Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST3431: History and Its Audiences

Department: History

HIST3431: History and Its Audiences

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • • A pass mark in at least TWO Level two modules in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to broader issues about the place and practice of history in modern culture;
  • To encourage students to reflect critically on how history makes an impact on the wider public, for instance through visual arts, museums, and cultural heritage; journalism, fiction, film, and other media; commemorative practices; historical research outside the academy; and political decisions and debates.
  • To develop students’ awareness of history-related practices involving public audiences, giving students an opportunity to develop their own communication skills both in class and through assessment.


  • This module examines how public audiences (that is, outside of formal education settings) engage with, imagine, and consume historical research. At the heart of the module are questions about how the past is presented to a range of audiences. Sometimes this is done by academics, but many other groups are involved, such as novelists, film makers, curators, and journalists. By taking such a broad view, we can better appreciate what is meant by 'history'; its complexities, strengths, and limitations; and the central role that diverse audiences play in what is often called 'public history'. History is not contained or containable: it is a leisure activity, a signified of group identity, and a major sector of the economy, underpinned by public institutions, the media, and the creative arts.
  • Module content adapts each year to respond to current affairs, museum or other site visits, and seminar topics selected and co-led by students themselves. We will reflect on issues such as decolonization, museum repatriation and provenance research, and political discourses relating to history and heritage, public monuments, historical fiction and film, digital and other media, and visual arts. Students will be encouraged to bring their own interests and enthusiasms to bear on their work for this module, with the opportunity to shape seminar topics and delivery, as well as tailoring the written assessment to put the public communication of historical material into practice. The module is especially suitable for students with an interest in public life, the museum and heritage sector, and contemporary culture and the arts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Ability to analyze and develop arguments about public engagement with historical themes and research;
  • Understanding some of the professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities affecting institutions involved in public-facing history, such as heritage sites, museums, archives, and media outlets
  • Develop skills in visual analysis, critical reading, and written expression in a non-academic register
  • Relate current affairs and contemporary cultural phenomena to arguments made on the basis (or alleged basis) of historical research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Challenging students’ assumptions about the past and reflecting on the nature of the discipline (and, where appropriate, interdisciplinarity) at an advanced level
  • Appreciating how historical knowledge is produced, what forms it takes, and the purposes it serves
  • Reflecting on students’ own historical consciousness and practice.
Key Skills:
  • The ability to employ sophisticated reading skills to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, material, aural, visual, audio-visual etc.)
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • Seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Museum visit (or similar) to allow students to see history-related practices ‘in action’ and engage directly with museum, archive, or heritage-site staff (depending on visit, which may vary from year to year).
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • Summative written assessment on this module allows students the opportunity to recognise, represent, and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts, and problems, and put this module’s emphasis on public-facing history into practice, for instance by composing a short story, developing ideas for an exhibition or other cultural output; or writing journalistic-style features that allow them to identify, evaluate, and debate a range of subject-specific issues. Through written assessment, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals, and develop reasoned argument based on individual research. They should be able to communicate ideas in writing, and where relevant through visual materials, with clarity and coherence; and show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 0
Seminars 10 4 in Term one, 5 in Term two, and 1 (revision) in Term 3 2 hours 20
Visit to local museum or similar activity 1 1 in Term one 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 178

Summative Assessment

Component: Written assessment Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assessment: Practising public history Up to 3,000 words 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Student leadership of alternative seminars, to develop skills in lesson planning, research and analysis, oral presentation, making and supporting arguments, and leading discussions in a way that fosters a safe and supportive learning environment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University