• University of York
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Discover the Hidden History of York

Investigate York’s cultural and social history and the pivotal events and people that helped define a nation.

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Copyright John Houlihan - Steps to Clifford's Tower in York being climbed
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Uncover fascinating facts about the city of York, from medieval times to today

York is a city bursting with engaging and unusual episodes from its rich and diverse history.

On this three-week course, you’ll delve into the city’s past and learn about some of the most interesting events and people to have contributed to York’s story.

Discover York’s secret history and its part in shaping modern Britain

From medieval mystery plays, religious crimes, and brutal punishments in the early modern period, to the emergence of a world-leading chocolate industry in the nineteenth century, you’ll learn how key events that played out in York helped define movements in a wider British context.

You’ll be introduced to key figures including Joan of Leeds and Margaret Clitherow, and discover their fascinating stories.

With this localised understanding of history, you’ll be able to draw parallels with religious reformation, industrialisation, and colonial movements across the British Empire, and frame York as a microcosm of British history.

Explore the rise of York’s chocolate empire and its role in the history of chocolate

Rowntree’s are synonymous with sweet treats and recognised as one of the titans of chocolate production.

Discover how a local family established an edible empire and cemented the city’s reputation within the chocolate industry.

Examine historical sources direct from the archives at the University of York

With access to artefacts from the Borthwick Institute for Archives, you’ll be able to investigate primary sources that bring the past to life.

You’ll develop your academic research skills while gaining insights into historical York from the people who were there.

By the end of this course, you’ll have gained an understanding of York’s history and how its people and its past have contributed to a national identity and narrative.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second York has seen its fair share of upheaval over the centuries. The city has played a pivotal role in a changing nation since its founding almost two thousand years ago. However, the story of York isn’t just about kings, generals and politicians. It’s about ordinary people who lived and worked here, and whose experiences shaped the course of the city’s history. Immigrants, religious non-conformists, rebels and factory workers all had their part to play. This short course will guide you through exciting episodes in York’s rich history. We will examine what a broad range of primary sources can tell us about the lives of ordinary people.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds We will start in the late middle ages, a time of great wealth and prosperity in York, but also of plague and ruin. We will explore the stories of immigrant communities; of nuns fleeing monastic life; and of the birth of the Mystery Plays, iconic symbols of the city’s identity to this day. We will see how the people of the city became embroiled in the biggest rebellion faced by a Tudor monarch, how religious differences could be a matter of life or death and how we can use documents from the University of York Archives and Special Collections to find out how ordinary citizens sought justice.Finally, we will trace the development of York’s chocolate industry since the Victorian era.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds and explore the colonial connections of the city’s confectionery businesses. This course will allow you to share your own view on York’s past with other historians, just like yourself. Join us as we explore how the hidden histories of everyday people shaped both York and the United Kingdom today.

What topics will you cover?

  • Joan of Leeds - gender and religious belief
  • Immigrants in late medieval York
  • The mystery plays and guild identity in late medieval York
  • Early modern crime and punishment in York
  • Historical sources for the Pilgrimage of Grace, Margaret Clitherow and The Cause Papers
  • The Chocolate Industry in York: industrialisation, consumerism, and imperialism pertaining to the Chocolate industry.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the medieval, early modern, and modern history of York
  • Develop an understanding of the city of York as a microcosm of British History
  • Investigate different forms of identity in history
  • Explore and interrogate the historical sources for the history of York

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for prospective students considering an undergraduate history degree at the University of York, or those with an interest in the local history of the city.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Teaching Associate in History at the University of York. I specialise in the social history of the British army and the British Empire.

I am a Research Associate for the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. I specialise in the records of Church and society in late medieval and early modern England.

I am an Associate Lecturer in History at the University of York. I specialise in the social history of late medieval England, focusing on gender and sexuality.

Who developed the course?

University of York

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

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