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BA History and American Studies

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Back to the Future: The Uses and Abuses of History

Unit code HIST10252
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module is focused on current affairs. It examines how history can be used to address problems in the contemporary world. Students will explore how knowledge about the past can be deployed to inform the development of policy responses to contemporary issues, such as the house-building crisis, or the organisation of grass-roots campaigns to save museums in the face of funding cuts. The module is delivered in conjunction with employers from sectors such as law, finance, marketing, media, NGOs, media, policy makers, government and heritage. Each week, students will first be introduced to an historical case study, and then asked to use their understanding of this case study to help them develop an appropriate response to a problem faced by a particular employer in the private, public or third sector. The aim of the course is to develop core skills from your history degree and apply them to help resolve issues confronted in the working world.


HIST10252 is restricted to History programmes (please check your programme regulations for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes.


  • Develop core skills around historical research
  • Gain an understanding of how historical knowledge and skill can be applied to problem solving
  • Generate a template for understanding the transferable skills of your history degree and enhance employability
  • Generate an environment for enhancing teamwork.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a range of academic and transferable skills, including communicating ideas and arguments in written form, delivering presentations, group-work and independent research.
  • Demonstrate self-confidence in a range of learning processes


Combination of concepts and case studies on a range of topics (depending on teaching staff and external speakers) with a focus on application or problem solving. For example

  • Case Study 1 - Heritage (Week 1: Historical Context; Week 2: Problem Solving)
  • Case Study 2 – Local government (Week 3: Historical Context; Week 4: Problem Solving)
  • Case Study 3 – Law and Human Rights (Week 5: Historical Context; Week 6: Problem Solving)

Other case study topics may include Marketing, Media, Public Policy, and so on. Separate introductory and concluding seminars will help to tie the case studies to the transferrable skills developed through the study of History.

Teaching and learning methods

  • 1 x 2-hour workshop per week
  • 1 x 1-hour seminar

In the 2 hour workshops, the students will make presentations to a panel of employers/external participants and course tutors on the case study material as a group every alternate week. They will receive instant feedback on their oral presentations and these presentations will form a part of the participation assessment marks (see below). Students will select one of these case studies as a basis for preparing their case study exercise

Knowledge and understanding

Manifest knowledge and understanding of:

  • Articulate why History is relevant to today
  • Identify and articulate the transferable skills gained in a History degree
  • Identify and express the relationship between the past and present

Intellectual skills

  • Present solutions to research problems clearly and effectively orally and in writing
  • Place data and arguments effectively within their wider comparative context
  • Understand the intellectual dynamic between past and present

Practical skills

  • Develop solutions to problems using historical knowledge and research skills
  • Work in a team to development effective solutions to chosen problems
  • Address a range of contemporary issues from an historical perspective
  • Present ideas in a workshop context
  • Gain skills in making ‘elevator pitches’ to external employers
  • Gain commercial awareness

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Analyse, evaluate and apply historical research to current affairs
  • Develop and carry out independent research projects
  • Problem solving
  • Generate data for employers in response to commercial / economic change
  • Communicate arguments through improved written and oral communication skills
  • Work efficiently as part of a group

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The ability to gather, organise and analyse data
Group/team working
The ability to solve problems alone and / or as part of a team
Oral communication
The ability to ask, and to answer, precise and incisive questions
Problem solving
The ability to present complex solutions to problems in concise, clearly directed ways
Written communication
The ability to marshal information into a coherent and compelling argument, both in writing and orally
The ability to respond effectively to real life situations regarding economic, social or political change (`commercial awareness¿); The ability to process large quantities of information for relevant material

Assessment methods

Participation - Weekly group work - 10%

Reflective Learning Log - 4 x 500 words - 40%

Essay - 2000 words - 50%

Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on group discussions and presentations
  • Written feedback on the Reflective Learning log and the Case Study exercise.
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

  • John Tosh, Why History Matters (2008)
  • Jo Guldi and Dacid Armitage, The History Manifesto (2015)
  • Jeremy Black, Contesting History: Narratives of Public History (2014)
  • P Ashton and Hilda Kean, People and their Pasts: Public History Today (2008)
  • Margaret Macmillan, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History (2010)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aashish Velkar Unit coordinator

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