Skip to main content

Unit information: History in Public in 2020/21

Unit name History in Public
Unit code HIST20089
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jessica Moody
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit examines the ways in which history is used outside the walls of the university. In particular, it aims to encourage students to think critically about the “uses of history”, how these are shaped by political, cultural, social and economic contexts, and how they change over time. How is history produced for non-academic audiences different, and why? Is public history more or less conservative than academic history? Can academic historians (and those with a degree in History) usefully play a part in these debates?

Content will vary from year to year, but the unit will be arranged around four main themes. These may include: heritage; politics and policy; history from the ground up; history and the media; history in schools.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate a good understanding of some of the principal ways in which history has been used in contexts beyond academia
  2. offer critical responses to scholarly and lay writings on these topics
  3. elaborate and defend independent interpretations with a degree of sophistication appropriate to level I
  4. contribute to group tasks and discussions and demonstrate skills in oral presentation appropriate to level I

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

1 x 20-minute Individual Project Presentation + 1200-word Critical Commentary (100%) [ILOs 1-4]; 1 x Formative Group Presentation [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History (Profile, 2010) Hilda Kean, The Public History Reader (Routledge, 2013) Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (Routledge, 2006) Jerome De Groot, Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture (Routledge 2009) Ludimilla Jordonova, History in Practice (Hodder, 2000)