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Public History and Heritage: Theories, Issues and Practice


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Professor Julia Laite
  • Assessment: a 1000-word critique of a public history or heritage project (20%), 1000-word project proposal (10%) and 4000-word final project or essay (70%)

Module description

‘If history was thought of as an activity rather than a profession then its practitioners would be legion,’ wrote Raphael Samuel, articulating one of the core ideas behind the concepts of ‘public history’ and ‘heritage’.

In this module we introduce you to key aspects and issues of the theory and practice of public history and heritage. You will gain the necessary theoretical and practical skills to undertake critical assessments of public history and heritage projects and interventions, as well as to create your own. We will provide you with a wide range of examples of methods and debates within public history and heritage, from museums and material culture, through history in the media and political debates, to the role of history in policy making, and more.

Indicative syllabus

  • What is public history and heritage?
  • Consuming history and heritage: markets, media, audiences, content
  • Public history, heritage and the memory wars
  • History, heritage and policy
  • History and heritage in the nation and the classroom
  • Decolonising history and heritage
  • Public history and heritage: designing a project
  • Creative and fictional histories and heritage
  • Public history, heritage and museums
  • Reflections and summary discussions, project presentations and closing field trip

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will understand:

  • the wide-ranging theory and practice of public history and heritage and be able to comment critically upon existing projects, interventions and practices
  • the key debates surrounding public history and heritage and the role of the public historian and heritage professional
  • the way that history is used and disseminated in the media and on the internet
  • the way that museums and archives engage in public history and heritage
  • the way in which policy makers engage with history and heritage, and the way in which historians have contributed to public policy debates
  • the role that history plays in community development and community-based projects
  • how to prepare written critiques of existing public history and heritage projects and interventions
  • how to design a successful and critically engaged public history or heritage project or intervention
  • how to engage critically with current historiographical debates about public history and heritage studies.