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Commemorations - HIS00122H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Geoff Cubitt
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Commemoration – the formal or ritualistic marking and/or celebrating of past events or people or experiences as symbolically significant elements in contemporary culture – is a ubiquitous and culturally striking feature of past and present societies. Commemorating the past is interwoven with many other aspects of society, politics and culture – with historical understanding, religious tradition, political ideology, with social structure, and with the crafting of collective identities. Commemoration can bind the members of a society together in a shared relationship to an honoured past, but can also be a field of conflict and contestation. Studying what, and how, and why, and when and where people in a society commemorate, – studying not just the content but also the process of commemorating – is a vital way in to understanding that society.

Embracing the study of texts and images, rhetoric, ritual and performance, material culture, uses of space and understandings of temporality, the comparative study of commemorative practices is an excitingly interdisciplinary area of history, in which the work of historians intersects with work by sociologists, anthropologists, art historians and specialists in literary, cultural and media studies. This module will explore this creative diversity, drawing examples from a wide range of periods and geographical areas. Using commemoration as a prism through which to understand and compare societies and historical contexts, the module will also allow students to reflect critically on the nature and significance of commemoration as an evolving and multifaceted historical phenomenon.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the practice of comparative history;
  • To enable students to acquire skills and understanding of that practice by studying a particular topic or theme; and
  • To enable students to reflect on the possibilities and difficulties involved in comparative history

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp the key approaches and challenges involved in comparative history;
  • Understand a range of aspects of the topic or theme which they have studied;
  • Be able to use and evaluate comparative approaches to that topic or theme; and
  • Have learned to discuss and write about comparative history
  • Have developed skills in group work

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars. These take place in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. There will also be a 2 hour revision session in the summer term.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

Autumn Term

  1. Introduction: Concepts and Approaches

  2. Monumental and memorial cultures I: funerary monuments and public statues

  3. Monumental and memorial cultures II: the monumental landscape

  4. War and commemoration I: from the ancient to the 18th century

  5. War and commemoration II: the twentieth century and beyond

  6. War, race and monumentality: from Civil war to Civil Rights in the US

Spring Term

  1. Commemorating the Holocaust

  2. Commemoration and time: the commemorative calendar

  3. Commemoration and time II: the politics of big anniversaries

  4. Commemorating the great in time and space

  5. Case study: Commemoration in South Africa

  6. Case study: Ireland

  7. Commemorating terrorist attacks

  8. Critiques, Fresh Perspectives, and New Developments


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam
Open Exam - 24 hours
N/A 67
University - project
Group Project
N/A 33

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For procedural work, the students will make group presentations towards the end of the autumn term. In addition, they may choose to submit an optional 2,000 word formative essay between weeks 7-9 of the autumn term. Essays should not be submitted in the same week as group project presentations are scheduled.

For summative assessment students will complete a 4,000-word group project due in week 6 of the spring term -- this will account for 33% of the final mark. They will then also take a 2,000-word 24-hour open exam during the common assessment period in the summer term, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. The open exam will be worth 67% of the final mark.


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam
Open Exam - 24 hours
N/A 67
University - project
Group Project
N/A 33

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Gillis, John R. (ed). Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press., 1994

Low, Polly, Graham Oliver, and P. J. Rhodes (eds). Cultures of Commemoration: War Memorials Ancient and Modern. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012

Doss, Erika. Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.