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Unit information: Propaganda (Level H Reflective History) in 2015/16

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Unit name Propaganda (Level H Reflective History)
Unit code HIST38020
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Holdenried
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Defined as information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view (Oxford English Dictionary), the term 'propaganda' has clearly lost its innocence. Commonly considered a feature of modern mass society, propaganda is associated with systematic and somehow sinister intervention by states and governments for the purpose of manipulating public opinion, through central control of a whole range of visual and printed media.

How appropriate is this view of propaganda, however? Is centralised government control really a prerequisite of propaganda? Even before the term existed the practice of propagating a particular point of view predates modern mass society by centuries. This Unit will explore the mechanics of propaganda in different periods (from medieval times to the modern day) to promote reflection on how and why partisan ideas were promoted and how historians have thought about propaganda.


Reflective history is identified in the Subject Benchmarking Statement as an important skill. Whilst students reflect on their work in all of their units the aim of this Reflective History unit will be to focus students more closely on that reflective practice.

In the process, students will also gain specific historical knowledge and understanding of:

  • the ways in which ideas were circulated in different periods (from medieval times to the modern period)
  • the institutions and individuals involved in promoting partisan ideas
  • the different audiences for propaganda
  • the conceptual range of the term propaganda in modern scholarship and its relationship to notions of bias, persuasion and coercion

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students will have:

  • A heightened understanding of the particular and unique skills that historians acquire and of the way in which they apply those skills to a specific task
  • Be able to convey that understanding to others both in writing and through a shared group exploration
  • Have a deeper understanding of their own individual acquisition and application of those skills.
  • Be aware of their own particular combination of skills and they will have a clearer understanding of the areas where skills need to be improved.
  • Have a stronger awareness of how their skills might be applied more generally to other contexts
  • Gained a deeper knowledge of how particular textual forms and visual media are used by different agencies in different periods to promote partisan ideas, and of the audiences involved
  • Gained a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences in how modern historians use the term propaganda.

Teaching Information

  • Weekly 2-hour seminar
  • Guided independent reading directed towards presentation of material to their group
  • Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Information

1 x 24 hour seen exam

Reading and References

  • Albu, Emily, The Normans in their histories: propaganda, myth and subversion (Woodbridge, 2001)
  • Coote, Lesley A., Prophecy and public affairs in later medieval England (York, 2000)
  • Scribner, Robert W., For the sake of simple folk: popular propaganda for the German Reformation (Oxford 1994)
  • Clark, Toby, Art and propaganda in the twentieth century: the political image in the age of mass culture (London,1997)
  • Taylor, Richard, Film propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany (2nd, rev. ed., London,1998)
  • Crafts, William, Coercion or persuasion? Propaganda in Britain after 1945 (London, 1989)