News, Media and Communication (HIH3617)

StaffDr Helen Birkett -
Dr Freyja Cox Jensen -
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of recurring themes in the history of news, media and communication over a time scale extending from the medieval period to the present day.  It will be taught by two or three different tutors, and exact chronological and thematic focus will depend on which tutors are teaching the module in any given year. By close specialist evaluation of key topics such as censorship, economics and popular participation in news production in settings as various as the post-reformation world and the digital society, students will trace key developments in the subject, and think about these comparatively across time and space. The module will also introduce students to the approaches of different disciplines, such as anthropology and philosophy, and to a variety of different historical source materials, such as letters, woodcuts, newspapers and electronic media sources. By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and lectures, student-led seminars and independent study, the module will enable students to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of taking a comparative approach to the study of news, media and communication.  In this way students will learn to draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources, show awareness of contrasting approaches to research, and demonstrate an enhanced understanding of some of the philosophical questions arising from research into large historical themes.  They will also learn to present some of these complex issues to the rest of the class by leading a seminar in the second half of the course.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Analyse developments in the history of news, media and communication, and compare its relationship to other phenomena such as orality, literacy and technological shifts across a variety of historical time-periods and contexts.
  • 2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the history of news, media and communication across different societies and periods, and relate them to an overall conception of the subject.
  • 3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to news, media and communication
  • 4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the history of news, media and communication, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography.
  • 5. Demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of comparative methodological approaches in historical research more generally.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse the key developments in complex and unfamiliar political, social, cultural or intellectual environments.
  • 7. Identify and deploy correct terminology in a comprehensible manner; use primary sources in a professional manner; present work in the format expected of historians, including footnoting and bibliographical references.
  • 8. Assess critically different approaches to history in a contested area.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Work both in a team and independently.
  • 10. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 11. Understand as a team how to lead a group discussion of a historical topic.

Syllabus plan

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9: Five sessions covering methodological and conceptual issues relating to the history of news, media and communication, using case studies, and set-up for student-led seminars.  Each session will be taught through one 2-hour seminar and one 1-hour lecture. The lectures will focus on worked examples or case studies from the tutor’s own area of specialism and suggest questions and themes which could be explored comparatively by the students themselves.  The seminars will explore particular issues in more depth, through case studies or discussion of particular sources and historiographical debates.  They will also lay the foundations for the student-led seminars in the second half of the course. Topics covered will vary according to tutor availability but may include: Letters and Social Networks; News, Rumour and Gossip; Issues of Contemporaneity; Newspapers and Media Professionals; and Media and Reader Identity. 


Weeks 11, 13, 15, 17, 19: Five 2-hour seminars led by groups of 2 or 3 students on topics chosen from a menu offered by tutors.  Topics will vary according to tutor availability and student choice but may include: Citizen Journalists; the Role of the State and Censorship; Fake News; Professional Newsproducers; and Tracing Transmission of Events.  Alongside these, there will be five 1-hour lectures, as for Weeks 1-9 above.


Week 21: Concluding session: discussion of overarching issues and comparative points.

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 activities1111x 1 hour lectures to run on alternate weeks over both terms, as described in syllabus plan above.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities126 x 2 hour tutor led seminars to run in weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21, as described in syllabus plan above.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities105 x 2 hour seminars in weeks 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19. Each led by a group of 2 or 3 students. Topics should be chosen from a menu of subjects agreed in advance by tutors. While tutors give guidance and a basic reading list, students are responsible for designing seminar activities and identifying further reading materials.
Guided independent learning267Students prepare for seminars, essay, final report and exam through reading and research; they also work in groups to lead seminars based on projects that have been developed.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan500 words1-8, 10Verbal and Written

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
Essay303000 words1-8, 10 Verbal and written
Student-led seminar [comprising: leading a student led seminar (36%) and attending all student-led seminars (4%)]402 hours student-led seminar1-11 Verbal and written
Take-away exam303000 words1-8, 10 Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8, 10 Referral/deferral period
Student-led seminar and participation1500 words (written by student individually) describing and reflecting on the proposed seminar activities and materials equating to one person’s contribution (c. 45 minutes), plus proposed handout or powerpoint from seminar (not more than 2 sides of A4) and seminar reading list (not more than 1 side of A4)1-11 Referral/deferral period
Take-away examTake-away exam1-8, 10 Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3,000 word essay and 3,000 word take-away exam, as in the original assessment, but replaces leading and participating in student-led seminars with a written seminar plan and reading list that corresponds to one student’s contribution to such a seminar. The plan should outline how the seminar is to be structured and organised as well as detailing the material to be used. This will enable a reader to gain a sense of what the student intended to do in the seminar, the rationale for this activity, and when this activity / discussion would take place.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Behringer, Wolfgang. ‘Communications Revolutions: A Historiographical Concept’, German History 24:3 (2006) 333-374.

Dooley, Brendan (ed.) The dissemination of news and the emergence of contemporaneity in early modern Europe (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010).

Doig, J. A. ‘Political Propaganda and Royal Proclamations in Late Medieval England’, Historical Research 71:176 (1998) 253-280.

Capp, Bernard. When Gossips Meet : Women, Family, and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Hanson, Ralph. Mass communication: living in a media world (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011).

James, Carolyn. ‘An Insatiable Appetite for News: Isabella d’Este and a Bolognese Correspondent, in Rituals, Images and Words: Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed.F. W. Kent and Charles Zika (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 375-88.

Mathews, Joseph J. ‘Heralds of the Imperialistic Wars’, Military Affairs, Vol. 19, No. 3. (Autumn, 1955), pp. 145-155.

Randall, David. Credibility in Elizabethan and early Stuart military news (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2008).

Watson, Tom, and Martin Hickman, Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain (London: Penguin, 2012)

Waugh, Evelyn. Scoop (London: Penguin, 1938).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

 Gissing, George. New Grub Street (1891; widely available as a free e-book)



Indicative learning resources - Other resources

 Beckett, Charlie. The impact of the Internet on the news media (audio-file) (London, 2010).

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

News, Communication, Media, Press