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Exploring the Past: What is History

Duration 9 weekly meetings
Tutor Dr Elizabeth Jones
Course code HIS24A5520A
Fee £264
Concessionary fee £211 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

John Percival Building
Colum Drive
CF10 3EU

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What is history? How is history presented? How do we find out about history? Why do we argue about what happened in the past and the way that it influences our lives?

What is the role of the historian?

This module will explore these questions, introducing key concepts, themes and approaches to history, and allowing you to develop skills to help you to study history in a variety of ways.

We will begin by exploring the presentation of history in the world around us, from buildings and museums, to popular historical writing and the history we watch, read and hear on television, podcasts, and online.

We will then consider the development of academic history, including the study of politics, nations and empires, and the study of ‘history from below’ and its people, society, and cultures.

Finally, we will examine how history is being rethought and its lost or silenced voices uncovered in ways that extend our understanding to include global and more diverse investigation, bringing to light the history of emotions, gender, sexuality, disability, the environment, and more.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered as nine sessions of 2 hours.  Sessions will consist of a mixture of lectures, audio-visual resources, class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

Students will also be expected to read relevant printed material and use that as the basis for contributions in class.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures themselves will be supplemented by internet resources available to the students via Learning Central.



  • Exploring and studying the historical past

Presenting History:

  • History in Public
  • History Around Us
  • Academic History

Peopling History

  • Politics and Nations
  • Society and Culture

Rethinking History

  • Going Global
  • Diversifying History


  • You: the Historian

Coursework and assessment

This course has two sets of assessed work which together should add up to around 1500 words.

These pieces of work have been designed to help you in developing the skills and approaches that you need to study the past successfully.

The first of these will allow you to practice putting your ideas into writing, identify reading and prepare an essay plan.

The second will give you the opportunity to write a short essay.

There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • John H. Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  • Helen Carr and Suzannah Lipscomb (eds), What is History Now? How the Past and Present Speak to Each Other (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2021)
  • Tracey Loughran (ed.), A Practical Guide to Studying History: Skills and Approaches (London: Bloomsbury, 2017)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.