HIS-10026 - History, Media, Memory: The Presentation of the Past in Contemporary Culture
Coordinator: Ian Atherton Room: CBB0.046 Tel: +44 1782 7 33205
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733147

Programme/Approved Electives for 2024/25


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2024/25

This module is for anyone who watches historical films, visits castles, museums and stately homes, or who reads historical novels. Our understanding of 'history' comes not simply from school or university study but from the versions of the past that are all around us. This module thus focuses on 'public history' rather than academic history, exploring the forms, purposes and impact of these broader, 'popular' representations of history. We will explore how visions of the past are central to individual and collective memory, and to the constructions of individual and community identities. Accounts of the past are always constructed and debated, and play a crucial role in most modern political and international conflicts. Weekly lectures will explore these general issues through analysis of the presentation of historical accounts in newspapers, film and television programmes, historical novels, and of the versions of the past displayed in museums, historic buildings and sites, in re-enactments (such as the Sealed Knot), through anniversaries and memorials. One detailed case study will focus on the commemorations in 2007 that marked the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. Through a variety of written exercises and oral presentations students will make their own choice of sites, films, and written accounts for discussion and analysis in seminars.
Throughout this module, students will develop a critical understanding of the various media through which accounts of the past are presented, of the social, cultural and political purposes of these presentations, and of their impact on audiences and participants. They will be able to compare 'heritage' or public history with history as an academic discipline. It will be of particular interest to students taking History (Single or Combined Honours) but also those taking English, Media Communication and Culture, Politics and Sociology, and also to anyone eager to understand the widespread popularity of 'history' in our culture, and how it affects the present world. Assessment is by group presentation, a short written report and a module essay.
Introductory reading
Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture (Routledge, 2009) the set book for the module
Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (Hodder Arnold, 2nd edition, 2006)
John Tosh, Why History Matters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

To provide students with an understanding of the variety of ways in which versions of the past are presented to different audiences in the contemporary world, and of the range of media through which these versions of 'history' are constructed.
To enable students to assess critically the methods, purposes and impact of 'popular' or 'public' representations of the past.
To offer students the tools to compare history as a scholarly discipline, with more general or popular understandings of the past.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Identify the variety of ways in which versions of the past are presented to different audiences in contemporary society: 1,2
Critically analyse the purposes and impact of presentations of the past in contemporary society: 1,2
Understand the political uses of the past in modern societies: 1,2
Compare and contrast history as an academic discipline with the broader uses of the past in the contemporary world: 1,2
Work as a team to make an oral presentation: 1
Write effective, critical prose: 2
Understand that versions of the past are constructed and open to debate: 1,2
Research independently a range of public history media, events, and locations, using printed material and web-based sources: 1,2

Study hours

12 hours of lectures
12 hours of seminars
12 hours whole cohort workshops
20 hours preparation of group presentation
50 hours preparation of commentaries
44 hours seminar preparation

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Group Presentation weighted 30%
A presentation by 3-4 students given to the rest of the seminar group
The group presentation will be a collective description and analysis of c.20 minutes one of: (1) a historical novel; (2) a site or virtual visit to a museum, building, heritage site or landscape; (3) a historical film; or (4) a tv programme. Each student making the presentation will receive an individual mark.

2: Portfolio weighted 70%
A portfolio of two commentaries
A portfolio of two commentaries (c.800 words each), one analysing a heritage or public history website or online resource; the other exploring the key themes of commemoration, identity, memory, or public history. These are submitted at different times to allow students to receive feedback on the first before submitting the second.