Open Eye: A modern look at Scottish history

Yvonne Cook on a course that's attracting international interest

Scotland is riding high. In May next year Scots go to the polls to elect their first independent Parliament for nearly 300 years. A new confidence is in the air. There's a revival of interest in Scottish culture and Scottish identity, reflected in an artistic flowering - films like Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, Rob Roy and Braveheart being the best known examples.

And in February this year the first distance education university course in modern Scottish history was launched jointly by the Open University and the University of Dundee.

As the first intake of 115 students anxiously await the results of their final exam, several Scottish academics who have spent years pushing for such a course, are feeling more than vindicated.

"I'm very pleased," Tony Cooke, Dundee University senior lecturer in continuing education told Open Eye. "We originally only planned for 100 students. And we already have 130 signed up for next year."

The course, Developing Modern Scottish History has been a major project, he said. Contributions to the course have come from 26 leading authorities in 14 institutions in Scotland, England and Germany, and it has won pounds 100,000 funding over two years from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council through its Flexibility in Teaching and Learning initiative.

Although Scottish history courses are offered by many universities north of the border, this is the first distance one which means it can be studied literally anywhere in the world. One quarter of this year's student intake is resident in England, with 18 students in the south east. And there are others scattered around the world, including New York, Paris, Austria, a Catalan in Barcelona and a Geordie working in Korea.

Among the students are teachers and employees in the Scottish tourist industry, clearly hoping to put the course to use in their work. But many are studying merely out of general interest. Scottish history has an appeal beyond Scotland.

"Devolution has raised the profile of Scotland across the UK," says Tony. "And I believe Scots are becoming more interested in their own history. In the past, you could go through the whole Scottish school system and not learn a lot about Scottish history, particularly for the 19th and 20th centuries. What you learned was quite a lot of English history."

But if the words `Scottish history' conjure up an image of tartan, misty glens and bagpipes, forget it, says Dr Ian Donnachie, OU senior lecturer in history. "Scottish history - like a lot of history generally - is dominated by mythology and story-telling. Some of the accounts of major figures like Bonnie Prince Charlie are, frankly, hagiography. The truth is more complex.

"For example, people think of Bonnie Prince Charlie as very popular - in fact, the great majority of Scots were against him. Scottish education has been perceived as democratic and open - but a lot of the evidence suggests it was designed to suit the needs of the middle classes and was only democratic so far as it did that."

So much for romantic legend. "Our aim was to develop an OU level Three course that is challenging and demanding. It approaches the subject in a thematic way, looking at the big questions and debates. Why was religion so important in Scottish society? How was Scottish industrial development different? It's also very strong in comparing and contrasting developments in Scotland with those in other societies."

The course covers Scotland's history from 1707, when the country was united with England and ceased to have its own Parliament, to the present day. It's a period of massive change which saw the transformation of Scotland from a comparatively poor agricultural society into a leading industrial one, followed by the dramatic economic changes of the twentieth century.

Any study of Scotland's recent past is fraught with controversy - issues like the Jacobite movement, or the Highland clearances, are still capable of arousing strong emotions today. As an advanced-level academic course, Modern Scottish History aims to avoid a partisan approach. As Tony Cooke says: "We try to be balanced and give both sides."

Demanding it may be, but Ian is delighted by students' reaction in its first year: "The feedback on the materials has been excellent. The standard of students' work has been very high, thoughtful and intelligent."

Dr Donnachie also operates the Centre for Scottish Studies at the OU's Edinburgh office. The Centre produces a OU pack on studying Scottish history, literature and culture .

Modern Scottish History is a Level Three, 60-point course which can be studied as a one-off or part of an OU degree.

More details: Johanne Phillips, Institute for Education and Lifelong Learning, University of Dundee. 01382 345149. j.a.phillips@dundee.ac.uk

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Teacher Required We are curr...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Nursery Room Leader

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: JOB DESCRIPTION - NURSERY ROOM LEADER...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone