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2015/16 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3495 Read All About It! Understanding News, c.1500-Present

20 creditsClass Size: 14

Module manager: Dr Sara Barker

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2015/16

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

We tend to think of news as a product of the modern world, but in fact it has a long and fascinating history. Even before the first newspapers emerged in the seventeenth century, Europeans were able to access a wide variety of news materials, both written and oral. This module traces the history of news from the early modern period to the present day, through a range of primary and secondary material. It will include comparative discussion of elements including what makes the news, who controls the news, the role of consumers and the impact of technology on news gathering and news dissemination.


The objectives of this module are:
- To explore what is meant by news and the forms that it has taken in different periods
- To explore the functioning of news in western society from the advent of the printing press to the present day
- To examine the relationships between news, power, consumers, and technology
- To critically analyse a range of primary sources, both written and visual, relating to these issues
- To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form
- To further develop generic, transferrable and subject specific skills

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will be able to:
1. Analyse developments in the history of news, media and communication, and compare its relationship to other phenomena such as orality, literacy and technological shifts across a variety of historical time periods and contexts
2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the history of news, media and communication across different societies and periods, and relate them to an overall conception of the subject
3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to news, media and communication
4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the history of news, media and communication, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography
5. Demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of comparative methodological approaches in historical research more generally
6. Show analytical and critical skills in oral presentations
7. Show analytical skills in written work, using citations and footnotes correctly

Skills outcomes
- in-depth study and interpretation of primary sources
- thorough understanding of historiographical debate
- development and substantiation of own arguments
- historical comparison
- communications skills
- planning, running and reflecting on student-led seminar


1. Introduction - What is/was news?
2. Formats - Newspapers and other types of news
3. Finding News - stories and sources
4. Visual News - woodcuts, photos, video
5. News Consumers
6. Influencing the News
7. Representing the News from Jonson to Sorkin
8. Student-led seminar - topic to be decided in week 1
9. Student-led seminar - topic to be decided in week 1
10. Student-led seminar - topic to be decided in week 1
11. Conclusions

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students will prepare for each seminar by reading texts and primary sources as specified by the Module Leader. They will also be expected to undertake further, self-directed reading for each class, and to locate suitable source materials for discussion in seminars. Students will also research and plan a group-led seminar, before writing an assessed individual reflective report (10%), researching and writing an assessed essay (60%) and a source commentary (30%).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contributions to class discussions
- Feedback on written work, including on seminar plan
- Individual and group tutorials with the module leader

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Source Analysis1 x 2,000-word source commentary, due by 12 noon on Monday of teaching week 730.00
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay, due by 12 noon on Monday of revision week60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The reflective report will be based on the group-led seminar, but will be produced and marked individually. It will ask them to reflect upon their planning, the seminar itself and other elements and will be structured around a series of key questions designed to focus students on reflecting effectively on their practice.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 23/02/2016


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