought ghosts and phantoms in fiction, in ‘real life’ accounts, on the stage, in photographs, and at seances. Comic or tragic, good-natured or deeply malevolent, spirits abounded and the appetite for them seemed unfailing. But why? Was it a response to the Crisis of Faith? A reaction to scientific discovery? A consequence of increasing urbanization? Or does the answer lie in the rise in literacy in mid-Victorian Britain and the accompanying surge of circulating libraries needing to stock fiction for the lower and middle-class reader? Like fairy tales, ghost stories were originally part of an oral tradition. In the mid-Victorian period, however, the plethora of newly established monthly and even weekly literary magazines needed a constant supply of content and ghost stories fitted the bill. Charles Dickens was astute enough to realize this and wrote ghost stories himself (most famously, A Christmas Carol in 1843), as well as commissioning ghostly tales by established novelists Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell for Christmas issues of his periodical, All the Year Round. By the end of the century the vogue for all things ghostly had by no means abated with writers like Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Bram Stoker contributing to the genre.

    In this course we will read and discuss a range of blood curdling tales from the period, discovering what they can tell us about the people who wrote and read them — and what they can tell us about ourselves and our continued interest. Why did the Victorians flock to drawing room seances and why did they, like us, enjoy being scared? Why tell ghost stories at Christmas? What is the difference between terror and horror? And what do modern ghost writers have to learn from their Victorian forebears? These are some of the questions we will address — all while enjoying what poet Anna Laetitia Barbauld described as “the pleasure derived from…terror.”

    About the Tutor: Dr. Emma Plaskitt is a graduate of Merton College, Oxford, where she wrote her doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction. She has taught English literature 1640–1901 for various Oxford colleges as well as OUDCE programmes The Oxford Experience, MSSU, Berkeley, MSU, and Duke/UNC. 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 the SCIO Study Abroad Programme based at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and for Stanford University, for whom she is an Overseas Lecturer. Though a specialist in the literature of the long eighteenth century, her research interests include the Victorian novel — particularly the gothic novel and novel of sensation.

    Reading List:
  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

  • Sheridan Le Fanu, In a Glass Darkly

  • Susan Hill, The Woman in Black

  • E.F. Benson, “How Fear Departed the Long Gallery”

  • E.F. Benson, “The Room in the Tower”

  • Rudyard Kipling, “The Phantom Rickshaw”

  • Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost

  • Required Reading Cox and Gilbert, eds. The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories
  • Walter Scott, “The Tapestried Chamber”

  • Amelia Edwards, “The Phantom Coach”

  • M.E. Braddon, “The Shadow in the Corner”

  • F. Marion Crawford, “The Upper Berth”

  • Bram Stoker, “The Judge’s House”

  • E. Nesbit, “Man-Size in Marble”

  • W.W. Jacobs, “The Monkey’s Paw”

  • M.R. James, “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You my Lad”

  • Algernon Blackwood, “The Empty House”

  • Required Reading Cox and Gilbert, eds. Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology
  • Elizabeth Gaskell, “The Old Nurse’s Story”

  • J.S. Le Fanu, “An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street”

  • Charles Dickens, To be Taken with a Grain of Salt

  • Henry James, “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes”

  • Mrs Henry (Ellen) Wood, “Reality or Delusion”

  • M.E. Braddon, “At Crighton Abbey”

  • A.C. Doyle, “The Captain of the Pole-star’”

  • R.L. Stevenson, “The Body Snatcher”

  • E. Nesbit, “John Charrington’s Wedding”

  • M.R. James, “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-book”

  • F.G. Loring, “The Tomb of Sarah”

  • Mary E. Wilkins, “The Shadows on the Wall”

  • Required Reading M.R. James
  • “Lost Hearts”

  • “The Mezzotint”

  • “The Ash-Tree”

  • “Number 13”

  • “Count Magnus”

  • “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas”

  • “The Rose Garden”

  • “Casting the Runes”

  • “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral”

  • “An Episode of Cathedral History”

  • “A View from a Hill”

  • “A Warning to the Curious”

  • Required Reading Charles Dickens, Ghost Stories
  • “The Signal-man”

  • “To be Read at Dusk”

  • A Christmas Carol

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost: Field trips may include visits to Highgate Cemetery, John Soames Museum, Hampton Court Palace, The Vyne, and Strawberry Hill House. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    Who Owns the Past? A Closer Look at Ethics in Archaeology | Fay Stevens
    Course Description: This fascinating and thought-provoking subject takes a closer look at the power and agency of the past and how it impacts on ways of thinking about cultures and histories today. It is a topic that pivots in time as it draws upon the past, to understand the present and look to the future. As such, it opens up conversations around the construction of identities, cultural connections, materialities and on the lifeways of people, places and the material world.

    Themes that are covered include are archaeology in the media, international and national approaches to archaeological heritage, contested sites and artefacts, dark tourism, the antiquities market and archaeology and the museum. This includes the current call for the repatriation of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria and the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, the presentation of heritage sites, the display and repatriation of human remains and the relationships between people and archaeology in the construction of identities (past and present). Be prepared for lively conversation, in-depth curiosity, ways of knowing and discussions around the value of culture in the past and the present.

    About the Tutor: Fay Stevens is an archaeologist and award-winning lecturer and researcher. She teaches courses in archaeology for Oxford University and contributes to the Diploma and Advanced Diploma in British Archaeology and the MSc in Landscape Archaeology. Fay is also Adjunct Associate Professor in Archaeology and Sustainability Studies at The University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.) in England and Visiting Lecturer for the MA in Cultural Heritage and Resource Management at the University of Winchester. She has worked on archaeological projects in Armenia, Europe and the UK and has traveled extensively on academic research including Syria, Jordan, USA, and Japan.

    Reading List:
  • Barrett, J.C., Archaeology and its Discontents. Why Archaeology Matters, (2021)

  • Beck. S and C.A. Maida., Toward Engaged Anthropology (2013)

  • Carman, J., Archaeologies of Conflict, (Debates in Archaeology) (2014)

  • Cuno, J., Whose Culture? The Promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, (2013)

  • Emberling, G., Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, (2015)

  • Falk, J.H. & Dierking, L., The Museum Experience Revisited, (2013)

  • Fernández-Götz, M. Roymans, N., Conflict Archaeology: Materialities of Collective Violence from Prehistory to Late Antiquity,(Themes in Contemporary Archaeology) (2017)

  • Greenberg, R. Hamilakis, Y. Archaeology, Nation, and Race: Confronting the Past, Decolonizing the Future in Greece and Israel (2022)

  • Harris, O.T. and Cipolla, C. Archaeological Theory in the New Millennium: Introducing Current Perspectives (2017)

  • Hamilakis, Y. The New Nomadic Age: Archaeologies of Forced and Undocumented Migration (2018)

  • Hill, K. Museums and Biographies: Stories, Objects, Identities (2012)

  • Holtorf , C. & Drew, Q. Archaeology Is a Brand! The Meaning of Archaeology in Contemporary Popular Culture (2007)

  • Lovata, T. Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past (2007)

  • MacGregor , N. A History of the World in 100 Objects (2012)

  • Molyneaux, B.L. & Stone, P. The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums and Education (2011)

  • Salazar, N.B. and Kiran Jayaram, K. Keywords of Mobility. Critical Engagements (2016)

  • Sarraf, V. Museum Rehabilitation: Cultural Inclusion Policies through Accessibility (2010)

  • Scarre, C. and Coningham, R. Appropriating the Past. Philosophical Perspectives on the Practice of Archaeology (2013)

  • Scarre, C. And Scarre, G. The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice (2006)

  • Skeates , R., McDavid, C. Carman, J. The Oxford Handbook of Public Archaeology (2012)

  • Thomas, N. The Return of Curiosity: What Museums are Good for in the Twenty-First Century (2016)

  • Waterton, E. & Smith, L. Taking Archaeology Out of Heritage (2009).

  • Field Trip and Associated Costs: Field trips may include visits to The Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums, in Oxford, the British Museum and The V&A Museum in London, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge and Avebury (Wiltshire) and the Rollright Stones (Oxford) and Hyclere Castle (Berkshire). Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    Mary, Queen of Scots: Heroine, Villain, Legend | Dr. Janet Dickinson
    Course Description: Mary, Queen of Scots has polarized opinion since her life and death, 1542-1587. This course will review the dramatic events of this controversial queen’s life as well as considering her impact on the lives of others and on the long-term history of politics and religion in England.

    Mary is unusual for having lived as queen of two (she would have claimed three) different kingdoms. She spent a long, formative period of her life as joint heir to the throne in France before moving back to rule in person in Scotland, then fleeing into exile and a long period of house arrest in England. The reality of her life in each of these kingdoms will be discussed, along with the challenges she faced and the problems that accompanied her wherever she went, changing the lives of those she encountered.

    The scandalous affair of her husband’s murder and the (forged?) Casket letters that incriminated Mary will be discussed, as well as her life in exile in England and her awkward relationship with her English counterpart, Elizabeth I. Her presence caused major problems for Elizabeth’s government and contributed significantly to the shaping of foreign and domestic policy. The culminating moment was the Babington Plot of 1586, when Mary committed treason by approving a plan to overthrow Elizabeth in her favor and, after a protracted political dispute, was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in February 1587.

    About the Tutor: Janet Dickinson MA PhD is Senior Faculty Advisor and Lecturer at New York University in London and Senior Associate Tutor in History at the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford. Her main research interests focus on elite politics and culture in early modern England and Europe, on which she has published a number of articles and a book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex (2011). Her research interests recently led to a year working on an Anglo-Dutch project focused on the extraordinary objects retrieved from a 17th century shipwreck off the Dutch island of Texel, and in particular a collection of ‘drowned books’ and ‘ghost books’. She has been named as ‘Most Acclaimed Lecturer’ and ‘Outstanding Tutor’ by her students in Oxford.

    Reading List:
  • Caroline Bingham, Darnley: a Life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, Consort of Mary, Queen of Scots (1997)

  • Stuart Carroll, Martyrs and Murderers: the Guise Family and the Making of Europe (2009)

  • Jane Dawson, The Politics of Religion in the Age of Mary, Queen of Scots (2002)

  • Susan Doran, Mary, Queen of Scots: An Illustrated Life (2007)

  • Jane Dunn, Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens (2005)

  • Antonia Fraser, Mary Queen of Scots (1993)

  • John Guy, My heart is my own: the life of Mary Queen of Scots (2004)

  • Rosalind K. Marshall, ‘Mary Queen of Scots: In my end is my beginning’ (2013)

  • Marcus Merriman, The Rough Wooings: Mary, Queen of Scots 1542-1551 (2000)

  • Jenny Wormald, Mary, Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure (several editions)

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost: Field trips may include a number of sites connected to Mary, Queen of Scots’ life in exile in England, including Fotheringhay Castle, Peterborough Cathedral, and Arundel Castle. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    Medieval and Renaissance Marvels: Oxford and Beyond | Dr. Róisín Astell
    Course Description: This course will take you on a journey through the medieval and Renaissance works of art and architecture across Oxford. Each seminar will be devoted to a particular theme and to various medieval and Renaissance objects ranging from illuminated manuscripts, metalwork, and architecture to sculpture and painted altarpieces. In our seminars, we will examine the wider cultural and historical significance of various works of art and periods in which they were created, and then we will experience examples found in and around the city of Oxford and beyond. Through class visits, we will encounter works at different locations, including Oxford University colleges, Christ Church Cathedral, the Bodleian Library, and the Ashmolean Museum.

    About the Tutor: Dr. Róisín Astell has a PhD in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. Her PhD thesis focuses on the role of images in the edification of spiritual sight during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries in England and France. Róisín is a graduate of the Universities of York and Oxford. She has taught at the Universities of Oxford, York, Edinburgh, and UCL.

    Reading List:
  • Rudolph, C. A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe(2019)

  • Sekules, V. Medieval Art (2000)

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost: Field trips may include visits to Ewelme, Abingdon Abbey, Dorchester Abbey, Winchester Cathedral, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.

    Art and Power in the Tudor Court | Dr. Gillian White
    Course Description: In 1485 Henry Tudor won a kingdom in battle, but his throne was fragile. In the following decades, the Tudors used politics, diplomacy, machinations and violence to secure their dynasty. They also exploited architecture and visual arts as part of the propaganda of monarchy and the performance of kingship. In this course, we shall look at the relationship between art and power in the period 1485 to 1603, from the accession of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I. Through the architecture, furnishings and decorations of places such as the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey, Richmond in Surrey, Whitehall, Hampton Court, and the matchless Nonsuch Palace, we will see how the Tudor Court embraced styles of the Renaissance and competed with the courts of Europe. We will discuss the importance of Hans Holbein, one of the great masters of court portraiture, who fashioned an image of Tudor royalty, and also look at the extraordinary Field of Cloth of Gold of 1520. In the court of Elizabeth I, we will meet the courtiers who vied to build great houses in which to receive their queen and consider the fortunes they spent on extravagant entertainments to please, flatter and even lecture her. We will finish by learning how to decode the many symbolic and politically charged portraits of Elizabeth, ‘Gloriana’, and see how she was translated from empress to goddess and lastly to legend.

    About the Tutor: Dr. Gillian White formerly worked for the National Trust as Curator/Collections Manager of Hardwick Hall, one of the most important surviving Elizabethan country houses in England. Since completing her PhD she has worked as a freelance lecturer. She was involved for several years with the Centre for the Study of the Country House at Leicester University and also teaches History of Art in Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, where her courses generally concentrate on the medieval and early modern periods. Away from Oxford, she gives talks and lectures to a variety of groups, is an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society, and contributes regularly to the year-long History of Textiles course at the V&A Museum in London.

    Reading List: Students are encouraged to gain a general overview of events in England 1485-1603, the period covered by the Tudor monarchs, before they come to Oxford. You may enjoy looking at some books about the art and architecture of the Tudor court in advance as well. Some suggested texts are as follows:

  • Cleland, Elizabeth and Adam Eaker, The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England (2022)

  • Ackroyd, Peter, Tudors: The History of England vol. II (2013)

  • Brigden, Susan, New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485-1603 (2001)

  • Castor, Helen, Elizabeth I: A Study in Insecurity (Penguin Monarchs) (2019)

  • Guy, John, Henry VIII: The Quest for Fame (Penguin Monarchs) (2018)

  • Guy, John, Tudor England (2000)

  • Campbell, Thomas P., Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court (2007)

  • Collins, Linda and Siobhan Clarke, King and Collector: Henry VIII and the Art of Kingship (2021)

  • Collins, Linda and Siobhan Clarke, Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship (2022)

  • Foister, Susan, Holbein & England (2004)

  • Goldring, Elizabeth, Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist (2019)

  • Strong, Roy, The Elizabethan Image: An Introduction to English Portraiture 1558-1603 (2019)

  • Thurley, Simon, Houses of Power: The Places that Shaped the Tudor World (2017/2019)

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost:Field trips may include visits to Hampton Court, the National Portrait Gallery and either Kenilworth Castle or an Elizabethan courtier house. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    Understanding Our Genes | Dr. Amr Abdelgany
    Course Description: With an increasing list of newly discovered gene technologies such as in the field of gene editing, our hopes raise in increasing the rate of discovering new therapies and treatments. However, between the biological complexity and the disease diversity there are challenges that scientists are currently facing. The use of gene technologies in discovering new therapeutic drugs is a topic that intensively addressed by academia and industry. In this course, we will introduce this field and explore its challenges and potentials.

    In an exciting three week learning journey, we will first learn about human genes in the first week. Then understanding how they may be implicated in diseases such as cancer, as the objective of the second week. In the third week, we will explore how advances in gene technologies lead to new therapeutic discoveries. There will be an opportunity to visit distinguished labs at eh Oxford University Medical Science Division, as it ranked the top worldwide for 12 consecutive years.

    About the Tutor: Dr. Amr Abdelgany is an Associate Senior Tutor at the department who has worked on gene
    therapy since his DPhil study at Oxford University. He then continued his research at Oxford exploring novel genetic methods for discovery of new therapies. He has pioneered gene several silencing technologies for gene therapy applications. Amr has taught for the Oxford Continuing education Department since 2012 where he has founded the Genes & Disease course theme series. Taught over 27 short courses under four themes: 1) Genes & Diseases, 2) Genes & Cells, 3) Genes & Society, and 4) Genes & Interdisciplinary links.

    Reading List: No prior reading is required. However, recommended reading may include any short article or book around the topic, as an optional reading. The course will be suitable for non-specialists and beginners.

    Field Trips and Associated Cost:Field trips for this course will be announced at a later date. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.
    Roman Britain: History and Archaeology | Dr. Steve Kershaw (sold out, waitlist only)
    Course Description: This course will study the Romans in Britain, and the Britons under Roman control, across a range of topics pertinent to history, archaeology, and material culture. The fascinating events and the extraordinary cultural and artistic achievements under scrutiny will include: the nature of our archaeological evidence; Roman knowledge of Britain; Julius Caesar’s expeditions; the tribes of Britannia and their relationships with Rome; the Claudian invasion; Boudicca’s revolt; Tacitus’ Agricola; Hadrian’s Wall; the nature of identity and ethnicity in the Roman/Barbarian world; towns and villas; and the end of Roman involvement in Britannia. Numerous intriguing human issues will be confronted on the way as we follow the process of the creation of a Roman province, explore the challenges faced by both the Romans and the natives, examine the physical and mental environment in which they spent significant parts of their lives, assess their triumphs and mistakes, and evaluate the solutions they attempted.

    Who were these people? Why (or) did they succeed? Why (or) did they fail? Students will be invite to analyse and reflect on the controversies and dilemmas posed by the written and material evidence, and to supplement our studies we will make three field trips that will give us particular insights into the nature of Roman Britain: to the intriguing site of Littlecote Roman villa and the splendours of Roman Bath; an excursion to Cirencester, rich in Roman remains, and nearby Chedworth Roman villa, nestling in beautiful Cotswold countryside; and to the Roman Palace at Fishbourne with its unparalleled mosaics, where we will also view the archaeological stores and handle genuine Roman artefacts, before viewing the impressive fort at Portchester. The influence of the ancient Romans on modern British society is enormous and unique, and overall, ‘Roman Britain: History and Archaeology’ will develop skills of observation and analysis with further applications in study, work and leisure, and provide an interesting, enjoyable and relevant learning experience.

    About the Tutor: Dr Kershaw is a tutor for the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education, a lecturer for the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a Guest Speaker for various cultural travel companies. Steve has spent over 35 years travelling extensively in the world of the Ancient Romans both physically and intellectually. He was an expert contributor to the History Channel’s Barbarians Rising series, and his publications on Roman history include A Brief Guide to Classical Civilization, A Brief History of the Roman Empire, Barbarians: Rebellion and Resistance to the Roman Empire, plus Mythologica - an award-winning children’s book on Greek Mythology.

    Recommended Reading List:
  • Kershaw, S.P., A Brief History of the Roman Empire.

  • Mattingly, D., An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409.

  • Salway, P., Roman Britain, A Very Short Introduction.

  • Field Trips and Associated Cost: Field trips may include visits to Littlecote Roman villa and Roman Baths, Corinium Museum (Cirencester) and Chedworth Roman villa, Fishbourne Roman Palace (including the Collections Discovery Centre) and Portchester Roman Fort. Seminar and field trip fee will show on the final invoice, ranging from $300 - $500.

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