Uses of the Past (HIH2002)

StaffDr Freyja Cox Jensen - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will introduce students to the many and varied ways in which the past has been used, and continues to be used. It will 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. It will address the role that scholars, novelists, film makers or propagandists, for instance, 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. Moreover, the module will 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. Finally, this module will 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, students will have the opportunity to explore one ‘use of the past’ in detail, which will form the basis of their wiki 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

Seminars may cover the following themes:

  1. Introduction: 1066 And All That
  2. Writing Histories
  3. Personal Histories
  4. History in Culture
  5. History, Education and Citizenship
  6. Public Histories
  7. Remembering and Forgetting History
  8. History and Identity
  9. -11. Group Project


Lectures (2 per week) may cover the following themes:

  1. Historicising the Uses of the Past
  2. The Professionalisation of History
  3. History and Identity
  4. History and Identity (II)
  5. Education and the Transmission of Values and Knowledge
  6. Collecting, Preserving and Presenting the Past
  7. Memory and the Politics of Remembrance
  8. Power, Legitimacy and the Uses of History
  9. Selling the Past: Heritage, Tourism and Entertainment
  10. Selling the Past: Heritage, Tourism and Entertainment
  11. Concluding Lectures

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
Lectures22 hoursLectures (2 x 1 hour per week)
Seminars22 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

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 Wiki Project [comprising: Wiki of 2500 words (35%), Poster of 500 words (15%)]503000 words and poster1-9Written comments and verbal feedback
Take-home exam503000 words1-7, 9Written comments and verbal feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group Wiki ProjectIndividual essay of 1500 words1-7, 9Referral/deferral period
Take-home exam3000 words1-7, 9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

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

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (2006)

J. Black, Maps and History (1997)

J. Black, Using History (2005)

J. Fentress & C. Wickham, Social Memory (1992)

J. Goody, The Theft of History (2006)

Y. Hen and M. Innes (eds.), The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages (2005)

E.  Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds.), The Invention of Tradition (1983)

L. Jordanova, History in Practice (2000)

D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (1985)

D. Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1998)

P. Mandler, History and National Life (2002)

B. Melman, The Culture of History: English Uses of the Past 1800–1953 (2006)

W. Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs (2000)

R. Samuel, Myths we Live By (1990)

R. Samuel, Theatres of Memory (1998)

B. Southgate, Why Bother with History? (2000)

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Past, History, Heritage