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.

Secularisation and Society: the decline of religion in the west since 1800 HIST5110

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course studies the history of, and historical and sociological theories about, secularisation in the western world (mainly Britain, Europe, North America and Australasia).The course is designed to be sufficiently flexible to meet the interests of individual students in relation to countries and approaches upon which they wish to focus.


10 weekly 2 - hour seminars

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level

Excluded Courses






Written work will amount to 5,000 words, in the form of one essay of 3,500 words (70%) and one shorter seminar presentation report of 1,500 words (30%).

Course Aims

This courses aims to:

■ study secularisation, or the decline of religion, in Britain, Europe, America and Australasia, mainly over the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries;

■ explore the theories and approaches to the subject of historians and sociologists, and to apply the critical benchmark of evidence-based scholarship;

■ critically examine the types of evidence used by scholars in their arguments, including statistics of religious decline, and to bring students to an understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls of different forms of evidence;

■ develop analytical skills that will permit the development of argument concerning secularisation, including comparative (transnational) measures of secularisation;

■ apply analytical skills in the coursework.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ identify the main theories and approaches to secularisation amongst historians and sociologists of religion;

■ evaluate the pace, forms and outcomes of religious decline in at least two nations

■ access and use sources that provide evidence of secularisation, including statistics of religious decline

■ apply oral skills and written analysis in discussing the impact of secularisation and religious decline

■ evidence sufficient advance in skills and knowledge to proceed to further study, including to a masters dissertation.

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.