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Exploring Archival Sources


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA Urban Studies programme.


Exploring Archival Sources introduces students to some of the principal methods, sources, and modes of analysis which characterise Urban Studies research in Histroy and the wider Humanities. We explore and analyse a wide range of urban archives and ‘texts’, which include: archival collections and historical material (using both traditional archive repositories and new digitised collections); photography and film; maps, drawings and other visual materials; journalistic and literary accounts; oral history; the professional literatures of urbanism and planning; music, art and other urban cultural products; along with the physical landscape, space and built environment of cities themselves (as will be seen on some urban expeditions).
The course guides students through these various urban texts and sources, using them to introduce important frameworks of critical and discursive analysis – historical, cultural, social and political – as well as to broaden students’ knowledge and engagement with a diverse range of urban contexts and case studies, both historical and contemporary, covering a wide global geographic scope. The course develops students’ independent critical faculties as well as their knowledge of practical research methods and techniques. Students will learn to research urban topics independently, acquiring a valuable range of research skills which they take forward to their final year dissertation projects. Assessment for this module rests principally on an independent primary source-based research project which the student designs around an urban topic of their choice and carries out across the course of the semester. Full support for this is provided as part of the weekly workshops.

Course objectives

General learning outcomes

See tab Additional information for the overview of the programme's general learning outcomes. In the assessment methods below is outlined which general learning outcome will be tested through which method.

Course objectives, pertaining to this course

The student is able to:

1) Understand and engage critically with a broad cross-section of urban research in the humanities.
2) Engage critically with a diverse range of urban texts and sources, interpreting these with reference to contemporary contexts, existing scholarship, and present-day urban debates.
3) Understand the key analytical and interpretive frameworks which guide qualitative urban research in the humanities.
4) Understand, discuss and compare a diverse range of urban contexts and case studies that are addressed throughout the course.
5) Reflect critically on research methodologies in the humanities.
6) Design and successfully complete an independent piece of urban research.
7) Understand the practical methodologies (both digital and documentary) involved in locating, accessing and interpreting relevant primary source materials.
8) Formulate research questions on urban issues in relation to these sources.
9) Organise primary source materials into a coherent and convincing scholarly analysis.
10) Reflect critically on their own research practice, and that of their peers.
11) Express and articulate their own judgements and analyses both orally and in writing.


The timetables are avalable through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students have to attend every seminar of the course. If a student is unable to attend a seminar, they should inform the lecturer in advance, providing a valid reason for absence. If they are absent from a seminar without a valid reason, they can be excluded from the final exam in the course.

  • Excursion

  • Guided self study

Assessment method


Assessment is made up of three components, as follows:

  • Primary Source Analysis Exercise – 500 word written assignment - 20%

  • Main Assignment – 2000 word primary source based student project – 80%

The assessment requirements will be explained fully in the first workgroup session.


Partial grade Weighing
Written assignment 1 20
Written assignment 2 80

End grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the end grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who have been active participants in class and submitted all required assessments on time, but scored an overall insufficient mark, are entitled to resit the assessment that was insufficient. For the resit, the students are given a chance to hand in a new version of the written assignment for a pass grade. The deadline for resubmission is to be consulted with the lecturer.

Faculty regulations concerning participation in resits are listed in article 4.1 of the Faculty Course and Examination Regulations.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

Readings on Case Studies and Course Contents will be provided throughout the Course.

Some General Methodolgical Introductions are:

  • Shane Ewen, What is Urban History? (Cambridge, 2016)

  • Simon Gunn & Lucy Faire, Research Methods for History(Edinburgh, 2016)

  • Nicholas Kenny,* Cities Beyond Borders: Comparative and Transnational Approaches to Urban History* (Farnham, 2015)

  • Virginie Mamadouh & Anne van Wageningen, Urban Europe: Fifty Tales of the City (Amsterdam, 2016).


  • Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

  • Students will be enrolled for Exams by the Administration Office, as long as they have a valid Tutorial enrolment.

  • General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Student Affairs Office for BA Urban Studies


Passing this course is an entry requirement for the thesis.