HIH2002 - Uses of the Past

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Claire McCallum - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

In this module you will explore how people in the past used history to explain their present, and how people today use history. You will look at the ways in which the past has been constructed, including the roles people have played, the impact of different cultures, and how things have changed over time. You will explore the authority that different cultures have given to the past, what makes a past ‘authentic’ and ‘powerful’, how notions of good or bad history changed over time, and you will assess why people have turned to the past in order to make sense of their worlds. You will compare past and present uses of history across different cultures, and the way in which history is used by different states and rulers, and in education, entertainment and public commemoration. Finally, you will look at how groups have attempted to make sense of their past using a range of sources: for example, chronicles, paintings, films, genealogies, statues and memorials.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Introduce you to the many and varied ways in which the past has been used, and continues to be used
  • Compare the function of history in different cultures of the past and present, addressing its use by different states and rulers, and in education, entertainment and public commemoration
  • Address the role that scholars, novelists, film makers or propagandists have played in constructing the past, using reflections on past cultures of historical production to contextualise and critique the function of the academic historian today
  • Explore the authority that different cultures have given to the past, what makes a past ‘authentic’ and ‘powerful’, and how notions of good or bad history changed over time, and it will assess why people have turned to the past in order to make sense of their worlds
  • Examine a range of texts and objects – such as chronicles, paintings, films, genealogies, statues, memorials – through which groups have attempted to make sense of their pasts
  • In small groups, you will have the opportunity to explore one ‘use of the past’ in detail, which will form the basis of your project

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the varying functions of history in both the past and the present, for different cultures and social groups
  • 2. Assess critically historical writing through consideration of the purposes for which it was created and the functions that it has played in past and contemporary societies
  • 3. Analyse, through a particular case-study, the issues involved in the representation of the past to a public audience

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Assess the work of scholars and handle different approaches in areas of controversy
  • 5. Collate and critique data from a range of sources
  • 6. Understand, recognise and deploy historical terminology in a comprehensible manner

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Carry out both independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 8. Present complex material orally
  • 9. With minimum guidance, digest, select and synthesize evidence and arguments to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument

Syllabus plan

While the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • writing history
  • personal history
  • history, education & citizenship
  • history & culture; public history
  • remembering and forgetting the past
  • creating a usable past

The lecture programme is designed to both add context and additional case-studies to the topics that will be discussed in the seminars, and bring other important issues related to the ‘use of the past’ to your attention. Most will be delivered by the teaching time but some sessions may be given by external speakers, such as archivists, museum curators, or authors.

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 Teaching22 hoursLectures (2 x 1 hour per week)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22 hoursSeminars (8 x 2 hours): these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar in advance. Supervision sessions for group project (6 x 1 hour)
Guided Independent Study256 hoursPrivate study to prepare the seminar reading, primary sources and assessed work

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Poster presentation conference2 hours1-9Oral
Reflective Statementc. 500 words1-7,8Written

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
Group Project [comprising: Blog of 3000 words (35%), Poster of 500 words (15%) + formative Reflective Statement]503500 words and poster1-9Written comments and oral feedback
Assignment502000 words1-7, 9Written comments and oral feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group ProjectIndividual essay of 1500 words1-7, 9Referral/Deferral period
Assignment (2000 words)Assignment (2000 words)1-7, 9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

In place of the group project, there will be an individual essay of 1500 which represents that individual’s contribution to such a project. The assignment will remain the same.

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:

  • B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (2006)
  • S. Berger & C. Conrad, The Past as History: National Identity and Historical Consciousness in Modern Europe (2014)
  • A. Clark, History’s Children: History Wars in the Classroom (2008)
  • J. de Groot, Consuming History (2008)
  • E.  Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (1983)
  • L. Jordanova, History in Practice (Revised 3rd Ed. 2019))
  • D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (1985)
  • R. Samuel, Theatres of Memory (1998)
  • S. Sleeper-Smith (ed.), Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives (2009)
  • J. Tosh, The Pursuit of History (2015)
  • B. Southgate, Why Bother with History? (2005)

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Key words search

Past, History, Heritage

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