What does it mean to be powerful or powerless? Across different times and places, how have people and groups used or abused power, and how have they gained or lost it? In a world threatened by the rise of far-right groups, invigorated by mass protests such as Black Lives Matter or #MeToo, and rocked by political, economic, and cultural crisis, this MA traces the historical roots of some of today’s most urgent fights for power.
We look at the ways and means by which power has operated in the past to consider who has power, why it might be shared, and how it is resisted. We examine different sites of power, from bodies to institutions, and its multiple workings, from slavery and torture to consumer decisions and food sustainability. The struggle for power can be reflected in racism, sexism, and homophobia – attacks on people’s identities to reinforce the dominance of one group or ideology. Yet those identities are also sources of pleasure, celebration, and resistance, whether through conflict or cooperation. Power can also be shared within communities, whether to bolster the dominant group or to provide more social equity.
This MA explores urgent questions about how systems of power shaped, and continue to shape, people’s lives, opportunities, and identities, including:
What is power, and how have these meanings changed over time?
When and why do people cooperate with power or resist it?
What are the sites of power and its contestation?
How has power and conflict shaped the experiences of race, gender, class and sexuality in diverse past cultures?
Can we fundamentally reimagine the ways that power might be shared more equitably within society?
In our Department of History you are taught by award-winning academics from all over the world: our corridors are truly cosmopolitan. We also provide you with opportunities to explore local history and have close ties with the Essex Record Office, one of the best county record offices in the UK.