HIS-10026 - History, Media, Memory: The Presentation of the Past in Contemporary Culture
Coordinator: Ian J 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 2020/21


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2020/21

This module is for anyone who reads historical novels, watches historical films, or visits museums and stately homes. 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 reenactments (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 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. .
Introductory reading
Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture (2nd edition Routledge, 2016) available as an ebook

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: 2

Study hours

10 hours of lectures
10 hours of seminars
20 hours preparation of group presentation
50 hours preparation of commentaries
50 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.

2: Portfolio weighted 70%
A portfolio of two commentaries
A portfolio of two commentaries (c.1,000 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.