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Semester 1

No such thing as a free gift: a long history of donation (HIST10436)







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Visiting students must have completed at least 3 History courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum academic entry requirements does NOT guarantee admission. **Please note that 3rd year History courses have extremely limited spaces available, and are very popular, so students cannot be guaranteed a space in any 3rd year History course.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the History department directly to request additional spaces.

Course Summary

In most societies, gift-giving acts as a critical form of social currency. Gifts mark special occasions such as birthdays; they cement diplomatic relationships; they act as bribes and charitable offerings. Gifts and gift-exchange can therefore tell historians much about the social, political, and moral norms of past societies. This course examines the fascinating histories of gift-giving in a cross-period and trans-regional context.

Course Description

The basic principle that a gift is never given without the expectation of something in return was first determined by the sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss in 1925. Since the publication of his Essai sur le don - 'Essay on the Gift' - historians have used this basic principle to understand gift-giving in a wide range of contexts and past societies. After becoming familiar with the principle of reciprocity and the history of its development, we then move on to examine the varied phenomena that historians have used this principle to explore (including: charity and philanthropy; gender; colonialism; diplomacy; bribery; corruption). A visit to the National Museum of Scotland at the end of the course will help us to think about why people donate to museums and how the display of gifts shapes our experience as consumers of history. Students are by no means expected to have prior knowledge of all of the periods we study, and an annotated bibliography and independent essay will allow students to focus on a particular gift or instance of exchange in a context that they find most interesting.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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