CMM2004 - History of Communications

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Richard Noakes - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module surveys the dramatic developments in communications around the world, broadly defined, since the ‘print revolution’ of fifteenth century to the present, with a particular focus on past two centuries.  It examines the growth and development of book publishing, newspapers, telegraphy, radio and television broadcasting, cinema and the internet.  It examines the interrelationships between these communication forms as well as the historical contexts that made them possible and desirable.  A significant part of this module will be a critical study of the theories of communication and the mass media that have been proposed since the early 20th century.  The empirical and theoretical strands of this module will be used to develop critical approaches to the present-day media.

Module aims

This module aims to give you an excellent knowledge and critical understanding of key communication forms from the print revolution of the fifteenth century to the present day.   You will be able to situate the emergence and development of book publishing, newspapers, telegraphy, radio and television broadcasting, cinema and the internet in their political, economic, technological, social and cultural contexts, as well as being able to compare developments in different regions.  You will develop a strong understanding of the significant and complex interconnections between communication forms and to evaluate the impacts of these forms on speech, writing and social interaction more generally.   Complementing this historical perspective, this module will examine the insights of Adorno, Gramsci, Habermas, Innis and other key theorists of communication and the mass media and examine the ways this work has shaped the historiography of communications.   You will also learn how to apply your historical and theoretical knowledge to critical thinking about the problems and possibilities of mass media organisations, and communication more generally, in the present day.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of key aspects of the history of communications around the world since the 15th century.
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate the role of communication technologies in broader socio-historical change.
  • 3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relevant scholarly literature on communication history.
  • 4. Apply a critical understanding of communication history to present-day mass media organisations

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Analyse key developments in defined historical and literary subjects.
  • 6. Collate and interpret data from a range of sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 7. Understand and apply very different approaches to history and literature.
  • 8. Show an understanding of and deploy historical and literary terminology in a comprehensible manner.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Demonstrate, in seminar work and group tasks, communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups.
  • 10. Demonstrate, in essay-writing, appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 11. Demonstrate, through research, discussion, and essay writing, the capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect your own learning process

Syllabus plan

The module will take a broadly chronological approach to communication history, interleaved with thematic foci.   It will cover the printing revolution and book publishing, the growth of newspapers, the rise of telegraphy and news agencies, cinema, radio and television broadcasting and the internet.  It will also cover theories of communication and the mass media, the social and cultural impacts of communication, and the uses of communication history and heritage.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 11Seminars
Guided Independent Study35Seminar preparation
Guided Independent Study93Reading, research and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Plan for essay 15001-8,10-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1451500 words1-8, 10-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow up
Essay 2451500 words1-8, 10-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow up
Seminar participation10Ongoing1-9,11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 (1500 words)Essay 1 (1500 words)1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period
Essay 2 (1500 words)Essay 2 (1500 words)1-8, 10-11Referral/deferral period
Seminar participationRepeat study or mitigation1-9, 11Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005)
  • Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier (eds.), A History of Reading in the West (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003)
  • Susan Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination (Minneapolis, MA: University of Minnesota Press, 2004)
  • Paul Heyer, Communications and History: Theories of Media, Knowledge, and Civilisation (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988)
  • Harold A. Innis, Empire and Communications (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1950)
  • James Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)
  • John Nernone (ed.), Media History and the Foundations of Media Studies (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)
  • Anamik Saha, Race and the Cultural Industries (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017)
  • Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff, A Social History of British Broadcasting: Serving the Nation, 1922-1939 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991)
  • Dan Schiller, Theorizing Communication: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • Peter Simonson et al. (eds.), Handbook of Communication History (New York: Routledge, 2013)
  • Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: The Political Origins of Modern Communications (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2005)

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Key words search

Communication, history, telecommunication, mass media, journalism, publishing, printing, television, film

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