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History in Practice: Public History and Heritage (HI2D1-30)

What role does power play in the production of history and heritage?


How has history been used to further nationalist projects or social movements? Who gets to decide what history is memorialized and what is forgotten?

These are some of the questions we will grapple with in this 30 CATS second-year optional module. Through seminars this module will introduce students to current debates, discussions and controversies in the production, dissemination and consumption of public history and heritage. We will investigate key themes in public history and students will be encouraged to consider the role of history and heritage in contemporary society.


The module will also provide students with the opportunity to put what they have learned in the classroom into practice by working with a local history, heritage or archival organization in the production and dissemination of public history. Through hands-on experience, students are encouraged to critically reflect upon both the theory and practice of historical production in the public sphere, meanwhile developing practical and transferable skills.

In the event placements are not able to go ahead because of COVID-19, an alternative assessment will be arranged that will still allow students to engage the public in the production or dissemination of history.

Student Feedback

Please name the one thing in the module which had the most impact on your learning:

"Engaging seminars with interesting readings."

"Well facilitated discussions in seminars. Readings are interesting and relevant."

"Unconventional style of seminar presentation"

"The open seminar discussions and the reassurance of the seminar tutor in terms of assignments and the module as a whole"

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

  • Assess and analyse the ways public history is produced, used and consumed outside academia
  • Understand how historical research is disseminated in a variety of ways for public consumption
  • Translate historical ideas and narratives to various public audiences (other than academics)
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how local organizations engage with communities and disseminate history
  • Produce a historical-based research project for public consumption


Seminar Contribution (10%)

  • Leading part of a seminar discussion on any topic of public history in Term Two

Blog post (1000 words, 10%)

  • A short piece written for the general public on any manifestation of public history. This can be a review of a historical film or drama, an assessment of a recent museum exhibition, or a commentary on a controversy in public history. Due in Term One

Essay (2500 words, 30%)

  • A standard argumentative essay on any aspect of public history. Due in Term Two

Reflective Journal (4000 words, 50%)

  • A reflection on your experience of your placement, including any challenges you faced, new learning and analysis of what you produced. There will be support and guidance on how to write an effective journal throughout Term Two. Due in Term Three

Indicative Bibliography

Syllabus (subject to change)

1. Introduction to History in Practice
2. What is 'public history' and 'heritage'?
3. Archives and collecting
4. Oral Histories and Memory
5. Fictions and "Creative" Histories
7. Heritage sites
8. Field Trip
9. Film and Historical Dramas
10. Guest speaker

In Term Two we will focus on current topics related to 'ethics and controversies' in public history and heritage. Topics covered will depend on interest of students and decided in Term One.


Statue of Cecil Rhodes being removed at the University of Cape Town, 9 April 2015

Module Convenor:
Dr Meleisa Ono-George

Questions about this module?

Please email with any queries or to arrange a time to meet online.