Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


HIST208 Fascism OR HIST207 Fall of the Roman Republic OR HIST209 Revolutionary Europe 1789-1917 OR HIST214 Immigrants and Refugees in Australian History OR HIST215 Europe Divided and United 1945-Present OR HIST216 Europe in the Middle Ages and Beyond OR HIST218 Oral History: Australian Womens Voices OR HIST222 Greek City States OR HIST225 Us Foreign Policy Since 1945 OR HIST229 Rebels and Revolutions in Latin America OR HIST230 Life and Death in Pompeii OR HIST251 Human Rights in History OR HIST253 Underbelly Australia: Crime and Social History OR HIST254 History, Myth and Legend OR HIST255 The Ancient Near East OR HIST256 War and Peace OR HIST257 To Protect or Punish? Childhood and Youth in History OR HIST260 Keep Calm and Carry on British History Since 1901 OR HIST261 The Rise of Asia in the Modern World OR HIST262 Money and Power in the Western World OR HIST263 The Making of Modern America, 1865 to 1945 OR HIST264 From Truman to Trump the Us Since 1945 OR HIST265 Ancient Rome: Kingdom, Republic and Empire OR HUMA250 Ancient Greek History and Drama OR HUMA252 Art, Politics and Society in Renaissance and Baroque Rome OR MEDA101 OR MEDA104 Screen, Sound and Society


HIST112 - Film and History

Unit rationale, description and aim

Historians need to engage with films or television series set in the past because they are a major way in which individuals and publics develop their knowledge of history. Dramatic recreations of the past on screen are also frequently the subject of controversy or criticism. Using a range of historical films or series as case studies, this unit allows students to engage with these controversies. The unit will explore the fact that professional historians are often profoundly troubled by historical dramas on screen, arguing that they play fast and loose with the 'facts' - and yet in some cases such screen dramas act as a rich and legitimate form of historical knowledge and discourse. The unit will also use its case studies to investigate the way that the concerns of the present continually reshape tellings of the past.

The aim of this unit is to equip students to critically engage with dramatic recreations of the past on screen as forms of historical knowledge and debate, and to reflect on the fact that understandings of the past are always involved in a dialogue with the present.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss broad and deep theoretical and factual knowledge relating to the relationship between historical understanding and representations of the past on screen (whether in narrative films, television series or documentaries) (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Explain ideas and concepts to a specified audience using audio, digital, oral, visual or written form as appropriate (GA9, GA10)

LO3 - Locate, evaluate and appropriately reference a variety of sources relating to the representation of the past on screen and use them to sustain a nuanced evidence-based narrative or argument (GA4, GA5, GA10)

LO4 - Synthesise scholarship and critically analyse the way the past is represented on screen through an independently formulated research task related to current historical debates (GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10)

LO5 - Interpret and reflect on key ethical and historical debates relating to case studies of films representing the past (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively


Content in this unit is designed to assist students to critically engage with dramatic recreations of the past on screen, and in the process to reflect on wider questions about the relationship between history and the present and the very nature of historical ‘truth’. The unit will do this by using a number of case studies to explore:  

  • why many professional historians are troubled by dramatic recreations of the past on screen; 
  • the conditions in which historical films or television series are able to act as a legitimate source of historical knowledge and debate; and 
  • the way that present concerns continually reshape tellings of the past.  


The further themes and issues covered by the unit (as relevant to the selected case studies) may include:  

  • historical film and narratives of nationhood  
  • historical film and gender 
  • historical film and race 
  • historical film and popular memory 
  • historical film and the representation of violence and trauma 
  • historical film and representations of world Indigenous peoples
  • historical film and human rights
  • historical film and empire.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10 credit-point unit is delivered using active, inquiry-based learning. Students will engage in discussion of filmic case studies and critically examine the debates, concepts and events related to these case studies.  

Students will be asked to develop specific skills in primary and secondary source analysis and to demonstrate an understanding of the key historical debates surrounding historical film. They will be expected to locate, analyse and communicate their research findings on the relationship between historical film and the discipline of history. 

This unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the teaching period. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, film screenings, skills workshops, private study and assignments etc. 

The unit is hosted on a Learning Management System (LMS) site with resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote connection between content and educational experiences.

Mode of delivery: This unit may be offered in different modes, as described below.

On Campus

Most learning activities or classes are delivered at a scheduled time, on campus, to enable in-person interactions. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.


Learning activities are delivered through a planned mix of online and in-person classes, which may include full-day sessions, to enable interaction. Activities that require attendance will appear in a student’s timetable.

Online unscheduled

Learning activities are accessible anytime, anywhere. These units are normally delivered fully online and will not appear in a student’s timetable. 

Online scheduled

All learning activities are held online, at scheduled times, and will require some attendance to enable online interaction. Activities will appear in a student’s timetable.

ACU Online 

In ACU Online mode, this unit is delivered asynchronously, fully online using an active, guided learning approach. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress

Assessment strategy and rationale

In the history discipline, third year units are designed to include a selection of the following assessment tasks: 

  • Independent research tasks that require students to devise their own topic  
  • Locate and use primary and secondary sources 
  • Draw together historical techniques used in earlier units such as digital search techniques for online archives and/or digital newspaper databases or ‘hands on’ historical methods such as oral history, using material objects etc. 
  • Explore links between the present and the past/future (e.g. through ‘community engaged history’ and/or major historiographical debates) 
  • In-class debates 
  • Forums/blogs/online discussion or other mixed media options 
  • Short answer responses/reading journals/critical reflections 
  • Short quizzes/in-class tests 
  • Team assignments/student-led classes 

Students in this unit will be encouraged to (a) develop independent skills in locating, reading and analysing sources; (b) consider different approaches to the past and the dynamics of historical and historiographical debate; and (c) employ active research techniques into their own research and analysis. 

The Knowledge Development task requires students to apply comprehension and critical analysis skills to course materials in order to develop foundational knowledge for other assessments. The Research Task requires students to demonstrate independent research skills, including locating and analysing a range of primary and secondary sources, presented as an evidence-based historical narrative or argument. The Reflective and Analytical Task requires students to reflect on ethical as well as historical debates explored during the unit and  apply this to case studies of films / television series or documentaries in which the past is represented on screen.


Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Knowledge Development Task 

The purpose of this task is for students to develop critical reading and listening comprehension skills, and to apply knowledge of the historical context to debates about  the relationship between historical understanding and representations of the past on screen. 


LO1, LO2

GA5, GA9

Research Task 

This is an independent research task designed for students to synthesise high-quality scholarship and engage in significant historical debates while critically analysing the way the past is represented on screen.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10

Analytical and Reflective Task  

This purpose of this assignment is for students to analyse and reflect on ethical and historical  issues relating to the representation of the past on screen. 


LO2, LO5

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Burgoyne, R. The Hollywood Historical Film. London: Blackwell, 2008. 

Chadwick, Bruce. The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film. New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2009.

Chopra-Gant, M. Cinema and History: The Telling of Stories. London: Wallflower Press, 2008. 

Francaviglia, R., and Rodnitzky, J. (eds). Lights, Camera, History: Portraying the Past in Film. Arlington: Texas A&M Press, 2007. 

Guynn, William. The Routledge Companion to Film History. London: Routledge, 2011.

Hughes-Warrington, M. The History on Film Reader. London: Routledge, 2009. 

Insdorf, Annette, Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust, 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Mccrisken, T. B., and Pepper, A. American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. 

Rosenstone, R. A. (ed.). A Companion to the Historical Film. Chichester: John Wiley, 2012. 

Salazar, Juan F., and Jennifer Gauthier. Global Indigenous Media: Cultures, Poetics, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. 

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