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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

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

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIn 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.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: child neglect and child sexual abuse (very briefly, in one of the pieces of set literature in one seminar). While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting Students should usually have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this) for entry to this course. We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1000 word Annotated Bibliography (20%)
4000 word Essay (80%)
Feedback Students will receive written feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during her published office hours.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework, command of the body of knowledge considered in the course
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework, an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship
  3. demonstrate by way of coursework, an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of primary source material
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework, the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers
Reading List
Gadi Algazi, Valentin Groebner, and Bernhard Jussen (eds), Negotiating the Gift: Pre-modern figurations of exchange (Göttingen, 2003)

Felicity Bodenstein, 'A Show of Generosity: Donations and the intimacy of display in the 'Cabinet des médailles et antiques' in Paris from 1830-1930, in Kate Hill (ed.), Museums and Biographies: Stories, Objects, Identities (Woodbridge, 2013), pp. 13-27

Natalie Zemon Davis, 'Beyond the Market: Books as Gifts in Sixteenth-Century France: The Prothero Lecture', in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 33 (1983), 69-88

C.A. Gregory, Gifts and Commodities (Chicago, 2015)

Maria Heim, Theories of the Gift in South Asia: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain reflections on dana (London, 2004)

James Heinzen, The Art of the Bribe: Corruption under Stalin, 1943-1953 (New Haven, 2016)

Cynthia Klekar and Linda Zionkowski (eds), The Culture of the Gift in Eighteenth-Century England (New York, 2009)

Mark Knights, 'Samuel Pepys and Corruption' Parliamentary History, 33 (2014), pp. 19-35

Steven Pierce, Moral Economies of Corruption: state formation and political culture in Nigeria (Durham NC, 2016)

Charles Piot, 'Of Slaves and the Gift: Kabre Sale of Kin during the Era of the Slave Trade', The Journal of African History, 37 (1996), 31-49

Jill Rappoport, Giving Women: Alliance and Exchange in Victorian Culture (Oxford, 2012)

Britta Schilling, Postcolonial Germany: Memories of Empire in a Decolonized Nation (Oxford, 2014), pp. 90-132 (chapter 4: 'The State Gift')
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will help students develop a range of transferable skills, including:

- the ability to manage one's time effectively, work to deadlines, and perform effectively under pressure;
- the ability to gather, sift, organise and evaluate large quantities of textual evidence;
- the ability to marshal argument in both written and oral form;
- the ability to work independently and as part of a pair or larger group.
KeywordsGifts; gift-giving; gift-exchange; Mauss; gender; postcolonial; bribery; corruption; diplomacy
Course organiserDr Kirsty Day
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Samson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3783
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