History Undergraduate Summer Research Project

In this course you will pursue an independent research project in History guided by a supervisor with group seminars in historical methods. Projects will draw on the University of Glasgow’s outstanding research library, local archives and printed and online primary sources. You will produce a research paper and share your findings in a mock conference.

A range of topics will be offered each year, typically featuring Scottish and British history. These topics will be confirmed before applications open on Friday, 20 January. You will be required to indicate your top three choices on your application.

To join us for this course, you should be a student enrolled at another higher education institution, majoring or minoring in History, ideally having completed two years of study already. You will have GPA of at least 3.0 (or equivalent). You should also have a proficiency in English (for example, IELTS level 6 with a score of no lower than 5.5 in any subtest).

Applicants who have completed only their first year may be considered, a strong performance in History (potentially including AP History) can be demonstrated.

Please note: Places on this course are limited and applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis. If demand dictates, we will open a waiting list for this course. For more information, please contact us: internationalsummerschools@glasgow.ac.uk.

If you are a student from our one of our partner institutions, please do not apply via this webpage. 

What you will learn

This course aims to:

  • Provide students with an opportunity to undertake a historical research project.
  • Develop familiarity with historical methods and transferable skills in critical analysis, argument and oral presentation.

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

  • Assess scholarly literature and available primary sources to formulate a viable research question in History
  • Contextualise and critically analyse primary sources to produce a convincing historical argument
  • Express historical analysis and argument in written and oral forms.

      Entry requirements

      • GPA of 3.0 (or equivalent). 
      • You should be currently enrolled at an international higher education institution.
      • You should be a History major or minor. 

      If your first language is not English, you must meet our minimum proficiency level:

      • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training) overall score of 6.0, with no sub test less than 5.5  (if English is not an applicant’s first language) and a GPA of not less than 3.0
      • We also accept equivalent scores in other recognised qualifications such as ibTOEFL, CAE, CPE and more.

      Teaching pattern

      Weekly seminars specific to History, twice weekly supervisor meetings, and weekly seminars as part of the wider Summer School research community.


      Research Projects 2023

      List of research topics (full details below)

      Russian Autocracy: Ideology and Praxis, 1700 – 1881
      A collective biography of Scotland in the First World War
      Austerity to Affluence? Consumerism in Scotland, 1945-1980
      Culture, Consumption and Court in Renaissance Italy: the Correspondence of Isabella d’Este (marchesa of Mantua, 1490-1539)
      When Scots returned from India: wealth, race and cultural strategies, 1757-1820
      ‘What business are you? Asked he’: Women’s Work in London’s Justice Courts c. 1700-1800

      1. Russian Autocracy: Ideology and Praxis, 1700 – 1881

      This research project examines the ideology and practice of Russian Imperial government from the reforms of Peter the Great to the assassination of Alexander II. Historians have extensively debated the nature of the Imperial political system. Some frame it as a narrow, despotic, elite ruling over a servile and oppressed populace; while others temper this view, suggesting that true autocracy was limited by a commitment to religious morality, concepts of honour, and the practical need to build consensus, in the absence of a constitutional framework. Working with their supervisor students will engage with primary sources in translation, ranging from government documents to private correspondence, literature, and art, to explore how the Tsarist autocracy was conceptualised and legitimised, and how these ideas related to the reality of the Russian people’s experience of it. Students will pick a specific case study, examining for instance the reign of a particular ruler, such as Peter I or Catherine II, or engaging with a political/philosophical movement, such as the Slavophiles or Narodniki, and their relationship to Tsarist power.

      Primary sources:

      • Catherine II, Empress of Russia, The Memoirs of Catherine the Great (New York: Modern Library, 2005)
      • Cracraft, J. (ed.), For God and Peter the Great: the Works of Thomas Consett, 1723-1729 (Boulder: East European Monographs, 1982)
      • Herzen, A., My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen, trans. C. Garnett (New York: Knopf 1968)
      • Kahn, Andrew (ed.), Nikolai Karamzin: Letters of a Russian Traveller: A Translation, with an Essay on Karamzin’s Discourses of Enlightenment (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2003)
      • Lavrov, Peter, Historical Letters, trans. Scanlan, J. P. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967)
      • Perry, J., The state of Russia, Under the Present Czar (London: Routledge, 2014), first published 1716

      Secondary sources:

      • Hartley, J., A Social History of the Russian Empire (London: Longman, 1999)
      • Jones, R. E., The Emancipation of the Russian Nobility 1762–1785 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973)
      • LeDonne, J.P., Ruling Russia: Politics and Administration in the Age of Absolutism, 1762-1796 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, ,1984)
      • Meehan-Waters, B., Autocracy & Aristocracy: The Russian Service Elite of 1730 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1982)
      • Poe, M., A People Born to Slavery: Russia in Early Modern European Ethnography, 1476–1748 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002)
      • Wortman, R.S., The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History: Charismatic Words from the 18th to the 21st Centuries (London: Bloomsbury, 2019)

      2. A collective biography of Scotland in the First World War

      This research project introduces students to the methodology known as prosopography, or collective biography, which draws on the biographical data of individuals in order to understand wider historical networks and experiences. With the rise of digitisation and computerised analysis, there are increasing opportunities for the employment of this methodology, particularly using documents created between 1914-1921. Working with their supervisor, students will develop a small scale prosopographical study that draws on digitised genealogical and local history documents held in Glasgow's Mitchell Library, the National Records of Scotland and the University of Glasgow Archives. Through this project they will relate individual experiences and connections to wider societal trends in Scotland during the First World War. Potential case studies could be based on local memorials, honour rolls, civilian businesses and institutions, social groups, military formations, and various other aspects of contemporary Scottish society.

      Primary sources:

      Secondary sources:

      • Stone, L. “Prosopography”, Daedalus, vol.100 no.1 (1971): pp.46-79.
        Keats-Rohan, K. (ed.) Prosopography Approaches and Applications: A Handbook (Oxford: Prosopographica et Geneaologica, 2007)
      • Cowman, “Collective Biography”, in Gunn, S. & Faire, L. (eds.) Research Methods for History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016): pp.85-103.
      • Gill, P. (ed.) Myth, memory, and the First World War in Scotland: the legacy of Bannockburn (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2016).
      • Forsyth, D. & Ungolini, W. A Global Force: War, Identities and Scotland's Diaspora (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016).
      • Watt, P. “Manpower, Myth and Memory: Analysing Scotland’s Military Contribution to the Great War”, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, vol.39 no.1 (2019): pp.75-100.

      3. 'Austerity to Affluence? Consumerism in Scotland, 1945-1980

      This research project will examine consumer culture in Scotland as it developed in the decades following the end of the Second World War. Whereas consumption was rationed for many years after the war, Scottish people soon began to consume in new ways. Students will have the opportunity to explore themes such as the continuation and removal of wartime rationing and restrictive controls, post-war increases in incomes and living standards, changing fashions, emerging youth culture, and the relationship between changing work and leisure patterns and consumption (with a particular emphasis on gender). In doing so, students will explore the extent to which post-war Scottish society could be characterised as ‘affluent’ and engage with wider historiographical narratives which suggest that growing prosperity and consumerism led to the breakdown of traditional working-class communities and the homogenisation of culture. Working with their supervisor, students will develop a research paper focusing on one aspect of consumerism in Scotland between 1945 and 1980. Students will use historical sources such as oral and written testimonies (e.g. from the Mass Observation Archive), official reports available in archival centres in Glasgow, newspapers and films.

      Primary Sources:

      • Film excerpts and oral testimonies available online from Scran.
      • Mass Observation Archive, available online.
      • Publications and Reports of the Consumer Association, available from National Library of Scotland.
      • Newspaper articles from British Newspaper Archive and University of Glasgow Archive Service.
      • Records and reports from the House of Fraser Archives, available from the University of Glasgow Archive Service.
      • Records of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, individual co-operative retail societies, and the Scottish Co-operative Women’s Guild. Available from Glasgow City Archives.

      Secondary Sources:

      • Lawrence Black, Redefining British Politics: Culture, Consumerism and Participation, 1954-70, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
      • Lawrence Black, and Hugh Pemberton (eds.), An Affluent Society?: Britain's Post-war 'Golden Age' Revisited (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004).
      • Peter Gurney, The Making of Consumer Culture in Modern Britain (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).
      • Matthew Hilton, Consumerism in Twentieth Century Britain: the Search for a Historical Movement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
      • William Knox, Industrial Nation: Work, Culture and Society in Scotland, 1800-Present (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).
      • Jim Phillips, The Industrial Politics of Devolution: Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008).
      • Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, and Consumption, 1939-1955, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 


      4. Culture, Consumption and Court in Renaissance Italy: the Correspondence of Isabella d’Este (marchesa of Mantua, 1490-1539)

      This topic invites students to investigate themes of gender, power and culture in Renaissance Italy, explored through the correspondence of Isabella d’Este (marchesa of Mantua 1490-1539). Isabella was an enthusiastic letter writer; patron of art, literature and music; fashion trendsetter and avid shopper, scouring the Italian peninsula, and beyond, for the finest items. Students will formulate a suitable research project analysing translations of Isabella’s letters. Projects may consider Isabella’s cultural pursuits, including questions of gendered patronage, or may focus on Isabella’s purchases of luxury goods and ask how these relate to the agency and image management of women at court. Alternatively, students may study court dynamics and the exercise of female authority, analysing Isabella’s governmental or judicial activities, her diplomatic strategies, or her female networks and ladies-in-waiting. In addition to documents in translation, where relevant students will make use of works of art and material culture in their analysis and critically reflect on the use of such sources by the historian.

      Primary sources:

      • Isabella d’Este, Selected Letters, ed. and trans. Deanna Shemek (Toronto, 2017)
      • Kenneth R. Bartlett, ed., The Civilisation of the Italian Renaissance (Lexington, Massachusetts, 1992)
      • Clifford Brown and Annamaria Lorenzoni, eds, Isabella d’Este and Lorenzo da Pavia: Documents for the History of Art and Culture in Renaissance Mantua (Geneva, 1982)
      • David S. Chambers, ed., Patrons and artists in the Italian Renaissance (London, 1970)
      • Kenneth Gouwens, ed., The Italian Renaissance: the Essential Sources (Oxford, 2004)
      • Online: see the Isabella d’Este Archive Project (IDEA) 

      Secondary sources:

      • Francis Ames-Lewis, Isabella and Leonardo (London, 2012)
      • Sarah Cockram, Isabella d’Este and Francesco Gonzaga: Power Sharing at the Italian Renaissance Court (Farnham, 2013)
      • Sarah Cockram, ‘Isabella d’Este’s Sartorial Politics’, in Fashioning Women at the Early Modern Court (1450-1700): Sartorial Politics, ed. by Erin Griffey (Amsterdam, 2019), 33-56.
      • Paula Findlen, ed., The Italian Renaissance (Oxford, 2002)
      • Mary Hollingsworth, Patronage in Renaissance Italy (London, 1994)
      • Carolyn James, A Renaissance Marriage: The Political and Personal Alliance of Isabella d'Este and Francesco Gonzaga, 1490-1519 (Oxford, 2020)
      • Carolyn James, ‘Political Image Making in Portraits of Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua’, Gender & History, 35.1 (2023
      • Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods (London, 1996)
      • Rose Marie San Juan, ‘The Court Lady’s Dilemma: Isabella d’Este and Art Collecting in the Renaissance’, Oxford Art Journal, 14 (1991), 67-78
      • Evelyn Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance (London, 2005).

      5. When Scots returned from India: wealth, race and cultural strategies, 1757-1820

      This research project will explore Scotland’s participation to Britain’s expansion in India, from the battle of Plassey (1757) to the first decades of the 19th century. At a time of revolutions, global competition and endemic corruption, the involvement of Scots in the business of the East India Company, particularly prominent in commercial and military operations, was also visible in the transformations of Scottish society, landscape and mindset. After years of service, during which they often adapted an Anglo-Indian lifestyle, most Scots returned permanently to their home country with a vast fortune. Students will evaluate the extent to which these returnees – called ‘Nabobs’ – shaped ideas of race, family and social status at home. Working with their supervisor, they will choose a case study to explore the impact of Scottish involvement in India by using a range of primary material (notebooks, wills, correspondence, official records). Students will also be encouraged to engage with material culture and visual documents to uncover the consequences of company service on the private lives of Scottish individuals. More specifically, they will use material from Scottish museums and archives to reflect on the much-neglected importance of colonial India in the early-modern period, and its legacies in contemporary Scotland.

      Examples of primary sources:

      • Letter from John Homespun [Henry Mackenzie] to the Author, The Lounge, on the India-derived fortune of a Scottish lady, 28 May 1785.
      • Will of Sir Hector Munro, General in His Majesty’s Forces of Novar, Ross and Cromarty, 24 March 1786, The National Archives.
      • Sir Henry Raeburn, Portrait of Mr George Paterson of Huntly Castle (1734-1817), Perthshire, oil on canvas, Dundee art gallery and museum.
      • Johann Zoffany, Claud and Boyd Alexander with an Indian Servant, early 1780s, collections of the Richard Green Gallery, London.
      • East Asian basket with decorated dragon panels, owned by William Fullerton Elphinstone, director of the EIC, early 19th century, National Museums Scotland.
      • Ivory vase representing the Buddha (Sri Lanka), arrived in Scotland via Ceylon, isle of Arran, Brodick Castle.

      Secondary sources:

      •  George K. McGilvary, ‘The Scottish connection with India, 1725-1833’ in Etudes Ecossaises, 14 (2011), 13-31.
      • Margot Finn, Kate Smith (eds.), The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 (2018), 1-20.
      • Andrew Mackillop, Human Capital and Empire: Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British imperialism in Asia, c.1690–c.1820 (2021), chap. 7 ‘Returns: realising the human capital economy’, 220-253.
      • Durba Ghosh, Sex and the family in Colonial India: the making of Empire (2006), introduction, 1-34.


      6. ‘What business are you? Asked he’: Women’s Work in London’s Justice Courts c. 1700-1800

      This research project will use the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, records of the London’s principal criminal court (available online), to explore the working lives of London women in the 18th century. Students will first familiarize themselves with the historiographical debate on work and gender in the age of industrialization, and then will apply some of the methodologies from the existing scholarship to find historical evidence of women’s work in the Proceedings. In this project, students will be able to choose between a qualitative and a quantitative approach to the Proceedings. The nature of this historical source, with large volumes of data, lends itself well to the quantification of employment or occupational structure of the metropolis and its gendering. But its detailed nature also makes it a great source for qualitative analysis of gendered working lives through incidental detail cited in testimonies. Students will be specifically invited to look for differences between occupational descriptors provided by men and women, asking questions around gendered patterns of work, occupational identities, status and property ownership.

      Secondary sources:

      • Ågren, Maria, Making a Living, Making a Difference: Gender and Work in Early Modern European Society, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017
      • Bennett, Judith, ‘Women’s History: a Study in Continuity and Change’ Women’s History Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1993), pp. 173-184
      • Berg, Maxine, ‘What Difference Did Women Make to the Industrial Revolution’ in Sharpe, Women’s Work, pp. 149-171
      • Erickson, Amy L., ‘Married women’s occupations in eighteenth-century London’ Continuity and Change, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2008), pp. 267-307
      • Horrell, Sara, Humphries, Jane, ‘Women’s Labour Force Participation and the Transition to the Male-Breadwinner Family, 1790-1865’ The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 48, No. 1 (1995), pp. 89-117
      • Richards, Eric. ‘Women in the British Economy since about 1700: An Interpretation’ History Vol. 59, No. 197 (1974), pp. 337-57
      • Vickery, Amanda, ‘Golden Age to Separate Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History’ The Historical Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2 (1993), pp. 383-414

      Primary sources:

      • Hitchcock, Tim, Shoemaker, Robert, Emsley, Clive, Howard, Sharon and McLaughlin, Jamie, et al., The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674-1913 (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.2, March 2015)
      • The Book of English trades, and library of the useful arts (London: Printed for C. & J. Rivington, 1827)