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Commemorations - HIS00130H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Geoff Cubitt
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Commemoration is an important feature of past and present societies. Commemorative practices are interwoven with many other aspects of society and culture – with the sense of the past, with religious tradition, with political ideology, social structure and the crafting of collective identities. Studying what and how and when and where a society commemorates tells us much about that society. Studying how different groups relate to this process of commemoration – as promoters, planners, performers, audience, bystanders or resisters – is a way of exploring social dynamics and power relationships: commemorations can bind a society together, but they can also be contested, exclusionary and controversial. Commemoration can be traditional, but it can also reflect and articulate change and revolution. The study of commemoration is an interdisciplinary field, with historians finding support in the methods and approaches of a range of other disciplines – sociology, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, memory studies, archaeology, art history, literary studies, communication studies, architecture and urban planning.

This course will explore this diversity and will draw examples from a variety of countries and historical periods. Our aim will be both to use examples of commemoration as a way of understanding the societies and historical contexts in which they arise, and to reflect, through these examples, on how commemoration itself should be defined, conceptualised and analysed. Our exploration of this field will embrace commemorative objects (monuments and memorials), commemorative space, commemorative temporality (anniversaries and calendars), commemorative speech and discourse, commemorative ritual and performance, among other aspects.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

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

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1, then a 1-hour workshop and a 2-hour seminar in each of weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of the semester. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour workshops and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Introduction and approaches 1: Language, ritual and space
  2. Introduction and approaches 2: Temporalities, anniversaries and calendars
  3. Statues and memorials in public space: commemorating individuals
  4. War and commemoration
  5. Holocaust and atrocity commemoration
  6. Case study I: Civil war, race and civil rights in the US
  7. Case study II: South Africa
  8. New developments: commemoration in the 21st century


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Commemorations
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment work, students will produce an essay plan relating to the themes and issues of the module.

For summative assessment students will complete an Open Exam in the assessment period.



Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback, which may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss their feedback during their tutor’s 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 25 working days of the submission. For semester 1 assessments, the tutor will be available during student hours of the following semester for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester 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:

  • John R. Gillis, (ed.), Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
  • Erika Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010).
  • Alex von Tunzelmann, Fallen Idols: Twelve Statues that Made History (2021)

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.