The University of Southampton

HIST3119 Music and History

Module Overview

This module introduces students to some of the ways in which historians might think about music as a historical source. Drawing on a broad range of musical examples it seeks to explore how musical styles and movements reflect wider political, civic and consumer cultures at given historical junctures.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to the ways in which music can be studied as an historical source • Introduce you to the ways in which historians can consider musical cultures as historically situated phenomena • Encourage you to think about music and musical cultures as prisms through which wider political, social and cultural histories can be explored

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The political, ideological and cultural assumptions which resonated through the work of leading nineteenth and twentieth century composers such as Beethoven, Wagner, Dvorak, Sibelius or Shostakovich; the political and cultural assumptions and attitudes which informed the reception of such composers in their respective contexts; the cultural or political significance of changes in musical form; and the insights these can afford historians into the wider cultures of their respective eras
  • The presence of the political in diverse manifestations of popular or ephemeral musical culture in the late 19th and early 20th century such as music hall, folk, blues and jazz, and the ways in which historians might recover and explore these
  • The ways in which manifestations of post-1945 commercial musical cultures and the new technologies of musical reproduction and distribution can be read by historians for the insights they afford into social, political and economic change
  • The historical context for the development of ideas about art and culture in the modern period, such as ‘high’ and ‘low’ or ‘Modern’ and ‘Post-Modern’, and the significance of watershed moments in the development of musical cultures, such as the first night of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Bob Dylan going electric
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work independently
  • Master new and unfamiliar subject material swiftly and effectively
  • Present your work and discuss it before a group;
  • Analyse a range of complex primary and secondary source material;
  • Produce effective written presentations in the form of essays
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Make connections between the study of music and the study of history
  • Evaluate the significance of musical sources as historical sources
  • Analyse the relationship between historical musical phenomena and the wider political and cultural contexts in which they sit
  • Evaluate the ways in which historians have sought to use music as an historical source


This module introduces you to some of the ways in which historians might think about music as a historical source. Drawing on a broad range of musical examples it seeks to explore how musical styles and movements reflect wider political, civic and consumer cultures at given historical junctures. The first part of the module takes examples from the ‘classical canon’, focussing on aspects of musical ‘high culture’ in the C19th and C20th; the second explores examples of popular culture from before the Second World War such as music hall, folk and blues cultures; the final part examines aspects of post-war popular musical culture and seeks to contextualise them historically.

Special Features

Independent study and research will equip you with the subject knowledge and understanding to participate actively in the module; accessing relevant recorded music will familiarise you with examples of the issues raised in the module or discovered in your own reading; presentation of findings and participation in seminar discussion will enable you to sharpen your ideas and receive constructive feedback from tutors and other students whilst developing your oral presentational skills; the writing of an essay will enable you to further focus your ideas and understanding whilst developing your written communication skills; preparation for the unseen exam will consolidate your subject knowledge and understanding; at the same time it will encourage the development of good note-taking practice, enhance your time-management skills and improve your ability to work under pressure,

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Weekly two-hour seminar groups Learning activities include • Individual study and research • Accessing recorded music in the library’s sound archives • Preparing and delivering presentations • Participating in group discussions

Independent Study276
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

David Dennis (1996). Beethoven in German Politics, 1870-1989. 

Brian Ward (1998). Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations since 1945. 

M. Clayton et al (eds) (2003). The Cultural Study of Music. An Introduction. 

Celia Applegate and Pamela Potter (eds) (2002). Music and German National Identity. 

A Bennett et al (eds) (2006). The Popular Music Studies Reader. 

Shirli Gilbert (2005). Music as Historical Source: Social History and Musical Texts. International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music. ,31 , pp. 117-134.

D. Cannadine (1992). Gilbert and Sullivan: The Making and Un-Making of a British “Tradition”. Myths of the English. ,0 , pp. 0.

Harry White (1998). Kee pe r’s Re cit a l: Mus ic a nd Cultura l Hist ory in Ire land 1770 -1970. 

G. Boyes (1993). The Imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival. 

Kathy Ogren (1989). The Jazz Revolution. Twenties America and the Meaning of Jazz. 

Peter Conrad (1998). Modern Times Modern Places. Life and Art in the 20th Century. 

Shirli Gilbert (2005). Freedom Songs, Gender, and Remembering Apartheid. Gender and Sexuality in South African Music. ,0 , pp. 11--18.

Thomas Mann (1948). Doctor Faustus [a novel]. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback ? Classroom presentations ? Individual consultations ? 2,000 word non-assessed essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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