Course overview

In 1930, W.C Sellar & R.J. Yeatman ‘s 1066 And All That was published. The authors claimed that “History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember.” Starting from their premise, we will explore the ways that our memory and understanding of British history are influenced by fiction and the arts, as much as by teaching and text-books. We will look at how authors, playwrights and artists have depicted the past, both through deliberately looking backwards or by describing their own times in an enduring way. Can fiction help us understand the past more than factual accounts?

Course description

Most of us have mental images of certain historical events, but how many of these are based on books, films and paintings rather than history texts and lessons? We will explore how these shape our thinking about the past and look at the facts behind some of the stories.

Using film clips and art works as well as extracts from novels, we will compare these with historical writings to understand the strengths and limits of both fact and fiction for helping us get to grips with history. We will look at how the concerns of particular times influence the way the past is portrayed, with a particular look at some film adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays. We will also examine how authors, playwrights and artists use history for inspiration and consider whether fiction is more illuminating of people’s motivations and actions in the past than factual accounts.

Led by a friendly and experienced tutor, students will be encouraged to use critical thinking to evaluate different types of historical evidence, as well as past and contemporary fiction and art. A variety of books will be recommended to students, but while these may illuminate the topic, extensive reading is not essential to enjoy the course.

Learning Outcomes:

1. List five works (and their authors) that have influenced the popular understanding of history

2. Give two examples of how Shakespeare’s History plays have influenced subsequent popular understanding of history

3. Discuss how three later interpretations/ performances of Shakespeare’s History plays reflect the concerns of their own times

4. Describe three strengths and/or weaknesses of historical fiction

5. Discuss, with examples, how their own historical understanding has been influenced by historical fiction

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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