Public History

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Module code


In the Public History module we study a wide range of historical activity as practised in the public sphere. We discuss what 'history' is, how it differs from 'public history', and its uses and abuses in public policy areas.  We look at the wide range of heritage offerings which allow the public not only to consume the past but also to participate in the creation of historical understanding, including engagement with archives.  We consider the current state of popular historical publishing, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as history in the media: on radio, TV and film.  By the end you should have a greater appreciation of the complexities of transmitting history to non-specialist audiences and how the public itself shapes and influences history in the wider world.  This module aims to enhance, stimulate and challenge your own use of history, whether in professional practice or as personal leisure activity.

  • What is history? Academic versus public history; ahistoricism: the use and abuse of history in the wider world.
  • History and public policy responsibilities; historical education and citizenship; past pain and present politics - repatriations, reparations, apologies and pardons.
  • Heritage and its organisations in the UK; heritage interpretation by and for the public; public history in the archive; social media and history.
  • How popular historical writing is commissioned, created and sold; the importance of 'story'; genre in fiction and non-fiction; hooks and books; on reviewing a book; historical magazines.
  • History on radio, TV and film; on being interviewed; the archivist and archival world in the media

Number of credits

20 SCQF credits (10 ECTS credits) on Level 5, SHE M (SCQF 11)


Caroline Shenton