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The University of Southampton

HIST3116 Between Private Memory and Public History

Module Overview

Do you see your own possessions as historical objects? This module invites you to do just that as a way of illuminating the resonance and immediacy to our lives of concepts such as memory work, commemoration and heritage. We live in a world in which the meaning of the past is constantly being re-shaped by social forces and cultural phenomena outside academia - in museums, anniversary parades, in the media. This module asks you to think about the relations between individual memories and the formation of such publicly shared stories about the past. The seminars illustrate these themes through a series of tangible case studies. The module assessment involves building a portfolio of original work around a personally chosen ‘memory object' as a way of demonstrating your understanding of this intersection between private memory and public history.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to concepts such as memory work and public history which have informed recent historical scholarship; • Increase your awareness of the ethical issues involved in the research of history and the presentation and dissemination of its results to various audiences; • Augment and refine your subject specific and key skills by fostering understanding of the process of the construction and use of historical knowledge and by encouraging independent working practices.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Recent historiographical debates about the relationship between history and memory, the heritage industry, memory work and public history;
  • The ethical issues involved in historical research and the display and communication of its results;
  • Memory objects and their potential use in the creation of private and public histories;
  • The substance of several historical case studies which will anchor this general understanding of concepts and processes in the particular.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • See connections between private memory and public history;
  • See the relevance of ethical issues in historical research;
  • Explain the relationship of theory and practice in historical scholarship;
  • Critically evaluate both primary source material and arguments contained in historical texts.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Work independently and in small groups;
  • Analyse a range of complex primary and secondary source material;
  • Communicate your understanding of memory and history both to a scholarly and non-scholarly audience;
  • Demonstrate interpersonal skills in the context of discussion with other individuals either inside or outside the university sector;
  • Frame applications for funding and other support.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Assess the value as historical evidence of your chosen memory object.


This innovative module aimed at single honours History students builds on modules in Year 1 which explored the variety of sources used in historical scholarship, historiography and public history; and on the experience of original research and independent study encountered in the Group Project in Year 2. First, it explores in greater conceptual depth the relationship between history and memory and the different forms that memory work can take. Forms of historical inquiry such as community history, oral history, micro-history, public history and heritage will be explained and discussed, alongside a consideration of issues such as place identity, commemoration and memory work. Secondly, it allows you to build a portfolio of original work through independent research around an analysis of a particular memory object that functions as a case study in which to explore the conceptual issues encountered in the first part of the module. In building this portfolio, you will be asked to consider the ethical issues involved in the process of historical research and in the communication of its results, as well as to demonstrate your understanding of the value of your memory object as a historical source and its significance in terms of its contexts of production, transmission and potential reception. In this way, the module asks you to consider the intersection between private memory and public history.

Special Features

This module is specifically designed to facilitate a significant element of independent research. The seminars at the beginning of the module will introduce you to the conceptual issues and historiography involved in exploring the relationship between private memory and public history. The seminars will incorporate introductions to the various topics by the tutors, student presentations and general class discussion. In this way, you will be prepared for the independent study that takes place in the second half of the module. That study will be supervised rather than taught. You will meet with one or other of the module tutors in small groups for hour-long sessions which are designed to keep you on track for the production of your portfolio of assessment pieces. You will have a chance in these small group sessions to discuss the parameters of the task and talk in more detail of what the evaluation of a memory object means within the confines of this module. These supervisory sessions will be fortnightly, so you will have a chance in your small group to air your experience of organisation, practical and conceptual choices and problems. Individual consultations on your progress will also be available. It is hoped in this way that you will be supported throughout this period of independent study. The final plenary seminar at the end of the module will help to refresh your memory of the conceptual and historiographical issues encountered at the beginning of the module, give you the opportunity to think through the links between that material and your individual study, and to prepare you for the formal examination.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Weekly 2-hr seminars for the first four weeks; • Three 1-hr small group supervisory sessions on the nature and development of the portfolio; • One 2-hr revision seminar at the end of the module; • Several individual consultations on your progress as required, on request via email or office hours. Learning activities include • Preparing and delivering presentations; • Note-taking and listening; • Independent study involving reading, research and writing. Innovative or special features of this module • A mixture of teaching and supervision to allow the students to develop their own direction on the principal research exercise; • Unconventional assessment in the form of a portfolio which allows for a greater degree of creativity and independence; • Note that the self-directed nature of the portfolio assessment requires that the students undertake a greater degree of independent study than is the norm.

Independent Study287
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Klein, Kerwin Lee (2000). On the emergence of memory in historical discourse. Representations. ,69 .

Megill, Allan (1998). History, memory, identity. History of the Human Sciences. ,11 .

History and Theory, special issue, December 2004. Journal

Wright, Gordon (1976). History as a moral science. Americal Historical Review. ,8 .

Jenkins, Keith (2004). History and ethics. History and Theory. ,43 .

Le Goff, Jacques (1992). History and memory. 

Samuel, Raphael (1994). Theatres of memory. 

Samuel, Raphael, Thompson, Paul, eds (1990). The Myths we live by. 

Mendel, Gideon (2006). Memories are made of this. The Guardian, G2 supplement, 29 November 2006. , pp. 6—15.

Fentress, James and Wickham, Chris (1992). Social memory. 

Taithe, Bertrand (1999). Monuments aux morts? Reading Nora’s ‘Realms of memory’ and Samuel’s ‘Theatres of memory. History of the Human Sciences. ,12 .


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback Feedback on oral presentations; 2 000 word compulsory practice essay.


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination 50%
Portfolio with supporting report  (4000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio with supporting report 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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