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The making of Welsh history

This module explores themes that have shaped the British Isles, from medieval lordship and conflict, through the spread of Protestantism and the industrial revolution, to political protest and the rise of nationalism in an era of globalisation. By studying this module you will gain the skills you need to write a final 7,000-word dissertation, in which you will carry out an in-depth investigation of a topic that you select. Throughout this online module you will work together with other students to form a tight knit ‘learning community’, sharing ideas and sources and helping to improve one another’s work.
A knowledge of the Welsh language is not required.

What you will study

The first half of this module provides an introduction to Welsh history from the twelfth to the twenty-first century. The second part then gives you the chance to research and write a dissertation on a Welsh history topic of your own choosing.

Throughout this module, the issue of national identity will be a major theme (and a topical one in the wake of devolution and Brexit). Some of the key questions it seeks to address include:

  • What factors led to the formation of a distinct group of people who thought of themselves as Welsh?
  • By what stages, and to what degree in different periods, did that formation of a Welsh identity occur?

In order to explore these issues and to lay the groundwork for the dissertation, the first part of the module consists of the following five study blocks:

  • Block 1: Conflict and coexistence in medieval Wales
  • Block 2: Religion and society in early modern Wales
  • Block 3: Wales in flux: industrialisation and migration
  • Block 4: Class, protest and new identities
  • Block 5: Making identities in modern Wales

National identity is the theme that ties the module together, but it also acts as a jumping off point for a much broader engagement with the past. You will be looking at some of the events, trends and movements that have shaped the history, not just of Wales, but of Britain and in some cases of Western Europe as a whole. Indeed a central question that this module asks is the extent to which Wales constitutes a microcosm for those wider issues. So while this module is focused on Welsh history, it also serves as a case study for examining bigger issues.

The five topics listed above do not represent a full coverage of Welsh history. Instead they are intended to provide opportunities to explore how Welsh identity has changed over time, whilst simultaneously giving you a springboard for your own research. This is a really important point because in the second half of the module you will be researching and writing a dissertation on a question of your own choosing.

Examples of dissertations written by previous students can be seen on Open Research Online. 

You will learn

By studying this module you will gain:

  • a broad knowledge of selected aspects of Welsh history between the thirteenth and the twenty-first centuries supported by the use of relevant sources, concepts and theories
  • an informed understanding of historical research methods and approaches, and from that an appreciation of history as a systematic and reflective discipline producing bodies of knowledge which are constantly subject to debate and refinement.

You will develop the ability to:

  • critically evaluate a range of historical sources (whether textual, visual, or audio-visual) as well as the work of other historians
  • the ability to summarise, analyse and synthesise historical knowledge and arguments obtained from a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, and from that to develop lines of extended argument
  • study and learn independently, including planning, structuring and executing an extended piece of historical writing
  • discuss a complex subject in an appropriate manner, articulating your knowledge in clear prose using the language and concepts associated with the discipline
  • improve your work by building on feedback from tutors, tutorials and fellow students, both by reflecting on your performance and by acting appropriately on advice
  • identify, access, use and critically assess a range of relevant sources, including those accessed from internal and external online resources, and to reference them appropriately in writing
  • work effectively with others in order to improve your own work and that of others through peer support mechanisms and constructive commentaries on other students’ work.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module, which builds on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous modules at OU levels 1 and 2. This module is intended for students who have already studied history or classics at OU levels 2 or 3, and who wish conduct an extended piece of independent research. 

A knowledge of the Welsh language is not required.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Students are not required to do any formal preparatory work before the module starts. However, we recommend reading Geraint Jenkins’ A Concise History of Wales (2007), which offers a scholarly yet highly readable introduction to the history of Wales from before the Romans to the present day. If you have the time, you could also read John Davies’ A History of Wales (1994 or 2007) which traces the political, social and cultural history of Wales from prehistoric times to the modern era.

Both are available from most booksellers and Geraint Jenkins’ A Concise History of Wales can also be accessed as an ebook via The Open University library.

In addition, you may already have some ideas about which areas of Welsh history you would like to focus on in your dissertation. Please feel free to start reading up on them (remembering that your dissertation needs to relate in some way to one of the five module blocks).

What's included

This module is entirely online. It centres on a module website which will take you step-by-step through the module, give you access to a large number of online resources, and enable you to work closely with your fellow students. The website includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials and resources
  • audio and visual content
  • assessment and dissertation guides
  • online tutorials and forums

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study materials, mark and comment on your written work, offer guidance on the dissertation-writing process, and whom you can ask for advice at any point in the module. There will also be structured tuition in the form of online tutorials held in a web-conferencing room as well as numerous opportunities for discussion in online forums between you, your tutor and your fellow students. There might also be the opportunity to attend an optional day school.

We aim to provide day schools in a range of locations students can travel to, though we cannot guarantee availability close to where you live. Online alternatives may also be provided, and recordings of these will typically be made available to students.

Student numbers on the module, and where tutors are based, will affect the locations of where they are held, and what online alternatives are provided. We cannot guarantee that the day schools will be hosted in specific locations, or locations that have been used previously. While you’re not obliged to attend, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A329 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

The making of Welsh history starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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