Skip to main content Skip to navigation


This module takes the format of a two hour seminar and occasional tutorials (weeks 5 and 10 of terms one and two; and week one of term 3)


Defining the Public and Heritage

1. This week will introduce students to the module, including how the module will be taught and assessed. Students will be given the list of organizations already established to consider.

2. This week will explore origins and concepts in public history and heritage, as well as some of the major debates shaping the field. In addition, in this class we will discuss placements.


History in Practice, by L. J. Jordanova. Chapter Six

Who's Heritage? Unsettling 'The Heritage', Reimagining the Postnation, by Stuart Hall

Questions to consider:

  • What is (public) history? What’s it purpose?
  • What is heritage?
  • How does public history differ from academic history?
  • Why is public history and heritage so contentious?
  • What role does the historian play in debates around heritage and public history?

Collecting, Managing and Preserving the Past

3. The Politic of Archives
This week will focus on the collection and storage of archival documents, as well as discussion on the politics of what gets collected and stored and what does not. THIS CLASS WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE MODERN RECORDS CENTRE, NEXT DOOR TO THE LIBRARY


Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, ‘Archives, Records and Power: The Making of the Modern Memory’, Archival Science 2: 1-2 (2002), pp. 1-19

Verne Harris, ‘The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa’, Archival Science 2: 1-2 (2002), pp. 63-86.

If you have more time:

Silencing the past : power and the production of history, by Michel Rolph Trouillot, pp1-30

David Anderson, ‘Guilty Secrets: Deceit, Denial, and the Discovery of Kenya’s ‘Migrated Archive’ History Workshop Journal, Volume 80, Issue 1, 1 October 2015, pp. 142–160

Questions to consider:

  • What are archives?
  • Why can we talk about the 'politics' of archival sources?
  • What role does archives play in our understanding of heritage and nation?
  • Where does 'power' fit into all of this?

4. Oral Histories and Memory
This week will look at the development of oral histories and memory studies. Students will learn about its uses in historical research and writing, its benefits and limitations. In addition, we will discuss how to write a blog, which is due in Week 7 of Term 1.


The voice of the past : oral history, by Paul Thompson , pp 25-81

Starecheski, Amy, ‘Squatting History: The Power of Oral History as a History-Making Practice’, The Oral History Review, Volume 41, Issue 2, 1 September 2014, pp. 187–216.

Questions to consider:

  • What is oral history?
  • How is it different or similar to archival based history?
  • What are the criticisms?
  • Why is there an ‘international movement’?
  • How may it be useful in heritage and public history?

Making History Public

5. Policy, court and the Historian

The focus this week will be on the use of historical research and the role of the historian as ‘expert’ in public policy and court.

Guest Speaker: Professor David Anderson


WEEK 5 Tutorial: Placements/Projects and Blogs



History on Film and Fiction, part One

The Return of Martin Guerre (1982)

Please come prepared to critically watch. For some background, please consider reading:

Davis, Natalie Zemon, The Return of Martin Guerre, pp. vii-ix (Preface).

Finley, Robert, 'AHR Forum: The Refashioning of Martin Guerre'

Davis, Natalie Zemon, 'AHR Forum: The Return of Martin Guerre "On the Lame"'


8. History on Film and Fiction, part Two

Using historical film/tv or fiction, this week will look at how historical research is translated into film and other popular public mediums. Discussion will focus on the challenges such medium present, the role of the historian in the production, and the possible uses for dissemination of historical research.


From Lecture Theatres to Film Sets with Hannah Greig: Podcast

Barbara Abrash and Daniel J. Walkowitz, ‘Sub/versions of History: a Meditation on Film and Historical Narrative’, History Workshop Journal, Volume 38, Issue 1, 1 October 1994, Pages 203– 214

History on film/film on history, Robert A. Rosenstone, pp. 1-36

Questions to Consider:

  • What does film add or take away from historical production and dissemination?
  • What are some of the issues or dangers?
  • How is history in print and history on film similar?


10. Digital Public History
This will discuss websites, apps, and other digital forms used in historical research and dissemination. Students will be introduced to digital humanities.

In addition, we will also spend some of this class discussing the essays due in term two and finalizing details on placements/projects.


Digital games as history: How videogames represent the past and offer access to historical practice, Adam Chapman, introduction

Gaming history: computer and video games as historical scholarship, Dawn Spring, pp 207-221.

Questions to Consider:

How is digital technologies shaping or changing historical scholarship?

What are the benefits or dangers does video games or social media pose for understandings of history?


Student Facilitated Seminars


David Nemeth


The (mis)representation of ethnic histories in public history.



Questions to Consider:

  • Are minorities underrepresented in aspects of public history, and/or is there a deliberate omittance of minority histories?
  • Is it important that historical actors are represented true to their ethnic origin? Why? (examples: Achilles, in Troy: Fall of a City, BBC, 2018; Antonio ‘Tony’ Mendez in Argo, 2012)
  • Can underrepresentation result in trends to “diversify” histories and historical actors?
  • Are there consequences in misrepresenting or underrepresenting ethnic groups in public history?

Izzy Conway


The controversy of Dana Schultz’s ‘Open Casket’, and the ownership of art and history


General Overview

Questions to Consider:

  • Should we use historical events as inspiration for art?
  • What are the pros and cons of this?
  • Should certain groups be allowed to have “jurisdiction” over the artistic presentation of certain historical issues?
  • How should we, as historians, engage with violence that still resonates with contemporary audiences?


Heather Fellows

Topic: Should Historic Artefacts be Repatriated to the Country of Origin?


Questions to Consider:

  • Do artefacts such as the Elgin Marbles and the Benin Bronzes ‘belong’ to the world or the country in which they were created?
  • Does this depend upon how and when they were acquired or how long ago they were acquired?
  • What role should museums and other places of heritage play?


Emily Hughes

Topic: How does social media activism help us define and perserve history?

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the advantages and limitations of social media in terms of making progress and defining history?
  2. How do factors of bias and accuracy affect how history will be preserved on social media?
  3. How does online activism compare to activism of the past?
  4. From the student demonstrations in the 1960s to the present-day Climate Strikes, activism is frequently youth-driven. How will the mobilisation of social media by the youth have an impact on history?



  • Zeynep Tufekci, ‘Introduction’, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, 2017.
    • Only 3 copies are available of this online through the library so please download the introduction as a PDF rather than keeping it open in a tab!


Notable social activist hashtags to look at on Twitter include:

  • #BlackLivesMatter – Hashtag started in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman following his fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
  • #MeToo – Hashtag started in 2017 as a response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations.


Youth-led activism on Twitter:

  • @GretaThunberg – Climate Change strikes
  • #MarchForOurLives – Hashtag started in 2017 as a response to the Parkland School Shooting.


3. Field Trip: Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum and National Trust Birmingham Back to Backs

Before the trip:


Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum:

Chamberlain Square
B3 3DH


National Trust Back to Backs:

50-54, 55-63 Inge St, Hurst St

Birmingham B5 4TE


Glory Chan

Topic: Historical Reenactments


  • Alexander Cook, 'The Use and Abuse of Historical Reenactment: Thoughts on Recent Trends in Public History', Criticism, 46.3, (Summer 2004), 487-496.
  • Heather Horn, ‘Candidate's Nazi Reenactments Fuel Heated Debate’, The Atlantic, 12 October 2010, <> [Accessed 15 January 2020].

Further readings:


  • Rebecca Onion, ‘What It Felt Like’, Slate, 20 May 2019, <> [Accessed 15 January 2020].
  • Rory Turner, 'Bloodless Battles: The Civil War Reenacted', TDR, 34.4, (Winter 1990), 123-136.
  • Sarah Schwartz, ‘Mock Auctions. Pretending to Flee Captors. Do Simulations Have a Place in Lessons on Slavery?’, Education Week, 27 March 2019, <> [Accessed 15 January 2020].

Questions to Consider:

  • To what extent do historical reenactments improve public understanding of history?
  • Do sensitive topics have a place in historical reenactments?
  • Does the purpose of historical reenactment matter?


Matilda Hanning

Topic: Profiting from Tragedy: Dark Heritage and It’s controversy


TRIGGER WARNING: This documents someone’s visit to sites such as Auschwitz, the sites of
the Rwandan genocide, and Grenfell. It can be upsetting to listen to at times so please feel free
to give it a miss if you would prefer.

  • Candace Forbes Bright,, Derek H. Alderman, and David L. Butler. 2016. "Tourist plantation
    owners and slavery: a complex relationship", Current Issues in Tourism , 21: 1743-1760
    < > (access through institition) NOTE: This is
    quite a dense article, but useful. If you are pressed for time, feel free to just read the conclusion
    as it is brief but a good summary.
  • Alison Flood. 2020. "The Tattooist of Auschwitz attacked as inauthentic by camp memorial
    centre", the Guardian
    entic-by-camp-memorial-centre >
  • Annaclaudia Martini, and Dorina Maria Buda. 2018. "Dark tourism and affect: framing places of death and disaster", Current Issues in Tourism : 1-14 < >

Questions to Consider:

  • The Martini and Buda article talks about ‘thanatourism’ - to what extent do you think that
    is an impetus for people visiting heritage sites that center themselves on tragedy?
  • Bright, Alderman and Butler discuss private/family, state and non-profit organisation
    plantation ownership, do you think that state or non-profit run/regulated heritage sites
    would be a better way of ensuring sites of tragedy are presented to the public in the
    most appropriate and respectful way?
  • Similarly, do you think it is fair to argue that private ownership makes room for a
    ‘selective view’ of the past? What are the implications of this?
  • This topic can also concern media/literature representations of tragedy throughout
    history. What, if any, do you think are the issues that can come from these forms of



Lauren Cooper

Topic: The Teaching of History for Children

Sources: Watch the video and browse the website, paying attention to the way historical information has been presented for children. Examine the aims and content of the national curriculum.



  1. Thinking about the first two sources and other forms of public history for children, is this new, fun approach to learning history effective, or does it draw away from the educational aspects of the subject?
  2. Does the history children are taught in schools provide an objective view of the past, or are certain perspectives and narratives emphasised? E.g. Anglocentric, Eurocentric, patriarchal, certain historiographical perspectives.
  3. Are Niall Ferguson’s arguments of the limitations and ineffectiveness of the British history curriculum valid? Do you think the school curriculum covers a range of relevant topics to provide a sufficient knowledge of history?
  4. Should the school curriculum focus primarily on British history or is it important to diversify this study and examine wider world histories as well?


Jess Largie

Topic: Portrayals of Women in Historical film/television


Seminar Questions:

  1. What, if any effects do (mis)representations of women in historical film have on the public?
  2. Do you think that the depiction of women in historical film/TV should be altered to reflect modern narratives?
  3. How have the representations of men compared to the representations of women in historical film/TV?




Khilna Shah

Topic: The Politics of Commemoration



Questions To Consider:

  • In your opinion, what is the purpose of public commemoration?
  • Should war commemoration be pacifist or political?
  • Have a look at the German sculptor, Ernst Barlach who spread a more pacifistic message through his work. (please see attached)
    • Do you agree with his anti-war stance and that memorials should mourn soldiers rather than celebrate heroism?
  • What is the link between war remembrance and identity?
  • Considering Jay Winters’ points about ‘the marketing of memory’ and the idea that ‘history sells’, to what extent is commemoration commercialised?



Phoebe Knight

Topic: Historical Comedy Programmes/Movies:


  1. Does accuracy matter if it is a comedy?
  2. Is history made more accessible through comedy?
  3. Can laughter trivialise the history that we are being told?
  4. How far is ‘too far’? Where can we draw the lines between what can and can’t be made funny?


Have a look at some of the clips below from a variety of historical comedy programmes/movies. These are only some examples, if there are other comedies that you prefer than that is also fine to look at.




Ruva Knight



Questions to Consider:


Zaeem Hoque



Questions to Consider:



21.Discussion on Reflective Journal


Thomas Taylor



Questions to Consider:


Karima Aqli



Questions to Consider: