The University of Southampton

HIST3104 Refugees in the Twentieth Century 1

Module Overview

This module will explore both the experiences of refugees and responses to them globally, nationally and locally from the state, political parties, the media and from the public as a whole.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• explore how the concept of asylum and responses to refugees has changed across the twentieth century using a range of primary sources • examine how the experience of refugees has changed across the twentieth century using a range of primary sources • enable you to study a particular historical theme, period or problem in depth and through the extensive use of primary sources; it is the prioritising of intellectual enquiry through the study of primary sources which gives these modules their specific character and encourages you to develop further the capacity for independent learning already fostered in modules at levels 1 and 2.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • legal and other definitions of refugees and asylum seekers
  • the early history of refugees from the Huguenots to the political exiles of the nineteenth century
  • concepts of asylum in Britain within an international context throughout the twentieth century
  • responses to and the experiences of East European Jewish refugees, especially in Britain, at the turn of the twentieth century
  • responses to and the experiences of refugees from Nazism
  • responses to and the experiences of asylum seekers at the end of the twentieth century
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • communicate effectively and fluently in writing and orally
  • manage and prioritise the use of your time
  • define, address and solve specific problems on different scales
  • learn independently within a very broad framework of expectations
  • demonstrate the ability to handle sensitive issues, including traumatised individuals
  • develop an awareness of the practical issues associated with research, including politics and ethics.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically assess sources ranging from international conventions through to the testimony of ordinary refugees as well as media and parliamentary materials
  • critically assess ‘non-traditional’ sources such as films, fiction and art and the portrayal of refugees within them
  • assess the strength of strongly conflicting evidence on emotional subject matter
  • summarize and synthesise arguments on refugees and the concept of asylum from a wide range of evidence
  • develop an awareness of the problems associated with adopting ‘objective’ responses to issues that evoke powerful emotions
  • develop an awareness of the cognitive issues raised in identifying or failing to identify with refugees.


So-called asylum seekers are perceived as one of the most pressing problems facing the western world as we enter the twenty first century. This module examines how the term ‘refugee’ has been transformed from a positive one from the seventeenth century through to the start of the twentieth century to one of abuse at the start of the twenty first century. It builds on a theoretical foundation exploring the history and legal definitions of refugee movements as a whole through to three specific case studies. The first module deals with east European Jews at the turn of the twentieth century and responses to them, especially in Britain. The module will utilise a range of primary materials, including those generated by national and international governments, organisations working on behalf of, with and against refugees, the press, and the papers and memoirs of refugees themselves. Students taking the module will be encouraged to have contact with local and national organisations in Britain working with refugees.

Special Features

The teacher on these modules acts as a facilitator, defining the area in which problems are to be identified and solved and providing assistance and continuous feedback to students in the course of their work. The emphasis on student-led teaching and independent learning with light guidance is appropriate to level 3. The learning methods imply the extensive use of presentations; informal feedback is given on this both by other students and by the teacher. Students will have the opportunity to work in sub-groups to report back on any experience gained working with refugee organisations in the UK and on their visits to relevant heritage sites.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • introductory orientation sessions with the group taking the module • student-led seminars, with the module convenor acting as guide and learning facilitator • visits to relevant heritage sites and to local refugee organisations. You will learn in weekly or bi-weekly seminars; after initial teacher-led orientation sessions in which you are introduced to the source-materials and the main issues associated with the topic, learning is largely student led, with sessions structured around small- and large-scale student presentations. Learning activities include • participation in seminars and preparation for such participation • directed and undirected reading • preparation and completion of module assignments. Innovative or special features of this module Fieldwork visits to relevant museums and heritage sites in the region

Independent Study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Michael Marrus (2003). The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century. 

B.S.Chimni (ed) (2000). International Refugee Law: A Reader. 

Liisa Malkki (1996). Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism and Dehistoricization. Cultural Anthropology. ,11 .

David Feldman (1994). Englishmen and Jews. 

Patricia Tuitt (1996). False Images: The Law’s Construction of the Refugee. 

Robin Gwynne (1985). Huguenot Heritage. 

Tony Kushner (2006). Remembering Refugees: Then and Now. 

Anna Bramwell (ed.) (1988). Refugees in the Age of Total War. 

Matthew Gibney (2004). The Ethics and Politics of Asylum. 

T.W.E.Roche (1969). The Key in the Lock: Immigration Control in England from 1066 to the Present Day. 

Bernard Porter (1979). The Refugee Question in Mid-Victorian Politics. 

Anne Kershen (2005). Strangers, Aliens and Asians. 

Liza Schuster, (2003). The Use and Abuse of Political Asylum in Britain and Germany. 

John Garrard (1971). The English and Immigration. 

John Hope Simpson (1939). The Refugee Problem. 

Refugee Studies (1988 onwards). Journal

Tony Kushner and Katharine Knox (1999). Refugees in an Age of Genocide. 

Mathew Gibney (2005). Immigration and Asylum 3 vols. 

Liisa Malkki (1992). National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among scholars and refugees. Cultural Anthropology. ,7 .

A.Dummett and A.Nichol (1990). Subjects, Citizens, Aliens and Others. 

Bernard Gainer (1972). The Alien Invasion. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  individual and group guidance on bibliography and the use of primary sources  individual and group feedback on written work and on oral presentations.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Essay  (3000 words) 40%
Exercise 20%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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