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Unit information: Making History Public in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Making History Public
Unit code HISTM2016
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jessica Moody
Open unit status Not open
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School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

Making History Public explores the public world of history, from museums to documentaries and journalism.

Why is this unit important?

Our MA specialist options allow students to focus on a particular field of history and to develop specialist knowledge through intensive primary source and/or case study analysis. These units develop your ability to identify suitable primary sources, independently analyse them, and develop sophisticated arguments rooted in core methodologies, theories, and historiographies. Making History Public achieves this by dealing in-depth with public history as a primary source. It helps students consider how history should be communicated to the wider public, by engaging with areas beyond the academy in which history is important such as journalism, documentary making, and heritage.

How does this unit fit into your programme of study?

Specialist options take you into much greater detail than your TB1 thematic options, placing a much higher premium on independent analysis. The aim is to provide all MA students with the core competencies required for their dissertation. Making History Public achieves this by introducing students to the concerns that shape the selection and presentation of history in areas such as TV documentary, museum exhibition, heritage sites and magazine formats.

Your learning on this unit

An Overview of Content:

Most people do not get their history directly from universities. They develop an understanding of it through documentaries, popular history books, newspapers, and museums. Indeed, relatively few students with an MA in History will pursue a strictly academic career. And with growing emphasis on public engagement and non-scholarly impact, nor do many academic historians. Besides, many more people will watch a history documentary on TV or visit a museum exhibit or other heritage site than will read a history book (let alone an article in a scholarly journal). Making History Public engages with external partners in film, museums, and journalism to explore how the public engages with history. It introduces students to ‘the pursuit, application, promotion and communication of historical study and research beyond the traditional confines of academia’ through theoretical reflection on and engagement with a number of influential areas of public history which may include: popular history magazines; documentary film; heritage sites/landscapes and museums. Importantly, the unit contains a practical dimension that involves direct links and hands-on experience with Bristol-based practitioners of public history such as BBC History Magazine, Icon Films, and SS Great Britain.

How will you be different as a result of taking this unit?

This unit aims to inspire you to conduct your own research into existing public history case studies, and to develop a better understanding of how they are shaped by concerns such as audience, budgets, narrative and visual requirements, educational and political issues. It will develop your understanding not only of public history in theory and practice, but also how History works beyond the walls of the university.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. outline and analyse the interface between historical studies as an academic discipline and the broader contexts of popular culture and social trends;
  2. design and frame a public history proposal in relation to relevant public history concerns;
  3. design and frame research questions relating to relevant theoretical, ideological, and practical issues and debates in public history;
  4. compose an extended historical argument rooted in primary source analysis.

How you will learn

This unit will be taught through a weekly 2-hour seminar based on the unit content and a weekly 1-hour asynchronous activity designed to help support your assessment. The seminar will be based around discussion of core sources, historiographies, methodologies, and approaches. This will serve both to increase your familiarity with the core historical issues and to build your confidence in communicating your own ideas. In addition (though built into the seminar programme) there are some external partner sessions which will be led by public history professionals either by site visit or on campus.

The asynchronous activity will help provide structure to the process of turning your initial research ideas into a manageable plan for producing an extended research-based essay.

How you will be assessed

Tasks which do not count towards your mark but are required for credit (zero-weighted):

This assessment takes the form of a public history proposal pitched to one of our current external partners. This is useful in seeing how the public history scholarship is directly applied in the respective industry.

1 x Public History Proposal, 750-1000 words (ILOs 1-2). [0%]

Tasks which count towards your unit mark (summative):

One 4000-word Essay (ILOs 1, 3, 4) [100%].

When assessment does not go to plan:

When required by the Board of Examiners, you will normally complete reassessments in the same formats as those outlined above. However, the Board reserves the right to modify the format or number of reassessments required. Details of reassessments are confirmed by the School/Centre shortly after the notification of your results at the end of the year.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. HISTM2016).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.