Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The Allure and the Uses of the Past: Historical Culture in Modern Europe
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,000 word essay  2,000 word essay  40%
Semester Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay  4,000 word essay  60%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,000 word essay  2,000 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 4,000 word essay  4,000 word essay  60%

Learning Outcomes

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

Demonstrate a critical understanding of approaches to and methodological problems in understanding memory and its relationship to cultural history.

Evaluate differing ways of understanding the relationship between the past and its cultural representation.

Marshal and understand the use of appropriate evidence in formulating historical arguments regarding the use of the past in modern Europe.

Demonstrate through written work an ability to integrate methodological themes into their own research.

Brief description

Academic rationale of the proposal:
The module will explore the evolution of a distinctively modern approach to the past in the wake of the French Revolution. It considers the emergence of a new kind of `past-mindedness? in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, its appeal, and its continuing resonance in the twentieth century. Concepts of time itself, and of civilizational `progress? and `decline? underwent radical changes. They were reflected in a new appreciation of the vestiges of past societies ? of ruins and of a variety of cultural artefacts ? which an increasing array of preservationists and antiquarians protected or collected and sought to interpret. In this context, even nostalgia will be explored as a distinctively modern phenomenon, and one that is certainly not to be conflated with restorationist or `reactionary? political agendas. In that light, the module asks also how the past was used and contested in the political cultures of the Left, of Liberal parliamentary constitutionalism, and of Fascism and Nazism.

Brief Description:
This module examines the appeal and uses of the past in Europe since 1789. Concentrating especially on Germany, France, Britain and Italy, it considers the development of historical culture and examines ways in which the past was understood and re-presented not only through historical research and academic writing, but also through antiquarian activities and amateur histories, historical novels and myth-histories, monuments and ruins, pageants and commemorative practices in general. It considers changing conceptions of the past not only as reflective of political upheavals and regime changes, but also as inspiring and shaping political actions.

1. Introduction: What is Historical Culture?
2. The Shock of the French Revolution: Past-mindedness and Modernity
3. The `German Conception of History?
4. Imagining and Writing National Histories.
5. Centralizing and Regionalist Conceptions of the Past
6. Myths of Origin
7. The Great War and European Memory
8. `Collective? Memory and Historical Culture. The Third Reich, Vichy France and Fascist Italy
9. Case study: Charlemagne in Modern Germany and France
10. Conclusions: Historical Cultures after Totalitarianism

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number NA
Communication Through seminar discussion and essay writing. The latter only is formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance By guided reflection during seminars and feedback sessions following submission of written work.
Information Technology Through data retrieval exercises for research purposes and word-processing for essay writing purposes.
Personal Development and Career planning Through furthering understanding of single and interdisciplinary approaches to the social and cultural history of the period, and the opportunity this offers for research and history related careers.
Problem solving Defining and localizing the workings of ‘social memory’. Distinguishing between and showing connections between ‘social memory’ and academic historiography. Identifying and explaining the ‘past-mindedness’ exhibited in Late Modern societies. Delineating and explaining the various genres through which the past was represented, and the methodologies appropriate to each.
Research skills By learning how to identify appropriate primary and secondary sources and utilising that material in their work.
Subject Specific Skills By enhancing methodological understanding of late modern social and cultural history, in particular with respect to questions of history, memory and popular culture, and an awareness of key texts and approaches.
Team work Through seminar work.


This module is at CQFW Level 7