HIST 5700F:  Introduction to Public History
Fall 2021 

Instructor: Professor John Walsh

This is the core course for all first-year students in the M.A. in Public History Program. In exploring the ever-elusive question of “what is public history?”, the course surveys some of the epistemological, ethical, political, and logistical dimensions to best public history practices today. The course also interrogates how the history of public history has contributed to and benefitted from the practices of colonialism and state formation. In doing all this, we read and listen to a wide range of voices – from different disciplines and scholarly traditions across the globe, both from professionals working in the field and also from other stakeholders engaged in the doing and contesting of public history. Our course is thus as much about “public” as it is “history.”

The goals for this course are threefold:  1) to provide a scholarly context for the more specialized learning that students will get from their other courses, their internships, and especially their major research projects;  2) to challenge students to be relentlessly curious and reflexive in their own learning and practice as public historians; 3) to help students develop their sense of place (and, hopefully, purpose!) within the program.

Depending on public health measures and university regulations, the class will be a hybrid of in-person and online learning, but that balance will be established closer to the start of classes in September. Students will be given weekly things to read, listen to, watch, and, if mobility allows, sites to visit in person. We will then discuss those experiences, and students will be encouraged to take leadership of these discussions more and more as the term unfolds. That learning will be applied to three small assignments during the course and then a summative assignment due at the end of the December exam period.  Final assessment will be based on weekly engagement (25%), in-course assignments (3 x 15% = 45%), and the summative project (30%).

At various points, our scheduled course time will be used to discuss broader program and professionalization elements, especially related to internships, engagement, and grant / proposal writing.

There is no single textbook for the class. All materials will be provided electronically through the course website and where possible the university library catalogue.

Enrolment is limited to M.A. in Public History students only.