KE6025 - Historical geographies: usable pasts and hidden histories

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn about the connections between human geography and history. You will learn about broad themes within the sub-discipline, with particular focus upon relationships between the past and present though reflections around historical methods, archives and debates regarding heritage. With these broad themes in mind, we will then narrow our focus to particular case studies of historical geography, to illustrate the breadth of contributions that a historically informed approach can make towards the study of human geography. You will consider case studies and methodological interventions from the sub-discipline. These engagements will be structured around three scales of engagement:

Firstly, you will consider the micro-histories of intimate spaces to understand how sites such as ships, asylums and the battlefield all have historical geographies of their own.

Secondly, you will consider how particular places might be understood through their historical geographies to show how historical processes (such as political traditions and deindustrialisation) have influenced places, whilst also considering how people relate to the histories of places familiar to them.

Finally, the module will consider the wider trans-local and trans-national historical approach to indicate historical geographies of mobility and internationalism. This section will consider international conferences, global lives, exploration and international forms of activism and solidarity.

These insights will allow you to shape and develop a historical narrative of your own, at or between the scales indicated here, and to shape a small research project based upon engagements with historical ‘data’. The scales introduced here are used as historical geography ‘cuts’ and the lectures and seminars will critically consider the benefits of a spatial approach to history, facilitating your own engagements with a subject area of your choosing.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, seminars, short field trips (archives and museums), independent learning and directed tasks (such as using study groups to lead seminars). The lectures will cover theories and concepts, case study material, key exemplars, and module staff’s own research. Where appropriate guest lecturers will be invited to provide insights into their role within the production of historical geography (such as library and museum staff). Seminars will be designed to allow you to explore and discuss issues raised in lectures, readings and other materials, e.g. documentary film and media in greater depth. Directed and independent learning tasks will be suggested each week to allow you to explore the module material independently, allowing you to shape your assessment task from an early stage. In this regard, seminar time will also be allocated to assessment briefings whereby you will be encouraged to develop your mini-research project and allowed to ask any questions. All your learning will be supported through resources made available on the module ELP.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported academically by a comprehensive module handbook outlining key dates, all seminar worksheets and assignment briefs for the academic year, plus key books and journals to help you plan your learning and time. You will be given directed reading from each lecture via an electronic reading list, while other learning resources, such as links to government or public-policy reports and documentary films will be added to the eLP throughout the course. On-going opportunities for formative feedback on the progress of your assignments will be available and there will be sessions especially focused on deciding the detail of the second assessment. Your tutors will provide an open door policy. You will receive tailored written feedback on the written assignments.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
• You will critically evaluate the construction of ‘usable pasts’ (the relationships between past and present) with reference to academic literature and media representations of history (MLO 1)
• You will analyse historical case studies through a geographical lens and consider historical narratives at scales from the global to the intimate (MLO 2)

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
• You will abstract, synthesise and evaluate information on the production of historical geography (MLO 3)
• You will demonstrate reflexivity and creativity by developing a mini-research project using historical data and geographical concepts (MLO 4)

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
• Your attentiveness to the role of history in the present will reflect culturally on role of ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ histories (MLO 5)

How will I be assessed?

There is one summative assessment for this module.

Formative feedback will be available as you develop your mini-projects in dedicated seminars and the module tutor will be available for one to one meetings.

The assessment itself (4000 words essay) will involve the design of a historical geography mini-project. You will establish a ‘usable past’ to explore and identify suitable methods to explore this topic, through archival records (online or within collections) and/or oral histories to conduct (MLO 1). This topic must be linked to key concepts within human geography and indicate the relevance of a geographical lens to history (MLO 2).

Your assessment must also reflect on the process of developing this usable past and consider the limitations and challenges of producing historical narratives (MLOs 3,4,5)

You will receive written feedback on the assignment. Verbal feedback is also given during teaching sessions whereby you will develop your approach to the assignment, both methodologically, empirically and conceptually.


KE5007 – Social Geography
KE5005 – Approaches to Research in Human Geography



Module abstract

Historical Geography will give you the opportunity to consider your geographical interests within historical settings. You will consider multiple examples indicating the relationships between past and present and critically consider notions of ‘usable pasts’. Course content will consider multi-scalar examples of historical geographies, drawing upon archival remains to illuminate hidden histories of places, and to illuminate pasts of solidarity, contestation and emotion. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of the historical geographer, as detective like within the archive, whereby you will develop the skills and knowledge to produce a historical geography research project of your own. The module will provide you with the skillset to explore a particular area of historical geography, of your choosing, and encourage you to engage with the relevance of a historical case study for the study of contemporary human geography.

Course info

UCAS Code L700

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Geography and Environmental Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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