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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!

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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic Credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

2022 Seminars

Diggers, Dealers and Dilettanti: British Collectors and Classical Antiquities | Dr. Steve Kershaw
Course Description: From the ‘Elgin marbles’ to Grecian urns, Greek and Roman art is greatly admired, and with good reason. It has also been highly sought after by collectors, from Roman times to the 21st century. On this course we will primarily explore the activities and attitudes of British collectors of classical antiquities during the Enlightenment, or ‘Long’ 18th Century, and explore the wider influence of this process up till the present day. We will also examine the types of ancient artworks that were the object of their interest, notably inscriptions, vases, architecture and sculpture, and, in so doing, attempt to make the beauty and desirability of Greek and Roman art more readily accessible and comprehensible.

Our explorations will start by considering Greek and Roman attitudes to art and its acquisition, and their impact on modern views about the ethics of ownership of art: Why do we value art? Who should ‘own’ art? Does art have a fixed location where it belongs? What should happen to it in time of war? When should the victors in war allow the defeated to retain their art, and why should they? Why, and at what point, were viewers exhorted to see and understand ancient statues not as religious images but as works of art? Then, focusing principally on inscriptions and free-standing sculpture, students will explore the establishment of the classical collections of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford through the personalities of Arundel, Roe, Pomfret, Ashmole, Tradescant, and others. We will then turn to the British diplomat, connoisseur, and archaeologist Sir William Hamilton, whose fine collection of Greek vases and antiquities was sold to the British Museum and helped to generate English interest in the art of the classical civilizations. The activities of the Society of Dilettanti will provide the subject of the third phase, as we concentrate particularly on James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, Nicholas Revett, and Richard Payne-Knight. Finally, turning to architectural sculpture, we will explore the activities of Charles Robert Cockerell at Aegina and Bassai, and Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, on the Acropolis in Athens, engaging with their influence on the British, Ashmolean, Munich, and New Acropolis Museums.

The ultimate goal is to undertake an interesting, enjoyable, and relevant learning experience that will develop skills of observation and analysis with further applications in study, work, and leisure.

About the Tutor: Dr. Steve Kershaw is a tutor for the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and the Victoria and Albert Museum, an accredited lecturer for the Arts Society, and is the author of several of Oxford University’s online courses. He has spent some 30 years as a guest speaker for numerous cultural travel companies, with whom he has travelled widely throughout the world of the Greeks and Romans. Steve is also the editor of The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology (1991) and the author of A Brief Guide to the Greek Myths (2007), A Brief Guide to Classical Civilization (2010), A Brief History of the Roman Empire (2013), A Brief History of Atlantis: Plato’s Ideal State (2017), Barbarians: Rebellion and Resistance to the Roman Empire (2019), and a children’s book on Greek mythology entitled Mythologica. He has recently appeared as an Expert Contributor on the History Channel’s Barbarians Rising series. Steve’s other interests range from cricket to contemporary jazz.

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. Black. J., The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in The Eighteenth Century, Stroud, 2003

  2. Constantine, D, In the Footsteps of the Gods: Travellers to Greece and the Quest for the Hellenic Ideal (revised paperback edn.), London, 2011

  3. Cook, B., The Elgin Marbles, London, 1984

  4. Cuno, J. (ed.), Whose Culture? The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities, Princeton & Oxford, 2009

  5. Díaz-Andreu, M., A World History of Nineteenth-Century Archaeology: Nationalism, Colonialism and the Past, (Oxford, 2007)

  6. Dolan, B., Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe, London, 2001

  7. Gunning, L.P., The British Consular Service in the Aegean and the Collection of Antiquities for the British Museum, (Farnham, 2009)

  8. Jenkins, I., The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, London, 2007

  9. Jenkins, I., & Sloan, K., Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and His Collection, London, 1996

  10. Jenkins, T., How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums … and Why They Should Stay There, Oxford, 2016

  11. Kelly, J.M., The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment, London & New Haven, 2010

  12. Mordaunt Crook, J., The Greek Revival: Neo-classical Attitudes in British Architecture, 1760–1870, (London, 1972)

  13. Mordaunt Crook, J., The British Museum, London, 1972

  14. Redford, B., Dilettanti: The Antic and the Antique in Eighteenth-Century England, Los Angeles, 2008

  15. Sloan, K., (ed.), Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century, London, 2003

  16. St. Clair, W., Lord Elgin and the Marbles, Oxford & New York, 1983

  17. Vickers, M., The Arundel and Pomfret Marbles in Oxford, Oxford, 2006



Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $354, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

Planned field trips to enhance our experience of the material culture studied in the course will be to the British Museum, Shugborough Hall and the Wedgwood Museum, and Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Hellfire Caves.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

View the interview with tutor Dr. Steve Kershaw.
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 favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose entertainment of her at Kenilworth Castle provides a focus for one of our site visits. We’ll use contemporary art and literature to find out about good behavior 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 organization 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 that include Raglan, Goodrich, Sudeley, and Kenilworth Castles.

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 courtier houses in England. Since completing her PhD she has worked as a freelance lecturer. She is involved with the Centre for the Study of the Country House at Leicester University and also teaches in Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, where her courses generally concentrate on History of Art of the medieval and early modern periods. She has taught for several years on the Diploma in the History of Art and contributes to the MSt. in the History of Design. Away from Oxford, she contributes regularly to the year-long History of Textiles course at the V&A Museum in London, lecturing on Elizabethan textiles.

Reading List: The following texts are suggested introductory reading for the topic. None is obligatory reading or needed in class, although students may find them useful for reference whilst in Oxford. Beyond this students are encouraged to read around the subject as general preparation.

Recommended Reading List:

  1. Mary Hill Cole, The Portable Queen, University of Massachusetts Press, 1999

  2. Mark Girouard, Life in the English Country House, Yale University Press, 1978 and later editions (chapters 1-4)

  3. Marc Morris, Castles: Their History and Evolution in Medieval Britain, Pegasus Books, 2017

  4. Simon Thurley, Houses of Power: The Places that Shaped the Tudor World, Bantam Press, 2017


Optional Reading List:

  1. Malcolm Airs, The Tudor & Jacobean Country House: A Building History, Sutton Publishing, 1998

  2. John Gillingham and Ralph A. Griffiths, Medieval Britain: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, 2000

  3. Sarah Gristwood, Elizabeth and Leicester, Bantam Press, 2007 (also known as Elizabeth and Leicester: The Truth about the Virgin Queen and the Man She Loved), Penguin Books, 2008

  4. John Guy, The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, 2013

  5. Matthew Johnson, Behind the Castle Gate: From Medieval to Renaissance, Routledge, 2002

  6. Mary S. Lovell, Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, Little, Brown, 2006 (also known as Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder), W.W. Norton and Co., 2006

  7. Dan Spencer, The Castle at War in Medieval England and Wales, Amberley Publishing, 2018


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

Visits will include Goodrich and Raglan Castles, where we will see the contrast between a strongly fortified castle mostly built in the thirteenth century, and one of the last castles built in Wales, where, by the fifteenth century, comfort and display outweigh the pretence of defence. We shall also visit Kenilworth Castle to explore the great entertainment that Robert Dudley provided for Queen Elizabeth in 1575. A third visit will take us to two smaller country houses in the beautiful Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle and Chastleton House. Prospective students should note that these visits involve fair amounts of walking and standing, sometimes on uneven ground.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

View the interview with tutor Dr. Gillian White.
Murder Most British: Crime and Detection in Victorian Fiction | Dr. Emma Plaskitt
Course Description: Though the mention of Victorian detective fiction instantly brings to mind an image of Arthur Conan Doyle’s deerstalker clad detective, in fact, Sherlock Holmes followed in the investigative footsteps of many earlier sleuths, both male and female, serious and humorous, amateur and professional.

Between 1800 and 1900, roughly 6,000 pieces of crime fiction were published in English and were devoured by an enthralled audience of what Thomas de Quincey satirically called “Murder-Fanciers”. Today, crime and detective fiction remains a popular staple in literature, film, and television.

In this course we trace the development of the genre to discover why it was and remains so fascinating, especially when connected with that most heinous of crime—murder. We will look at its connection to the most infamous crimes of the nineteenth century, including the 1811 Ratcliffe Highway Murders, the 1860 Constance Kent case, and the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders that caused panic and terror in London’s Whitechapel district and beyond. As part of our investigation, we will study the origins of crime and detective literature and its relation to other transgressive subgenres of fiction: the penny dreadful, the gothic novel, and the novel of sensation.

We will trace the development of the amateur or unwitting detective into the professional sleuth— the honor of creating the first such professional going to American Edgar Allan Poe with the appearance in 1841 of Inspector Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue. In addition to works by Poe and Conan Doyle, we will read and discuss bestselling, sensational stories and novels by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Ellen Wood, as well as true accounts by members of the constabulary and condemned criminals. 1829 saw the creation of the London Metropolitan Police Force and the Detective Force was established in 1842: what was the relationship between authors like Collins and Dickens and the police force and how were real crimes, including murder, utilized in bestselling novels like The Woman in White, The Moonstone, and Lady Audley’s Secret? How did the Victorian middle classes view the police and what was their response to crime and criminality? Above all, why were they so fascinated by crime and detective fiction, particularly those stories dealing with murder, and why do we continue to be so? These are some of the many questions we will consider.

About the Tutor: Dr. Emma Plaskitt is a graduate of Merton College, Oxford, where she wrote her doctoral thesis on the treatment of gender and reputation in fiction by eighteenth-century novelists Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson, and Frances Burney. Since 1994 she has taught English literature 1640–1901 for various Oxford colleges, including Brasenose, Worcester, Somerville, and St. Hugh’s. She has also taught for a variety of American visiting student programs. 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 Program based at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford and for Stanford University, for whom she is an Overseas Lecturer. She has taught courses on Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Victorian novel, and fantasy literature for the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. 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—and children’s literature. In 2010 she was awarded Stanford’s BOSP Award for Teaching Excellence.

Reading List: Ideally, these will be brought to Oxford (they can be bought on www.amazon.com) Kindle editions are fine, and these can also be downloaded from www.gutenberg.org.

Required Reading:

  1. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842), “The Purloined Letter” (1845)

  2. Charles Dickens, Hunted Down: The Detective Stories of Charles Dickens, ed. Peter Haining (1996)

  3. Wilkie Collins, “The Diary of Anne Rodway” (1856), The Woman in White (1860)

  4. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)

  5. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four (1890), “The Speckled Band” (1892), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

  6. Ellen Wood, “The Mystery at Number 7” (1877)


Optional Reading List (these will be referenced in class and students are strongly recommended to read them, but are not required reading and handouts will be provided):



    1. Thomas de Quincey, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts” (1827)

    2. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868)

    3. Short stories by Wilkie Collins, “A Stolen Letter” (1854), “A Terribly Strange Bed” (1852), The Biter Bit” (1858), “My Lady’s Money” (1877)

    4. Charles Felix, The Notting Hill Mystery (1865)

    5. William Stephens Hayward, Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864)

    6. Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Red-Headed League” (1891), “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1888)

    7. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)




Elizabeth Gaskell, “Disappearances” (1851), “The Grey Woman” (1861)

Recommended Additional Reading:

  1. A.N. Wilson, The Victorians

  2. P.D. James, The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 (1971)

  3. Kate Wilson, Women Writing Crime Fiction 1860-1880 (2012)

  4. Kate Summerscale, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, or The Murder at Road Hill House (2008)

  5. Donald Rumbelow, The Complete Jack the Ripper, 2nd edition (1988)


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

Visits may include a trip to the City of London Police Museum, The Museum of London, The Charles Dickens House Museum in Doughty Street, London, and Ingatestone Hall in Essex (the setting for Audley Hall in Lady Audley’s Secret).

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
Reading the Landscape: Archaeology and Senses of Place | Fay Stevens
Course Description: W.G. Hoskins, pioneer of landscape historians, once remarked that “when I was young I felt in my bones that the landscape itself was speaking to me, in a language that I did not understand, and I had to find out how to read it”. If that sentiment strikes a chord, then this class is for you. Landscapes are formed by a combination of nature and human activity over thousands of years. An archaeological approach to landscape allows us to understand how past societies engaged with, created and changed their environment. In class sessions and three full-day field trips, you will be introduced to the concept, practice, techniques and materials of landscape archaeology. We will consider the value of visiting archaeological sites and of the work that can be undertaken in advance, how to observe and record sites in their landscape setting, and how they might be interpreted. Our sources will include maps and historic documents, the history of excavations and surveys, and landscape characterization such as “World Heritage”. We will also examine philosophical approaches, our senses and our movement through the landscape.

Our first visit will be to the staggering UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Stonehenge and Avebury. Here, we will reflect on the most recent excavations and findings within these archaeologically rich landscapes, walk within these ancient places and discuss the idea of landscape as “heritage”. Our second trip, to the lesser known but fascinating Rollright Stones, Stanton Harcourt stone circle, Waylands Smithy megalithic tomb, and Uffington hillfort and White Horse will include a consideration of the roles of mythology and iconography in the landscape. Our third trip, to magnificent sites at Stourhead, Lacock and Chedworth Roman villa will explore idealised, visionary and imagined landscapes. We will prepare for each trip in class beforehand, engage with ways of looking, describing and recording landscapes and discuss our findings in the following class session. We will also visit the extraordinarily rich archaeological collections of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums in Oxford.

The course brings together a range of sources and techniques that will shed light on landscape archaeology. These are transferable skills that will inspire and equip you to continue your engagement with, and enjoyment of, the landscapes of your homeland and your future travels. Please note that some trips require walking on uneven surfaces and within open landscapes. These are not hikes as such, but require good walking shoes and appropriate clothing for the characteristically changeable English summer weather.

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 Assistant Professor for 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 travelled extensively on academic research including Syria, Jordan, USA and Japan.

Reading List: The following texts are suggested introductory reading for the topic. Students are encouraged to read around the subject as widely as possible.

Required Reading List:

  1. Nicholas Crane, The Making Of The British Landscape: From the Ice Age to the Present, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016

  2. Matthew Johnson, Ideas of Landscape, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006

  3. Richard Muir, Be Your Own Landscape Detective: Investigating Where You Are, The History Press Ltd, 2007

  4. Francis Pryor, The Making of the British Landscape: How We Have Transformed The Land, From Prehistory to Today. Penguin Books, 2011


Optional Reading List:

  1. Mick Aston, Interpreting the Landscape, Batsford, 1992

  2. Mark Bowden, Unravelling the Landscape: An Inquisitive Approach to Archaeology, Tempus, 1999

  3. Richard Bradley, The Archaeology of Natural Places, Routledge, 2000

  4. Bruno David and Julian Thomas (eds.) Handbook of Landscape Archaeology, Left Coast Press, 2008

  5. Mark Gelling, Place-names in the Landscape, Phoenix Press, 1999

  6. William G. Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape, Penguin, 1988.

  7. Bernard Knapp and Wendy Ashmore, Archaeologies of Landscape, Blackwell, 1999

  8. Gavin Lucas, Critical Approaches to Fieldwork. Contemporary and Historical Practice, Routledge, 2001

  9. David Miles, The Land of the White Horse: Visions of England, Thames and Hudson, 2019

  10. Richard Muir, The New Reading the Landscape, Exeter University Press, 1999

  11. Richard Muir, Landscape Detective: Discovering a Countryside, Windgather Press, 2001

  12. Mary-Ann Ochota, Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape, Frances Lincoln, 2018

  13. Joshua Pollard and Andrew Reynolds, Avebury: The Biography of a Landscape, Tempus, 2002

  14. Oliver Rackham, The History of the Countryside, Dent, 1989

  15. Julian Richards, Stonehenge: The Story So Far, Historic England, 2017

  16. Christopher Tilley, A Phenomenology of Landscape. Places, Paths and Monuments. Berg, 1994


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

Visits include the famous UNESCO World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Avebury that present us with the opportunity to compare and contrast landscape as heritage. At the Neolithic and Bronze Age Rollright Stones we explore site mythologies, while nearby Stanton Harcourt stone circle offers an altogether different experience of place. We will compare and contrast the two and extend our discussion into landscapes as “reconstructed”. The Neolithic Waylands Smithy long barrow takes us onto the ancient route of “The Ridgeway”. Weather dependent, we will walk along the Ridgeway to the Bronze Age geoglyph of the Uffington White Horse to consider iconography and power in the landscape.

Our focus at Stourhead is on an idealized classically inspired landscape and the work of the antiquarian Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Lacock Abbey offers us the opportunity to consider a landscape built around faith and of the development of the photography of landscape. At Chedworth Roman villa we engage with landscape as colonized and of the role of art (in this case Chedworth’s incredible mosaics) in the construction of landscapes of hierarchy and empire.

We will also visit the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums in Oxford and the University’s Bodleian Library to view antiquarian drawings (this last a special arrangement for our class only).

Course Requirements: 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. Guidance will be given throughout the course. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. UC Berkeley Continuing Education (CE) units are offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

View the interview with tutor Fay Stevens.
Reinventing the Victorians | Dr. Kees Windland
Course Description: The popular image of the Victorian era in Britain has been largely negative ever since the experiences of the First World War and Lytton Strachey’s subsequent publication of Eminent Victorians, which threw into high relief its complacent conservatism, the absurdities of its imperial self-regard and the overly decorative stuffiness of its aesthetic values. Popular histories of the period continue to focus especially on the extent of poverty, the terrible human cost of its industrial revolution, gender and economic inequalities and class tensions. In many respects we must acknowledge that these problems were not so different from those which afflict today’s Britain.

The Victorians engaged in endless debate over the measures that should be taken to address the ills they identified in their society, its cultural values and political structures. Many of their proposals can seem startlingly radical, even by today’s standards. Might they hold keys to resolving some of today’s problems? This course will re-examine some of the contributions of the most celebrated thinkers and commentators of the day, including Matthew Arnold, Walter Bagehot, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Darwin, Harriet Martineau, Giuseppe Mazzini, John Stuart Mill, William Morris, John Ruskin, Samuel Smiles and a variety of less well-known figures. Broad areas of investigation, frequently overlapping, will be: politics and the British constitution, gender politics and the class system, the economy and labour, the visual arts, architecture, and the environment.

Students will be expected to prepare daily by reading key texts from the period. These will then be subjected to analysis and discussion in class. Finally, their relevance and practicality to present-day problems will be assessed. Arguably, no city in Britain other than Oxford remains so visibly marked by Victorian ideas, and we will have opportunities to explore the fabric of the city and its university from the perspective of the thinkers who were so influential in shaping it.

About the Tutor: Dr. Kees Windland has taught a variety of courses for the Department for Continuing Education over the past twenty years. A graduate of St Cross College, University of Oxford, his research interests include Victorian political culture, nineteenth century British painting and the history of the British intelligence services. He has taught modern history at diploma level in various countries, including the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and India.

Reading List: Study material will be provided daily, drawn from victorianweb.org and other online sources. The following books are recommended for preparatory reading but do not need to be brought to classes.

Required Reading List:



    1. Altick, Richard D., Victorian People and Ideas , (W.W. Norton, 1973)




Not currently in print, but there are numerous second-hand copies available online.

  1. Ruskin, John, Collected Works, The Crown of Wild Olive, The Nature of Gothic and Unto This Last

  2. Wilson, A. N., The Victorians , (Random House, 2002; Kindle, 2011)


Field Trips and Associated Cost: The seminar requires a supplemental fee of $300, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

Victorian Oxford: A comprehensive tour of the city as it appeared in the mid-nineteenth century, highlighting the innovative architecture of the day and the environmental pressures which residents faced. In addition, we will visit the Ashmolean Museum’s collection of Victorian paintings.

Kelmscott Manor: A 16th century Cotswold manor house which was inhabited by William Morris and his family from 1871 until his death in 1896. The house, its contents and environs vividly reflect Morris’ aesthetic and social principles.

Tyntesfield House: An especially fine example of Victorian gothic revival architecture near Bristol, the house contains an extensive range of paintings, art objects and furnishings reflecting the tastes of its original owner, the merchant William Gibbs.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
Seeking the Common Good: An Introduction to Economic Thought in Britain from Adam Smith to Maynard Keynes | Dick Smethurst
Course Description: As industrialization gathered pace in eighteenth century Britain, people began to consider how such an increasingly complex society could be organized for the common good. In 1776, Adam Smith, who after studying for five years at Oxford had returned to his native Scotland and had later become Professor of Moral Philosophy at his first university, Glasgow, supplied the foundational answer.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest…Every individual … neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it… he is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

Smith’s concept has been described as ‘the most important intellectual contribution that economic thought has made to the general understanding of social processes’. But The Wealth of Nations was only the start of many attempts to understand how thousands upon thousands of individual decisions interlock to determine whether economies and the individuals within them are successful or not.

Travels in France were an important influence of Smith’s thinking, and in this course we too shall encounter thinkers from continental Europe. Still, we shall concentrate on work written in Britain, where much of the development of economic thought took place. Our period begins with Smith and ends in 1946, when Maynard Keynes died and The Road to Serfdom was published by his fierce critic Friedrich Hayek. Hayek is one of two non-British authors we shall study. The other is Karl Marx, who lived in London from the age of 31 until his death in 1883 at the age of 65. Besides Smith and Keynes we shall consider the contributions of six other British-born writers: Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, William Stanley Jevons, Alfred Marshall, and Joan Robinson.

This is an introductory, history-based course: no prior knowledge of economic theory is required, and no math will be needed. We shall follow how national and personal backgrounds shaped ideas (many of the ten had colorful private lives) and which of their concepts survive today. If you have ever asked yourself, when reading a newspaper or watching television, “Why on earth do economists think like that?” you will enjoy our historical journey of the mind.

About the Tutor: Richard Smethurst has a long record of combining academic economics with government service, and of commitment to teaching, both to undergraduates and to adults. He retired in 2011 after serving for twenty years as Provost (head) of Worcester College, Oxford: from 2000 onwards he was also a Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University. Earlier in his academic career at Oxford he chaired the sub-Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Social Studies, and the over-arching General Board of the Faculties. In Government service, he was an Economic Adviser first in HM Treasury, and later in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit. He was a member of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for eleven years, the last three (1986-9) as a Deputy Chairman. He was a Board Member of the Investment Management Regulatory Organization, and a member of the Consumer Panel of the Financial Services Authority. He became Director of the Oxford University Department for External Studies (now called the Department for Continuing Education) in 1976: in this capacity he co-directed the Oxford Berkeley Program for ten years. President of the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (1994-2001), he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the International Adult Education Association. Since his retirement he has enthusiastically returned to teaching economics on courses organized by his old department in Oxford. He is an Honorary Fellow of three Oxford Colleges and of one in Cambridge

Reading List:

Required Reading List: Try to read ONE of the following, which will give you a sense of the development of the subject.

  1. Niall Kishtainy, A Little History of Economics (Yale, 2017)

  2. Roger Backhouse, The Penguin History of Economics, 2002 (Published in America by Princeton University Press as The Ordinary Business of Life)

  3. Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (Penguin 7th ed. 2000, published in America by Simon & Schuster, 1999)

  4. Mark Skousen, The Making of Modern Economics (M. E. Sharpe Inc. Armonk, NY 3rd ed. 2018)

  5. Linda Yueh, What Would the Great Economists Do? (Macmillan, 2018; Penguin, 2019)

  6. Ed. Jonathan Conlin (ed), Great Economic Thinkers (Reaktion Books, London, 2018)

  7. Kishtainy’s book is a charming and entertaining read; Backhouse is comprehensive and scholarly, Heilbroner has been influential, and is somewhere between Kishtainy and Backhouse in tone. Skousen is entertaining and attractively illustrated: it has a strong free-market standpoint. Yueh approaches her chosen group from an unusual angle, asking what they could contribute to understanding current problems. The different authors in Conlin’s book incorporate very recent scholarship, but not all write for the general reader. Find one you will enjoy, and bring it with you to Oxford.


Optional Reading List:

  1. Steven G Medema and Warren J. Samuels, The History of Economic Thought—a Reader (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2013). This is an excellent volume, but probably too weighty to bring with you to Oxford - dip into it at home.

  2. Peter Clarke, Keynes: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century’s Most Influential Economist (Bloomsbury, 2009). There are numerous books about Keynes, including a magisterial three-volume biography by Robert Skidelsky (Macmillan); the same author has written on Keynes in the Oxford University Press ‘Very Short Introduction’ series. Clarke is a distinguished historian rather than an economist, and lucidly explains the development of Keynes’ ideas in their personal and historical context.

  3. There are accessible biographies of most of the ten writers on whom we shall concentrate (in chronological order, Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Mill, Marx, Jevons, Marshall, Keynes, Robinson, Hayek). Any would be worth reading.

  4. Dani Rodrik, Economics Rules (Oxford University Press, 2015). Not a book about the history of economic thought, as such, but about how modern economists use models to approach problems - stimulating argument from one of America’s brightest.


Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $369, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

We shall visit places associated with the main characters we shall be studying: London (Bank of England, British Museum, Bloomsbury, Highgate), and Cambridge.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
Shakespeare’s Forgotten Histories | Dr. Lynn Robson [Sold Out, Waitlist only]
Course Description: William Shakespeare’s history plays richly demonstrate that he was the ‘soul of his age.’ He lived through dazzling, intricate times, serving two monarchs as playwright and poet. Shakespeare’s playing company performed regularly in front of Elizabeth I and James I, and he read stories about other English monarchs. What he saw, what he read, what he thought, and what he imagined about English history is distilled into his obsession with dramatizing it: 11 of his 37 plays tell foundational stories of national identity and Tudor dynastic ambitions. In this course you will study five of Shakespeare’s least familiar history plays—King Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3, King John, and King Henry VIII—which span his career from his earliest successes, to the last expressions of his mature genius. You will discover that they should never be ‘forgotten.’

The plays we know as the three parts of King Henry VI were Shakespeare’s first roaring successes when he arrived on the London theatrical scene around 1590. Vivid characters, exciting battles, bloody civil war, and deadly political intrigue packed huge open-air playhouses with enthusiastic audiences. In King John, Shakespeare explored the growing anxieties about an aging queen with no obvious, legitimate successor, and managed to write a play about ‘bad’ King John without once mentioning the Magna Carta. On the cusp of retiring from the stage, and in the middle of another succession crisis, Shakespeare turned to the pivotal moment when Henry VIII divorced Katherine of Aragon. King Henry VIII, or All is True is a spectacular, intriguing play, now best known for the fact that The Globe burned down during one performance. Working with his own ‘heir’, John Fletcher, Shakespeare helped create the Elizabethan ‘Golden Age,’ using the past to examine the present, and create hope for the future.

In his historical dramas Shakespeare allows his kings and queens a brief time to ‘monarchize’ on stage, asking you to imagine them placed somewhere between here and there, now and then. He asks questions about what makes a successful monarch; what exactly history is; how it has an impact on the lives of his audience, and how these stories of a distant English past might have something to say about everyone’s lives and identities in the complex times we inhabit.

The plays will be studied against Shakespeare’s own literary and historical context, and we will also 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.

About the Tutor: Dr. Lynn Robson is Fellow in English Literature at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, teaching and researching in early modern literature (1550-1760). She teaches 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 teaches and supervises students on two interdisciplinary Masters: MSt in Women’s Studies, and the part-time 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 Program, organizing and coordinating academic programs for students from North America, Europe and China. Her awards include Most Acclaimed Lecturer in the Humanities and University of Oxford Teaching Excellence Award.

Reading List: All books on the reading lists are in print, available online, and most of them are in paperback.

Recommended Reading List:

  1. William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part One

  2. William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part Two

  3. William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part Three

  4. William Shakespeare, King John

  5. William Shakespeare, King Henry VIII


Suggested editions: Please try and ensure that you read the required plays in annotated editions as they provide useful background information, often give a performance history, and have invaluable notes.

  1. Arden Shakespeare, Oxford Shakespeare, or Cambridge Shakespeare.

  2. Cambridge School Shakespeare editions are very good if you’re new to Shakespeare – they gloss unfamiliar words and difficult lines and provide invaluable context as well.

  3. In previous classes, students have found Folger Shakespeare Library editions easily accessible, user-friendly and very portable.

  4. I understand the attraction of No Fear Shakespeare but these editions are NOT suitable for this class.


Recordings: It’s always useful to see plays as well as read them. The DVDs below are available from Amazon but also check out YouTube and the Globe Player https://globeplayer.tv/.

  1. BBC Shakespeare has recordings of King Henry VI Part 1, King Henry VI Part 2, King Henry VI Part 3, and King John.

  2. Globe on Screen: All three parts of Henry VI are available on Globe Player.

  3. Globe on Screen: King Henry VIII – available via Globe Player.

  4. BBC Shakespeare also has a version of King Henry VIII.

  5. The Hollow Crown Series 2 is an abridged version of the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III and a very good place to start, if you want to get the basic story and characters straight in your mind.

  6. If you want to know the beginning and end of Henry VI’s story then try watching Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, and Ian McKellen’s Richard III.


Optional Reading List: These are background works and criticisms that you might find useful. Please select as many reading sources as you would like.
These general, introductory texts will give you a sense of Shakespeare’s life and career and the culture he inhabited. All of them are available in paperback versions. If you would like more specific introductory reading then please contact me. I have put an asterisk by those books that will be most useful for this course.



    1. *Jonathan Bate, Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare (Penguin, 2008)

    2. * Julia Briggs, This Stage-Play World: Texts and Contexts 1580-1625 (OUP, 1997)

    3. *Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare After All (Anchor Books, 2005): I recommend reading her chapters on the other English history plays as well, particularly Richard III, and Henry V.

    4. David Scott Kastan, A Companion to Shakespeare (Blackwell, 1999)

    5. Frank Kermode, The Age of Shakespeare (Phoenix, 2005)

    6. Frank Kermode, Shakespeare’s Language (Penguin, 2001)

    7. *Peter Saccio, Shakespeare’s English Kings: History, Drama, Chronicle 2nd edition (OUP, 2000)

    8. James Shapiro *1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (Faber & Faber, 2005) and 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (2016)

    9. Stanley Wells & Lena Cowen Orlin Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide (OUP, 2003)




Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $445, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

The course usually includes trips to see performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, and sometimes performances in London. There will be an opportunity to visit the Rare Books section of the Bodleian Library.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
The British Army – From the English Civil War to the War on Terror 1644-2014 | Colonel Nicolas Lipscombe
Course Description: The course aim is to examine the history and evolution of the British army, from its difficult conception in the wake of the nation’s civil wars, through periods of ascendency, survival, imperialism, global conflict and most recently, the war on terror. During the first three subject areas Britain was in conflict with America as she threw off the British yoke and established herself in the world. During the latter two areas, Britain and America have been key allies and the dominant partners in securing victory. This is, of course, the basis of the special relationship.

About the Tutor: Colonel Nicolas (Nick) Lipscombe MSc FRHistS served for 34 years in the British Army. He saw considerable operational service with the British and American armies and was awarded the US Bronze Star in 2003. He is an accomplished historian, author and lecturer. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2016. His works include the award-winning Peninsular War Atlas and Concise History, Wellington’s Guns, Wellington Invades France, the official Waterloo 200 Bicentenary compendium, Wellington’s Eastern Front and most recently, The English Civil War: An Atlas and Concise History of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1639–51. He is a tutor at the University of Oxford, Department for Continuing Education and an active member of numerous historical societies.

Reading List:

  1. Barnett, C., Britain and Her Army, A Military, Political and Social History of the British Army 1509-1970 (London, 1970)

  2. Carver, M., The Seven Ages of the British Army (London, 1984)

  3. Haswell, J., & Lewis-Stempel, J., A Brief History of the British Army (London, 1975)

  4. Holmes, R., Soldiers, Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoat to Dusty Warriors (London, 2011)

  5. Mallinson, A., The Making of the British Army, From the English Civil War to the War of Terror (London, 2009)


Field Trips and Associated Cost: The seminar requires a supplemental fee of $400, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

London: The National Army Museum and the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

Portsmouth and the Historic Dockyard (Mary Rose/HMS Victory and HMS Warrior) and the Winchester museums:

  • HorsePower, the Regimental Museum of The King’s Royal Hussars

  • The Rifles Museum

  • The Gurkha Museum

  • The Guardroom Museum, the Museum of the Adjutant-General’s Corp


London: The Churchill War Rooms, the Imperial War Museum and (if time) the Royal Air Force Museum.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
The Long Goodbye: Literature of the British Raj | Dr. Victoria Condie
Course Description: The British presence in India has been described as an imperial embrace from which both parties could not ever entirely free themselves. This course will consider the nature of such a description by reading and discussing three novels which confront key episodes or periods of time during the Raj, the period from 1857 to 1947 which saw direct rule of India by the British Crown. From this we will go on to consider what these ‘iconic’ moments can tell us about the relationship between the British and Indians during the 19th and 20th centuries. We will situate these readings within the historical and cultural context of these 150 years, and consider how the Indian experiences of each author informed their works.

We begin by reading Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. The novel has been described as representing the meeting of east and west, one of Kipling’s continuing obsessions. This (unaswered) question of divided loyalties reverberates through the novel and arguably throughout the period of the Raj. Kim works on multiple levels: as a fictionalised account of part of Kipling’s own memories of his Indian childhood; as a typical late 19th-century adventure story; and as a more thoughtful meditation on identity and choice.

E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, for a long time considered a definitive account of the Raj in the early 20th century, considers the possibility of equal friendships between British and Indians, poignantly written in the aftermath of the Amritsar massacre. Forster’s novel advances the possibility of a friendship between equals but remains oblique about when this may become a reality.

Finally Paul Scott's Staying On chronicles the lives of two members of the Raj who chose to remain in India after 1947, drawing connections between the long and occasionally fraught but deeply affectionate relationship of two protagonists and that between the British and Indians. In this work, we can perceive that the so-called imperial embrace has come to some kind of meaningful conclusion.

This chronological approach will allow us to follow a progression through the period, concentrating on key themes such as identity, belonging, and how history informs personal experience.

About the Tutor: Dr. Victoria Condie teaches at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, and for Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. She has written and researched on the Indian book trade during the 19th century and is the author of ‘Thacker, Spink and Company: Bookselling and Publishing in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Calcutta’ in Books without Borders 2: Perspectives from South Asia.

Reading List:

The following books should be brought to Oxford with you. Please note that they are available as new or used copies on Amazon and other suppliers.

  1. Forster, E.M., A Passage to India (Penguin Classics, 2005)

  2. Kipling, Rudyard, Kim (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008)

  3. Scott, Paul, Staying On (Random House, 1999)


The following are recommended reading but do not have to be brought to Oxford. Particular recommendations are marked with an asterisk.

  • *Allen, C., Kipling Sahib. India and the Making of Rudyard Kipling 1865-1900

  • *Banerjee, J., Paul Scott. Writers and their Works

  • *Bradbury, M., E.M. Forster’s ‘A Passage to India’

  • Ferguson, Niall, Empire: how Britain made the Modern World

  • *James, L., Raj: the making and unmaking of British India

  • Randall, Don Kipling’s Imperial Boy. Adolescence and Cultural Hybridity (Palgrave, 2000)


Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $353, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

Batemans: in East Sussex, this was home to Rudyard Kipling from 1902 until his death in 1936. The house contains over 5,000 items relating to Kipling and his work.
Victoria and Albert Museum: contains many items relating to the East India Company and the early history of the British experience in India.
Kedleston Hall: in Derbyshire and the home of the Curzon family. Displayed in the house are items pertaining to George, Lord Curzon, who served as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

View the interview with tutor Dr. Victoria Condie.
The Science and Art of Garden Making | Richard Bisgrove
Course Description: Especially in the United States, where a ‘garden’ usually implies a small enclosed patch for flowers or vegetables in the larger ‘yard’, gardens are often considered to be pretty, almost frivolous, items. In England the word ‘garden’ applies to the whole ‘yard’: historically this has been an outdoor medicine cabinet, a re-creation of Paradise, a political or philosophical statement, a place of leisure and refreshment, a scientific collection of plants and artifacts, or all of these. In the 21st century the garden is increasingly recognized as a place of healing for body and mind (a ‘natural health service’), a catalyst for community cohesion and development and an important model for coping with and mitigating the effects of climate change.

While Science and Art are now commonly seen as opposite, almost antithetical, aspects of life, in the past these were united as aspects of Natural Philosophy. One person might invent a helicopter and paint a Mona Lisa or study astronomy and design a cathedral. And of course it is not far from the truth to consider that modern science began in a garden when Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground.

In The Science and Art of Garden Making we will look at the interactions of science and art, at the scientific and artistic advances which have shaped gardens of past centuries, and consider the role of the sciences and arts in the creation of our modern gardens—and at the role of the modern garden in shaping science, art and social advance.

About the Tutor: Richard Bisgrove studied horticultural science at the University of Reading (25 miles from Oxford) and landscape architecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before returning to lecture in Horticulture and Landscape Management at the University of Reading for forty years. He has had long associations with the Gardens Panel of the National Trust and with the Garden History Society, and has been involved with the Oxford Berkeley Program for many years. In recent years he has been awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society and the Peter Youngman Award by the President of the Landscape Institute and has been made an Honorary Life Member of the Kew Guild.

Reading List: There are no books which concisely combine the science and art of garden making and there is no required reading in preparation for the topic. The list below suggests some books which should be readily available and from which you might like to choose. None is required reading or needed in Oxford. Beyond this students are encouraged to read around the subject as widely as possible.

  1. Alfrey, N; Daniels, S and Postle, M. Art of the Garden (Tate, 2004)

  2. Bisgrove, R and Hadley, P. Gardening in the Global Greenhouse (UKCIP, 2002) search ‘Gardening in the Global Greenhouse – Semantic Scholar’

  3. Cameron, R and Hitchmough, J. Environmental Horticulture (CABI, 2016)

  4. Desmond, R. History of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew (Harvill Press, 1998)

  5. Ingram, D.S; Vince-Prue, D and Gregory, P.J. Science and the Garden (Blackwell, 2016)

  6. Lemmon, K. The Covered Garden (Museum Press, 1962)

  7. Mancoff, D.N. The Garden in Art (Merrell, 2011)

  8. Musgrave, T. The Plant Hunters (Ward Lock, 1998)

  9. Prest, J. The Garden of Eden (Yale Univ. Press, 1981)


Field Trips and Associated Cost: This seminar requires a supplemental fee of $353, which covers the field trips taken over the course of the seminar.

Visits will include the Oxford Physic (now Botanic) Garden, Britain’s oldest botanic garden; the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a world-renowned scientific institution which also houses the remarkable collection of botanical paintings by Marion North; Stourhead in Wiltshire, one of England’s most beautiful gardens inspired by a Claude painting, and a small modern garden influenced by the artist-gardener Gertrude Jekyll.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.

View the interview with tutor Richard Bisgrove.
Two Tudor Statesmen: Thomas Cromwell, William Cecil, and Their Worlds | Dr. Janet Dickinson
Course Description: England in the sixteenth century witnessed profound changes in religion, politics, and the shape of government that would transform the lives of those who lived through this period and which continue to reverberate today. This course will focus on two key figures in this dynamic period of history: Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to Henry VIII during the period of the Break with Rome and arguably a driving force in this process, and William Cecil, who stood at the side of Elizabeth I for forty years and played a central role in securing her rule and shaping the policies that sustained a reign which continues to fascinate historians and students today. Our discussions will respond to a series of landmark publications and events taking place in 2020. The first will be the long-awaited publication of the final part of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy of novels based on the life of Cromwell; the second the series of special events and activities taking place to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cecil.

Viewing the Tudor world through the lives of these two political titans and their activities both in government and beyond raise important questions both for our study of history and also for our understanding of the ways in which politics and power work across time. We will consider the role of political advisors and the ways in which behind-the-scenes intrigue can change the direction of history; were ‘evil counselors’ a myth? The emergence of something approaching the modern form of the ‘state’ will also be discussed, along with ideas of monarchy and the limitations of royal power compared with concepts of the national interest. Mantel’s evocative recreation of Cromwell’s world will also help us to explore the material, cultural worlds of the Tudor age. Both men were keen patrons of education, which resonates powerfully with the ethos of our program. We will explore Cecil’s vast scope of cultural interests and patronage and in particular his massive building projects at Theobalds and Burghley House. Both men’s personal lives will be considered as integral aspects of their political activities and we will pay special attention to Mildred Cooke/Cecil as an absolutely central figure in Cecil’s life. By the end of the seminar it is intended that we will have become familiar with the details of Cromwell and Cecil both as statesmen and as individuals, allowing us to achieve a deeper understanding of the worlds that they inhabited and which their actions transformed.

About the Tutor: Dr. Janet Dickinson is Senior Associate Tutor in History at Oxford University’s Department for Continuing education, where she teaches on a range of programs including two online courses that she authored, and the Masters in Literature in Arts and the Masters in Historical Studies. She is also Lecturer for New York University in London. Her research focuses on the nobility and the court in early modern England and Europe and she has published a number of chapters on these subjects. Her book, Court Politics and the Earl of Essex was published in 2011. Most recently, Janet has been working on an Anglo-Dutch project, ‘Maritime Archaeology meets Cultural History’, focusing on the extraordinary objects retrieved from a 17th-century shipwreck off the Dutch island of Texel. Her students in Oxford have nominated her for a number of teaching awards and she has been three times named ‘Most Acclaimed Lecturer’ and also as ‘Outstanding Tutor’. She is a member of the steering committee for ‘Lord Burghley 500’ and involved in a number of activities planned for 2020. She tweets as William Cecil @LordBurghley500 and as herself @Tudornobility.

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.

Required Reading List:

  1. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cromwell: A Life, Allen Lane, 2018

  2. Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light, Fourth Estate, 5 March 2020

  3. Stephen Alford, Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I, Yale University Press, 2011


Optional Reading List:

  1. Gemma Allen, The Cooke sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England, Manchester University Press, 2016

  2. Pauline Croft, ed., Patronage, culture and power: the early Cecils, Yale University Press, 2002

  3. Susan Doran, Elizabeth I and her Circle, Oxford University Press, 2015

  4. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: traditional religion in England 1400-1580, Yale University Press, 1992

  5. Mark Girouard, Elizabethan architecture: its rise and fall, 1540-1640, Yale University Press, 2009

  6. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall, Fourth Estate, 2010

  7. Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies, Fourth Estate, 2013 [the BBC adaptation of the first two books of Mantel’s trilogy would be a good alternative or addition to reading these books].

  8. Peter Marshall, Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation, Yale University Press, 2018

  9. David Starkey, Elizabeth: Apprenticeship, Vintage, 2001

  10. Lucy Wooding, Henry VIII, Routledge, 2008


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

Visits may include a trip to see a play dealing with themes of power and politics with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon. The consequences of the break with Rome and Elizabeth I’s Protestant reformation will be explored through a visit to Ingatestone Hall in Essex, home to the Catholic Petre family. The house was built by Sir William Petre, secretary of state to four Tudor monarchs and a close colleague to both Cromwell and Cecil. We will conclude with a trip to one of the great country houses built by Cecil: Burghley House in Lincolnshire, where we will also visit Cecil’s tomb in St Martin’s Church, Stamford.

Course Requirements: 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. Paper subjects will be presented to students’ classmates in a ten-minute presentation towards the end of the seminar. Academic credit is offered to students who successfully complete all of the requirements of their seminar.
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