About British Studies at Oxford
The aims of British Studies At Oxford are simple:
to give students the best possible educational experience
in one of the great centers of learning;
to offer a varied and rich insight into the arts and
history of Britain;
and to ensure that the experience is highly enjoyable
and genuinely memorable.
British Studies At Oxford is one of the most respected summer programs in Oxford, celebrating its 44th session this coming summer, with the last 34 years in our host college in Oxford, St John’s. The collegiate context – living and studying together as a community – is an essential part of what makes this experience so vital and fertile.
The program is interdisciplinary: each annual session concentrates on a chosen historical period, and all the seminars focus on aspects of that period; but the seminars are themselves diverse in subject and approach. This combination – concentration on a single historical period but a wide diversity of approaches – enables BSAO to offer a wide variety of options but also to ensure that these options contribute to each other and to an overall understanding.
BSAO seeks constantly to develop links between diverse subjects. We put a premium of creating courses that maximize our engagement with Britain as the physical location in which we are studying. The places we’re visiting are built into our syllabi; the differences between “reading about” and experiencing are at the heart of our methods of study. We also encourage participants to engage independently with local culture and this is valuable not only when dealing with the contemporary – you’d be surprised how much the issues dealt with in relation to the medieval or 18th-century world continue to shape modern society.
In addition to the seminars, students participate in interdisciplinary activities, including lectures, workshops, and visits to theatres and concerts.
Each student is a member of two seminars concentrating on an aspect of the period being studied. These are chosen from an extensive list – in 2013 there will be 15 seminars to choose from – drawn from a wide variety of disciplines, such as art history, music, literature, social and political history, political science, and history of science. Each of these seminars carries 4 credits, and students can apply to take a third seminar, bring the total potential credits to 12.
The 4 Period Rotation
Each session of BSAO concentrates on a chosen historical period, and all the seminars focus on aspects of that period. This enables BSAO to offer a wide variety of options but also to ensure that these options contribute to each other and to forming in the mind and experience of the participant an overall understanding.
Britain – one way or another, with various names and descriptions – has been around for a long time. Somewhat bizarrely for a little archipelago off the northwest of Europe, itself only a western peninsula of the Eurasian landmass, Britain has found itself at the center of events: political, economic, cultural, social, industrial. And much in this history has been contested (even the name: England? Britain? Great Britain? United Kingdom? British Empire?), the issues continuing to resonate and dominate in our modern world.
British Studies At Oxford seeks to make the archipelago’s history more comprehensible by dividing it into four sections, which follow each other in a year-by-year sequence:
Early and Medieval Britain: From Roman "Britannia" to the Coming of the Tudors
Britain in the RenaissanceYear 3: Britain in the Ages of the Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism
Britain in the Ages of the Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism
Modern Britian: Empire and After
No-one pretends that these divisions make absolute sense or would claim that this structure enables us to include everything that is valuable. In fact, if you examine the courses of study in, say, different versions of our Britain in the Renaissance sessions, you’ll see that the focus has shifted, often reflecting changes in emphasis in the wider academic understanding of what’s central to the period. But that’s what makes the past such fun to study: it’s always changing.