Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Mutually Exclusive
HA32120, HY32220, HY32320, HY32520, HY32720, HY32820, HY33320, HY33420, HY33520, HY34420, HY34720, HY34820

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 ESSAY (1,500 WORDS)  20%
Semester Assessment 1 PROJECT (5,000 WORDS)  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

demonstrate familiarity with different ways in which history has been portrayed on television;

demonstrate an awareness of how the makers of TV history programmes attempt to engage with their audience, and the kinds of issues that determine the content and style of programming

analyze and reflect critically on the relationship between history on television as `popular history' and tensions between history on TV and history as an academic discipline

construct and sustain arguments orally and in writing;

work both independently and collaboratively, and to participate in group discussion.


Recent years have seen an explosion of historical programming in the media. Multi-channel TV has seen the emergence of several channels dedicated to historical documentaries, and historians such as David Starkey and Simon Schama have become household names. It is only very recently that professional historians have begun to analyse these developments critically. The crucial questions now being posed concern what issues drive the agenda of programming, how TV history attempts to engage with its audience and how audiences react to history programming, the relationship between `public history' and professional history, and whether some of the agendas being pursued by history on television are profoundly dangerous for history as an academic discipline.
This module aims to encourage students to engage with such issues, and explore one of the most common ways in which the bulk of the population `consumes' history and engages with the past. It is envisaged that the module will appeal to a broad range of historians, and also be of advantage to some who are considering careers in the media.

Brief description

This course will encourage students to engage critically with one of the main ways through which history is communicated to a mass audience - namely television.
The module will begin by addressing key concepts and themes, such as the notion of `public history' and how history is consumed outside of academia, and the development of factual programming and the documentary. The first, short, piece of written assessment will address these themes.
The remainder of the module will explore directly how history has been portrayed on television, concentrating on the UK. Long-term changes in the ways in which history has been presented will be discussed, and the rationale behind the choice of themes for programmes and the ways in which such themes are addressed will be analysed. The style of programmes, and the different ways in which producers attempt to engage the interest of their audience in historical themes, will be discussed. Throughout the module, the relationship between academic and popular notions of history, will be central. An examination will be made of how history on television can serve as a focus for such tensions. Students' main piece of written work will consist of an in-depth critical analysis of a historical documentary.


1. Introduction: history and television
2. `Public history'
3. The TV documentary.
4. Who drives the agenda? Historians, commissioners and programme-makers
5. To educate and inform - early TV history
6. The evolution of history on TV - dumbing down or democratization?
7. Dealing with historical debate and controversy
8. Engaging the viewer - production styles and special effects
9. The use of personal testimony - problems and opportunities
10. Conclusion

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Students will not utilize statistical sources in this module.
Communication Oral and written communication skills will be developed through seminars and feedback on written work. These skills will be assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Written work will be returned in tutorials where advice will be given on improving students' research techniques and essay writing skills. There will be no formal assessment of this skill.
Information Technology Students will be required to locate source materials through library catalogues and on-line sources. Students will also be encouraged to word-process their assessed work. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning This module will help develop written and oral skills. Other activities, including research, assessment of information and writing in a critical and clear manner, will further develop useful skills of analysis and presentation.
Problem solving Students will be expected to locate and assess primary source materials. This skill will be assessed through the three pieces of work.
Research skills Students will be required to carry out research for seminars and for the required pieces of work. Such research will be assessed in each of the three elements of assessment.
Team work Students will work together in seminar preparation and will lead the seminars. There will be no formal assessment of this skill.


This module is at CQFW Level 6