Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

'The scum of the earth': refugees and statelessness in world history, c.1900-1951 HIST4240

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course investigates the history of refugees and statelessness in the first half of the twentieth century, from the late Ottoman refugee crises around 1900 to the 1951 United Nations refugee convention. Adopting a comparative approach, it addresses population displacement as a key process in modern history, one which relates to nationalism, conflict, state formation, humanitarianism, and the development of international institutions.


10x one-hour lectures; 10x one-hour seminars per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes.

Excluded Courses





Four 400-word seminar tasks to develop critical research skills, completed in the second half of the course will constitute the portfolio (total: 1,600 words) - 40%

Essay including primary source material and critical reflection on research process (3,500 words) - 60%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity for students to:


■ Gain a detailed knowledge and understanding of the history of refugees and statelessness in the first half of the twentieth century

■ Develop analytical skills, especially through learning to construct valid analytical comparisons across a range of different empirical cases

■ Develop a methodological awareness of the range of different approaches that are required by different kinds of primary source, and of the challenges posed to historians by the uneven production and archiving of sources

■ Consolidate a critical understanding of how historians frame a historical enquiry, present and support interpretations of past events, and advance historiographical debate

■ Consolidate primary research skills and develop a reflective understanding of their value in historical research and a wide range of other spheres

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Identify key aspects of the role mass population displacement has played in modern history, relating it to state formation, conflict, nationalism, and the development of international institutions

■ Make analytical comparisons across different cases of population displacement, and of responses to it by states, international organizations, and displaced persons themselves

■ Recognize the methodological challenges implicit in the study of population displacement and evaluate the success or otherwise of historians' attempts to overcome them, especially in ways that recover the voices of the displaced

■ Critically summarize and contextualize a range of historiographical arguments, and use them to frame a productive research question and identify sources that could be used to pursue it

■ Independently locate relevant primary materials relating to the subject, assessing the reliability of their source

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.