Snapshot: The Discipline of History in British and Australian Universities

  • Marcus CollinsEmail author
  • Adele Nye


In this chapter we offer a snapshot of undergraduate history teaching in British and Australian universities in 2016 based upon a comparative analysis of units according to type, place and period. The ‘revolution’ in the teaching of history announced half a century ago by Brian Harrison remains incomplete in both countries. The demise of premodern history is much more advanced than the rise of world history. The fragmentation of the discipline detected by Harrison has been kept somewhat in check by broad agreement about progression and training in historiography and methodology. The differences between and within the Australian and British systems testify to the multiplicity of influences upon curricula, many of which have little to do with developments in historical research.


  1. Ballard, M. (1970). Change and the curriculum. In M. Ballard (Ed.), New movements in the study and teaching of history (pp. 3–15). London: Maurice Temple Smith.Google Scholar
  2. Barlow, G. (1968). History at the universities: A comparative and analytical guide to history syllabuses at the universities in the United Kingdom (2nd ed.). London: Historical Association.Google Scholar
  3. Barlow, G., & Harrison, B. (1966). History at the universities: A comparative and analytical guide to history syllabuses at universities in the United Kingdom. London: Historical Association.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, R. (2017). Response to the ‘Editorial in post-truth world’. Educational Philosophy and Theory (online). Retrieved May 25, 2017 from
  5. Barnett, R., Parry, G., & Coate, K. (2001). Conceptualising curriculum change. Teaching in Higher Education, 6(4), 435–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Belanger, E. (2017). Using US Tuning to effect: The American historical association’s Tuning project and the first year research paper. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 16(4), 385–402.Google Scholar
  7. Bongiorno, F. (2017). Is Australian history still possible? Australia and the global eighties: Inaugural professorial lecture (Australian National University, May 10, 2017). Retrieved May 25, 2017 from
  8. Booth, A. (2008). The making of history teaching in 20th-century British higher education. Retrieved May 25, 2017 from
  9. Booth, A. (2010). The traditional standpoint of historians: Tradition and the construction of educational identity in late twentieth-century British higher education. Contemporary British History, 24, 493–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boucher, L., & Arrow, M. (2016). ‘Studying Modern History gives me the chance to say what I think’: Learning and teaching history in the age of student-centred learning. History Australia, 13(4), 592–607.Google Scholar
  11. Brawley, S., Clark, J., Dixon, C., Ford, L., Nielsen, E., Ross, S., & Upton, S. (2013). After Standards: Engaging and embedding history standards using international best practice to inform curriculum renewal. Retrieved March 5 2017 from
  12. Bush, M. L. (1975). Outlines versus themes. History, 58, 384–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cannon, J. (1989). Teaching history at university. The History Teacher, 22, 245–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Connell, R. (2007). Southern theory: The global dynamics of knowledge in social science. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  15. Connell-Smith, G., & Lloyd, H. A. (1972). The relevance of history. London: Heinemann Educational.Google Scholar
  16. Cowan, A. (1989). History in the United Kingdom public sector. The History Teacher, 22(3), 277–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. d’Albera, B. (2017 January 7). A new breed of ‘historian’. The Spectator. Retrieved January 7 from
  18. Davis, R. H. C. (1981). The content of history. History, 66(218), 361–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eley, G. (2005). A crooked line: From cultural history to the history of society. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  20. Elton, G. R. (1969). Second thoughts on history at the universities. History, 54(180), 60–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elton, G. R. (1984). The history of England. In G. R. Elton (1991) Return to essentials: Some reflections on the present state of historical study, (pp. 99–125). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Frank, D. J., Wong, S., Meyer, J. W., & Ramirez, F. (2000). What counts as history: A cross-national and longitudinal study of university curricula. Comparative Education Review, 44(1), 29–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hancock, W. K. (1969). Attempting history: University lectures. Canberra: Australian National University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Harrison, B. (1968). History at the universities 1968: A commentary. History, 53(179), 357–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hopkins, A. G. (1969). History at the universities: Change without decay. History, 54(182), 331–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hughes-Warrington, M., Roe, J., Nye, A., Bailey, M., Peel, M., Russell, P., Laugesen, A., … Trent, F. (2009). Historical thinking in higher education: An ALTC discipline-based initiative. Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Sydney: Australia.Google Scholar
  27. Institute of Australian Geographers. (2010). Newsletter, 63. Retrieved March 10, 2017 from
  28. Jones, A. N. (2012). Curriculum alignment and after: Prompts, positions and prospects at La Trobe university. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 9(3), 1–15.
  29. Kenyon, J. (1983). The history men: The historical profession in England since the Renaissance. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.Google Scholar
  30. Kogan, M. (1988). History. In C. Boys, J. Brennan, & M. Henkel (Eds.), Higher education and the preparation for work, (pp. 21–38). London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  31. Lake, M. (2013). Histories across borders. In A. Clark & P. Ashton (Eds.), Australian history now (pp. 269–287). Sydney: NewSouth.Google Scholar
  32. Milne, A. T. (1974). History at the universities: Then and now. History, 59(195), 33–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nováky, G. (2015). The same history for all? Tuning history. In D. Ludvigsson & A. Booth (Eds.), Enriching history teaching and learning: challenges, possibilities, practice (pp. 101–119). Linköping: Linköping University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Nye, A. (2016a). Shaping the discipline: Teaching history in Australian universities. Paper presented at Teaching History in Higher Education, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany (24–25 May 2016).Google Scholar
  35. Nye, A. (2016b). Researching the history discipline in Australian universities: Three national studies. Paper presented at Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE), Melbourne, VIC (28 Nov–2 Dec 2016).Google Scholar
  36. Nye, A., Hughes-Warrington, M., Roe, J., Russell, P., Deacon, D., & Kiem, P. (2011). Exploring historical thinking and agency with undergraduate history students. Studies in Higher Education, 36(7), 763–780. Scholar
  37. Orme, N. (2011). Teaching history: The great escape. History Today, 61(3), 44–45.
  38. Parr, N. (2015). Who goes to university? The changing profile of our students. The Conversation. Retrieved March 10, 2017 from
  39. Peters, J., Peterkin, C., & Williams, C. (2000). Progression within modular history degrees. In A. Booth & P. Hyland (Eds.), The practice of university history teaching (pp. 137–153). Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  40. QAA. (2000). History benchmark statement. London: QAA.Google Scholar
  41. Serle, G. (1973). The state of the profession in Australia. Historical Studies, 15(61), 686–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stearns, P. N., Seixas, P., & Wineburg, S. (2000). Introduction. In P. N. Stearns, P. Seixas, & S. Wineburg (Eds.), Knowing, teaching and learning history: National and international perspectives (pp. 1–17). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Timmins, G., Vernon, K., & Kinealy, C. (2005). Teaching and learning history. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. UCAS. (2016). End of Cycle Report. Retrieved March 5, 2017 from

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LoughboroughLoughboroughUK
  2. 2.University of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

Personalised recommendations