Public History: An Introduction module (HY51045)

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Module code


 An Introduction to the theory and practise of Public History

 Museums & Interpretative Centres

Week 3: History Scotland – editing and producing a popular history magazine.

Week 4: Feature-Films as Public History

Week 5: Documentary as Public History

Week 6: Public Contention: Michael Bellesiles’ Arming America and the National Rifle Association

Week 7: Remembering South Africa: Apartheid and the African National Congress

Week 8: The Politics of History in Contemporary Russia

Week 9: Commemorating World War I and II in the Low Countries. 

Week 10: Public History in Ireland: The Kilmichael Ambush (1920)

Weeks 11: Holocaust Denial in Germany and Poland

Week 12-13 Presentations


Essay- 70%

Presentation/Video- Documentary - 30%

The ability to analyse complex and sometimes contradictory information and to present that material in a coherent narrative will be assessed by the 4000 word essay. The completion of this essay will test the students’ organisational abilities, their research skills, their ability to follow stylistic and bibliographical conventions. Students frame their own research question in consultation with their lecturers. The students’ oral and presentation skills, and their ability to organise complex and partial information into a coherent and time-limited form, will be tested in a Presentation. Likewise, students’ skills in editing and video production are developed where students opt to complete a video presentation. Editing and facilities for video production will be provided in the Film Studies editing suite (1st Floor Tower Extension). Formative feedback will be provided following this presentation in a question and answer session. 

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

  1. Students will gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the theory and practise of Public History in a variety of situations and international contexts.
  2. Special attention will be paid to the contested histories in divided societies and role Public History has in helping people to come to know and understand with their pasts.
  3. Students will gain specific knowledge and understanding by studying Public History case studies.
  4. Students will leave the Module with increased knowledge and understanding of the differences, strengths, weaknesses and tensions between academic historiography and public histories.
  5. Students will also gain better knowledge and understanding of the relationship between historiographical developments and Public History and the politics of historical interpretation.


Subject-specific practical and intellectual skills and attributes.

Students undertaking the Public History Module will be required to read and view widely from a range of contemporary, historical, and theoretical materials as well as visiting Public History instillations from time-to-time. The literacy skills developed will give them the ability to extract information from a variety of resources, assess the quality and validity of the material, and use it to discover new knowledge. Through examination of a range of case studies students will develop an understanding of the processes involved in communicating historical ideas and information to the widest audiences. Students will also develop their critical skills by understanding the importance of narrative, drama, and emplotment in historical writing, exhibitions, re-enactments, and other popular representations of the past. Students will also better appreciate the ability of Public History to influence and create distinct histories contributing to and enhancing local and national identities, foundation-myths, official and unofficial histories. By the end of the Module, students will have gained insights into different approaches to communicating the past through a variety of media and strategies.

Transferable, employability and enterprise skills and attributes

By interacting effectively with those in the class and with the Module convener through their discussion of the complex relationship existing between academic historiography and Public History, students will develop communication skills that enable them to convey information successfully in a variety of formats, including oral and written communications. To get the most from the module students will be encouraged to develop their attentiveness and listening skills, as well as reading and viewing comprehension of a wide range and variety of materials. Directly during group discussions, and more broadly throughout all that they do in this Module, students will develop professional and ethical behaviour in order to accomplish the tasks at hand with competence and insight. The ability for organizational and time management skills will be essential for students to complete the assigned tasks in balance with their other work and leisure commitments.


The Module offers an introduction to the theory and practise of Public History. Upon completion, the successful student will have gained:

  1. An understanding of the development, theory, and practice of Public History in varied formats.
  2. An understanding of the manufacture and consumption of historical information.
  3. A keener understanding of how the past is represented, debated, and contested in the public sphere with special attention to politically divided societies.
  4. A greater awareness of the complex relationship between historical research and Public History.
  5. An enhanced ability to analyse and critique examples of Public History.
  6. An ability to critically evaluate Public History in terms of its historicity and accuracy.

A critical appreciation of governmental and state institutions’ relationship with Public History.


Dr John M Regan


Students attend a two-hour seminar weekly. This seminar is divided between a discussion of case studies supported by prescribed readings and viewings. In the last weeks of the Module the seminar is given over to scripted oral or video presentations, followed by question and answer sessions which are marked by academic staff. The students will complete around 15 to 20 hours of independent study each week in addition to the in class teaching so to attain a high level of knowledge and understanding commensurate with SCQF Level 10 benchmarking.

The educational philosophy underpinning the Module is to equip students with the requisite intellectual skills and practical competencies for employment in the Heritage and the Public History industries, governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental organizations addressing critically and engaging with historical information in written and visual forms. The aim is to develop the student’s ability to think independently, ethically, analytically and critically, and to construct persuasive arguments orally, digitally, and in writing. The requisite library and VLE resources are in place to support students in this aim, as are disability and writing support.