Making History 2017/18

Staff contact: Professor Nicola Miller (nicola.miller@ucl.ac.uk)




Making History is a half-unit module in which, working in a small team, you will produce a presentation (in person and using digital media) explaining the historical significance of an object or place. Your task is to understand, contextualise and tell its story. Why was it created? How has it been used? Has its meaning changed?

Making History encourages you to be self-reflective about History as a discipline and as a practice. In recent years historians have turned to the analysis of buildings and their interiors, of cloth and clothing, of armaments and cutlery, and of our construction of and interaction with lived spaces. New media such as electronic forms of communication, television, films and websites have raised new questions about historical methodologies and the politics of the preservation of historical sources. Your focus should be on historical process and method as much as on producing an historical product. In other words, how you and your group arrive at your final website and presentation is as important as what you ultimately conclude in response to your chosen research question.

Another key aspect of this module is that you will not only be working in groups—something that is also the case in many of our modules in the UCL History Department—but also be assessed as a group. Each website and each final presentation will be awarded a single assessment mark, which will be shared by each member of the group. Accordingly, each member of the group assumes equal responsibility for ensuring that the project is completed on time and to a high standard. Learning to work effectively as a group is one of the key skills Making History is designed to develop. The more self-reflective you are—the more you think critically about what works, what does not work, and why—the more effective your teamwork is likely to be. You will also be learning to apply assessment criteria fairly to the work of others on this module, as part of the assessment of group presentations. If you master these components of the module, you will have acquired essential skills for future employment in the workplace—and also be a better historian.

Finally, while this module should be challenging, it should also be exciting. You are studying in one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse cities, and Making History is an open invitation to make the most of that environment from the beginning of your time at UCL. In researching your project, you can use resources that include (for example) the British Library, British Museum, and the UCL Collections. But most of all we want you to gain an appreciation of the history that surrounds you in Bloomsbury and in wider London.


There are three elements to the assessment:

Your group’s online presentation (50% of your final mark)

Your group will create an online presentation aimed at an intelligent but non-specialist (‘public’) audience.

Your online presentation should include the following elements:

1. A short piece of writing (max 1500 words) on your methodology. This simply means ‘how do you know what you know?’ What secondary sources have helped you? What have you, as a group, learned about how to study (i.e. learn from) material objects?

2. A further two or three digital outputs amounting to 20 minutes worth of assessment time. That means whatever you produce should take no longer than 20 minutes to read/view/listen to. Examples of digital outputs include:

  • a website providing information in an interactive way
  • a podcast
  • a video
  • an interactive map, diagram, image
  • anything else that can be hosted on the UCL digital platform (MyPortfolio) and approved by your tutor.

The main purpose of all these elements of your online presentation should help to explain what your chosen object means and what we can learn from it. You can do this in whatever way you deem most effective.

Your online presentations will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • The clarity of your presentation? Is it evident what point(s) you are trying to make?
  • Strength and range of evidence base, including the quality of your primary research;
  • Success in communicating historical ideas & concepts, including, where appropriate and helpful, historiography, to a general audience
  • How creative and imaginative is it?

Your group’s online presentation must be complete and uploaded by 16:00 (4PM) on Wednesday 13 December 2017.

Your group’s (offline/live) presentation (40% of your final mark)

This mark will combine peer-assessment by other students and assessment by members of staff.

On the final Friday of term, 15 December 2017, each group will make a 20-minute presentation to other students on the course and to a team of staff markers, reporting on the group’s approach to its chosen research question and outlining the group’s research findings.

Your group will be assigned a 2-hour period to attend a mandatory assessment session, between 9:00 and 17:00 on 15 December 2017.

Your presentation should be aimed at an intelligent but non-specialist audience. A short Q&A session will follow each presentation and be included in your assessment. A dry-run presentation in the final two workshops for which you will receive feedback, will help you to hone your final presentation.

Attendance is mandatory for all group members to present your group project for assessment and to participate in peer-assessment.

Do not make travel plans that remove you from UCL before your group’s assessment session is complete.

The presentations will be assessed on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Time-keeping (20 minutes maximum) and effective time-management;
  • The clarity of your presentation? Is it evident what point(s) you are trying to make?
  • Strength and range of evidence base, including the quality of your primary research;
  • Success in communicating historical ideas & concepts, including, where appropriate and helpful, historiography, to a general audience
  • How creative and imaginative is it?

The overall question we will have in mind as we assess your presentations and your websites is: how well does this convey to an intelligent and interested member of the public how this object illuminates some aspect of history?

The Learning Journal (10% of your final mark)

This is the element of your final mark that will be awarded to you individually rather than to your group. It is essentially a measure of your active contribution to the group’s project. You need to write 5 very short answers to the question “What have you contributed to your group’s project work in the last week?”. These will be due by 5pm on 3 Nov, 17 Nov, 24 Nov, 1 Dec, 8 Dec.

Alternative assessment in exceptional, special circumstances

If, in extreme circumstances, a student is unable to play a role in their group’s website and/or presentation, they will be set alternative assessment, to be determined on a case by case basis by the course convenor and the Departmental Tutor. If you experience any problem that affects your participation in the module, you should bring it to the attention of your workshop tutor or the module convenor in the first instance.


Teaching for this course starts in the fourth week of term and continues to the end of term. There will be THREE lectures and SIX seminars for this course. In addition, you will be expected to work on your presentations during two additional workshop sessions.

Teaching Timetable for Making History: ALL TEACHING IS ON FRIDAYS

The locations for all these teaching sessions will be posted on Moodle, and on your online personal timetable. We have not printed them here because they are liable to be changed, sometimes at short notice. So far as we are able, we will alert you by email if this happens. It is, however, ultimately your responsibility to find out where the teaching is taking place.

Most weeks (see the timetable above) you will attend a seminar, which will be led by a Tutor and will contain 17-18 students. Each workshop contains three project teams—normally, with 5 or 6 students. This is the team with whom you will work to complete the assessments (the website and the presentation) explained above.

In the first three seminars you will begin working together as a project team, decide how best to present your object. They also allow your team to discuss in more detail some key concepts and approaches to studying the past through analysis of an object or a space.

Advance Preparation

Before the module starts, it would be advantageous to you if you familiarised yourself with some examples of how historians have approached the study of material objects by watching Neil MacGregor’s TED lecture, 2600 Years of History in One Object.


And by listening to a couple of MacGregor’s radio programmes ‘A History of the World in a Hundred Objects’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nrtd2

Project Choice

You can see a list of all the available projects here.

We cannot guarantee that you will be allocated to your first choice project, but we will try our best.

Contact information

The Module Convenor is Professor Nicola Miller, who can be contacted by email at nicola.miller@ucl.ac.uk.

The Tutors are:

  • Charlotte Berry
  • Jaskiran Chohan
  • Jacky Derrick
  • Karolina Frank
  • Anastazja Grudnicka
  • James Hillyer
  • Shane Horwell
  • Anna McKay
  • Jonathan Moses
  • Tim Riding
  • Hannah Young

If you have a question about the module, have any worries or concerns about the teaching, the group you are in, or if you just wish to chat generally about the module and how it fits into your learning as a historian, please contact your tutor in the first instance, or, if you prefer contact Nicola Miller.



Like your other modules at UCL, Making History uses Moodle to host key information (including this handbook and guidelines for assignments), to communicate with you and to allow you to submit some assignments. It is essential to familiarise yourself with Moodle at the start of the module, as you will be using its resources from week 1 until the end of your degree course.

To login to Moodle, go to https://moodle.ucl.ac.uk/ and use your usual UCL user name and password to access the system. From the Moodle homepage, you can access a range of information about how Moodle works from the MyPortfolio Resource Centre. You will automatically be enrolled on the Moodle pages for Making History, but may need to use the password ‘pizza’ once you have logged in, the first time you do so for this course. If you are unable to access the Making History Moodle pages even after you have used pizza, please contact History Reception and alert your workshop tutor to this problem.


UCL MyPortfolio hosts the website that your group will use to organise and report your research findings, in response to the research question you choose. You can access this system from https://myportfolio.ucl.ac.uk. The homepage includes a ‘Quick Start Guide’ as well as a more extensive ‘Teaching and Learning Guide and Workbook’. There is a very helpful Q&A on using MyPortflio at https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=35654535

A worksheet to help familiarise you with MyPortfolio is at https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/display/Mahara/Making+History+MyPortfolio+induction

You and the other members of your group will be using MyPortfolio to populate a website with both core and optional components. These components will combine ‘conventional’ historical writing (narratives, reports, annotated bibliographies) with a range of other forms of analysis chosen by your group (these may, for example, include annotated editions of primary texts, curated slide-shows, databases, oral histories, podcasts, Twitter accounts, statistical analyses, videos, and walking tours).

iPad Minis

All groups will have access to 26 History Department iPads to assist with their projects. You will find information about borrowing the iPad Minis on Moodle (Key Documents section). You may need to plan your work to accommodate competition for these devices (thereby adding time-management to the other skills developed on this course).

Working in a Group

One key learning process on this module is the ability to work effectively as a team. Each team will find a working dynamic and decision-making process that suits it best—there is no comprehensive, pre-fabricated model for optimal group dynamics. You should be prepared for a degree of trial and error: different members of your project team will have different skills and interests; different ways of deciding upon ideas and approaches will emerge; and different ways of dividing tasks will work better than others. Though tutors and course convenors will always be available for advice and support, you and your group are expected to take the initiative in establishing a working dynamic in which tasks are shared fairly. In particular, from an early stage you will need to establish an effective way of communicating outside of seminars (e.g. email, forum on the group MyPortfolio page, etc.).

You will also want to think concretely about the different modes of decision-making available to your group (for example, consensus, democracy, and absolutism). In the first workshop, you will be encouraged to think about these questions as a group by discussing and amending or tailoring a template code of conduct.

In any group challenges may arise. This is normal. You are encouraged to address these in the first instance with your fellow project team members. However, if you have concerns which have not been redressed at group level, you should not hesitate to discuss them with your workshop tutor and/or the module convenors. Workshop tutors and/or module convenors can be approached in the first instance, before you discuss a problem with your group, if you consider the matter to be private and confidential.

Remember too that for confidential problems, your Personal Tutor and the Departmental Tutor, Cari Tuhey, are available to give you advice.

Regardless of the nature of the problem, it is very important to resolve issues as early as possible. Don’t hesitate to discuss problems as they arise, either within your group or within the teaching team.

Getting the dynamics of your group ‘right’ will be one of the most challenging aspects of this course for many groups. It is also one of the most important ‘transferable skills’ you will work on in Making History: if you can recognise and overcome problems of communication, delegation and leadership within your group, you will have acquired essential skills for effective volunteering and employment.


The main goals of the module are:

  • To develop a wide range of critical historical skills, including analysis of primary texts, visual sources, and material culture;
  • To address research questions about an historical topic within appropriate historiographical and conceptual frameworks;
  • To engage with and reflect upon the criteria by which academic work is assessed at university;
  • To develop a wide range of transferable skills appropriate for subsequent employment, including the documented ability to work effectively in a team, make an oral presentation and deploy a range of web-based technologies;
  • To develop an appropriate awareness of audience in the presentation of research findings;
  • To develop close working links with other students, enhancing the integration of the first-year History cohort;
  • To maximise (and render more explicit) the academic and cultural benefits gained from UCL’s rich, historic London environment.
  • The main learning outcomes of this module are:
  • An understanding of the range and complexity of primary sources available for historical analysis of a specific research question, and an appreciation of the skills required to undertake that analysis;
  • The ability to identify appropriate secondary sources for an historical research project and to engage with appropriate historiographies;
  • The ability to apply distinct methodologies to a specific historical question;
  • The ability to synthesise research findings clearly and succinctly in an essay, and to support them with appropriate evidence and referencing;
  • The ability to write a succinct project report;
  • Familiarity with one or more web-based means of communicating historical information or analysis;
  • The ability to collaborate effectively and self-reflectively with a team, including skills of time-management, communication and cooperation;
  • The ability to apply assessment criteria to student work, fairly and critically.

50% Online presentation [Group mark]
40% Live presentation [Group mark]
10% Learning Journal [Individual mark]

Q: How do I know what is 20 minutes of assessment time?

A: If your presentation includes text you should work on the assumption that the average reader can digest about of 300 words per minute. If your presentation includes video or audio, then the timing will be straightforward. If it includes images the calculation will be less precise, but you can always ask a friend to look at what you’ve produced and time them while they digest it.

Q: How will my group decide what to upload for our online presentation?

A: Each group will decide for themselves (with the help of your tutor) what ‘outputs’ you think will be most effective at conveying your research to a general audience. You will decide in the first or second seminar what your outputs are going to be based on what most interests your group and what you think you can most easily produce.

Q: What sort of thing am I supposed to write for my weekly learning journal entry?

A: You just tell us what work you’ve personally done, and add any comments about how the group is functioning and how well you think you’re progressing towards your end goal. We want it to be honest, straightforward and clear. A weekly report might look something like this:

This week I read two journal articles [add details], which helped me to understand a little bit more about the intentions of the people who made our object [explain what you have learned from these articles]. I also found some useful images on the internet which we are going to incorporate into our online presentation [add details on what you are going to use these images for and why], though I still need to check the copyright status of those images. Our next task, as a group, is to start thinking about how to put together our live presentation. I have no idea how we’re going to do that yet.

10-11am 11am-1pm 2-4pm  
27 Oct Lecture 1: Introduction to Making History Seminar 1: Team organisation, developing a project plan.  
03 Nov Lecture 2: Material Culture Seminar 2: Material Culture and historical methodology  
10 Nov Reading Week    
17 Nov   Seminar 3: Thinking about space and place as a historian  
24 Nov Seminar 4: Project development  
01 Dec Seminar 5: Project development

Project Workshop Session – a seminar room will be booked for you to work on your project as a team.

08 Dec Seminar 6: Rehearsals for presentations

Project Workshop Session

15 Dec


Your team will do a 20 minute presentation either in the morning or in the afternoon of this day. Please keep the whole day free.


Q: What should I do if there is a problem in my group?

A: Normally, you will seek to resolve problems through discussion with other members of your group; if that strategy fails, you will ask your workshop tutor to assist; if the problem persists, your workshop tutor will seek a second opinion from the module convenor and deputy. But remember that you can also take a confidential issue directly to your Personal Tutor, to the Department Tutor or to either the module convenor or deputy.