Instructor: Professor John C. Walsh

Introduction: This course explores how, since the late eighteenth century and up to the present, the public sphere became immersed in historical representations. Topics include the histories of museums, exhibitions, historic sites, pageantry, re-enactments, monuments, novels, song, movies and television, and, more recently, the Internet.

There is a particular focus on how these representations have been produced and consumed, and on how they have historically been sites of consensus and conflict, of governance and resistance, where meanings were both inscribed and contested. Our exploration of these themes is guided by a common set of questions:  why were particular representations of history made? Who made them? What claims about and of the past were made through these representations?  How did audiences respond to these representations?  What do these representations teach us about the relationships between memory and history as two related-but-different ways of knowing the past?

Class Format: While we take advantage of being in Ottawa to consider the unique role played by capital cities in the history of historical representations, the course material is global and interdisciplinary. Students will explore and apply this material in lectures, small group discussions, and through some local fieldwork.

Aims and Goals: This course is intended to provide a deeper understanding of how, why, and in what forms our contemporary culture has become saturated in historical representations whether we are at home or travelling, and why citizenship in both democratic and undemocratic states make “remembering” an obligation and duty. In doing so, this course provides students with opportunities to reflect on the ways in which both academic and popular historical knowledges have been made socially, commercially, and politically “useful” well beyond the confines of the university.

Assessment (Tentative):

  • Seminar (Attendance and Participation) – 15% (Every other week)
  • Reading / Viewing Responses – 10% (Every other week)
  • Assessing Historical Representations – 40% (2 x 20% each)
  • Final Exam – 35%

Text:  There is no single textbook, as readings and viewings will be provided electronically through the course website and the library catalogue.

Questions? Please email