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Major: Modern History

Major Details

Modern History


Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations
Faculty of Arts

This major must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Major:

Completion of a minimum of 24 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

100 level

6cp from
MHIS units at 100 level

200 level

6cp from
MHIS units at 200 level

300 level

Making History: Capstone Unit (3)
Making History: Capstone Unit - PACE Stream (3)
9cp from
MHIS units at 300 level


Units marked with a C are Capstone units.
Additional Information
Overview and Aims of the Program Studying modern history gives students a rich perspective on the evolution of today’s complex and rapidly evolving world. History is the study of the past and its interpretation in the present. Historians make sense of the past using a wide range of written, oral, digital, visual and material sources. Using a range of approaches, they examine past events, processes and relationships, interpreting their origins, significance and consequences. History is used to enrich our understanding of the contemporary world by considering continuity, change, contingency and context. It provides a perspective on change over time that can inform current decision-making and policy contexts.

Modern History at Macquarie University offers diverse programs of study, with particular strengths in Australian history, World history, and Europe and the west. We are also the home of ‘Big History’, which seeks to understand our history on a vast scale by bringing together and linking the knowledge available in many different scholarly disciplines. We also have particular strengths in cultural history: we teach units on the history of travel and tourism, the history of popular culture, and representations of history on film and television. Modern history units are delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. These teaching methods depend on student’s ability to read critically and efficiently, to conduct research and analyse their findings. The Faculty of Arts is also home to the Australian History Museum, which provides students with access to over 6000 pieces of historical documentation and artefacts.

This major will help students develop an understanding of change management, critical and analytical thinking, communication skills, cultural awareness, problem-solving, social engagement and sound judgement. These equip students for a range of challenging and exciting career opportunities in the fields of diplomacy and foreign affairs, journalism, travel and tourism, heritage and cultural agencies, administration, research and education. In addition, history units complement those in most other disciplines, especially politics, law, international studies, education and the social sciences.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to:

1. demonstrate an understanding of at least one period or culture of the past.
2. demonstrate an understanding of a variety of conceptual approaches to interpreting the past.
3. sensitively contribute to contemporary debates with an informed and critical understanding of the relationship between past and present.
4. identify and interpret a wide variety of secondary and primary materials
5. examine historical issues by undertaking research according to the methodological and ethical conventions of the discipline.
6. analyse historical evidence, scholarship and changing representations of the past.
7. construct an evidence-based argument or narrative in audio, digital, oral, visual, or written form.
8. identify and reflect critically on the knowledge and skills developed in their study of history.

Learning and Teaching Methods Modern history staff teach through a combination of tutorials, seminars, lectures, unit design, setting of reading materials, whole- and small-group work, and designing of assessment tasks. Students learn in Modern History through active reading, participating in tutorials and seminars, including whole- and small-group activities, listening to lectures (and taking notes), and completing assessment tasks. External students learn through all these methods and participate in online tutorials and discussions via iLearn. Further information on these methods is outlined below:

• Lectures are where staff outline the broad parameters of a topic, mount an argument about the week’s subject, and orient students in the field under discussion. Lectures are recorded so that they are available for external students and those who cannot attend the lecture in person. Many lecturers create visual accompaniments for their lectures, which are also usually available online. Students learn in lectures through acquisition and the production of lecture notes (the ability to select and organise information in this way is a valuable skill in comprehending historical interpretations).
• Tutorials and seminars are arguably the most important site of learning and teaching in Modern History. Building on a foundation of understanding acquired through lecture attendance and completion of the required readings, tutorials are facilitated by staff and usually include a range of learning activities, including quizzes, discussion of readings, student presentations, working with primary sources or document analysis, role plays, debates, small group activities, and whole class discussion with the tutor. External students generally participate in asynchronous online discussions, which can involve analysing primary sources, debates and discussions, peer review of work, and close reading of the weekly readings. Some senior level units do not include lectures and instead are run as weekly two-hour seminars; these seminars usually include more weekly readings than classes with lectures and tutorials. Students learn in tutorials and seminars through close interaction with primary and secondary texts, evaluating and extending their understanding of the material through discussion and activities, and presenting their work in verbal and non-written forms.
• Reading: Modern History staff design their units around lectures and tutorials, and readings are core to effective learning in tutorials. Staff select readings for a range of reasons: modelling the kinds of work we expect of our students; offering clear and often competing arguments we wish students to engage with; survey texts designed to help students orient themselves in a field. Students need to read these texts each week – not just to gain a deeper understanding of the topic, but because comprehending historical interpretations is a foundational skill in Modern History, and most assessment tasks build on this skill.
• Assessment tasks: assessments are designed and weighted by staff (in line with university policies) to meet several criteria: to address unit and program level learning outcomes; to offer tasks which address different learning styles and strengths; and to develop and extend student’s skills as they progress through the Modern History Major. Assessment is discussed in greater detail below.
Assessment Assessment in Modern History is designed to evaluate student’s ability to meet the learning outcomes of individual units, and thus to also meet the overall program level learning outcomes in the Modern History Major. Student learning is assessed through a range of tasks, including:
• short research tasks
• document/primary source analysis
• research task (usually a scaffolded preliminary to a longer research essay)
• constructive contribution to classroom discussions
• weekly tutorial quizzes assessing comprehension of the lectures and tutorials
• tutorial presentations
• tutorial reports
• research essays
• blog posts
• mash-ups (short multimedia presentations)
• exams (take-home or sit down)
• book reviews
• research proposals
• ‘authentic’ tasks: e.g. write a speech for a government minister, prepare a submission to the Australian War Memorial.

Assessment tasks vary across the program but are broadly aligned at 100, 200 and 300 level so that students develop common skills as they progress through the Major, regardless of their area of specialisation. This common assessment focus is as follows:
• 100 level: identifying and interpreting historical evidence
• 200 level: constructing interpretive claims about the past
• 300 level: creating and answering a research question.

The methods used to address these common foci are diverse: for example, at 100 level, the task could be a document analysis, a comparative analysis of two different types of primary sources, or analysis of review/s of historical film. All 300 level units (including MHIS300: Making History: Capstone Unit) require students to research a detailed research proposal: students devise their own research question with varying levels of assistance, including framing inquiry through a series of questions in the proposal instructions, modelling research questions in lectures and tutorials, topic lists for essays, and suggestions for primary sources and/or key historiographical works. This proposal is designed as a formative task which supports the major assessment task, a research essay based on the student’s own research question.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. For recognition of prior informal and non-formal learning, please refer to the relevant RPL Plan, which describes the evidential requirements and approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit in this program.

For undergraduate RPL plans visit
For postgraduate RPL plans visit

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability Employers in business, industry and government praise history graduates for their knowledge and skills in problem-solving, research and communication. Completing a major in Modern History develops students’ abilities to assess evidence about past events, analyse problems, consider different perspectives, make considered and evidence-based judgements, formulate well-developed arguments, and to communicate effectively in a range of forms. It provides students with a framework to understand the contemporary world.

A Major in Modern History prepares students for postgraduate study and professional research roles in a range of organisations. It also gives students the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue careers in a range of areas, including:
• teaching history in schools
• museums, archives and libraries
• heritage management
• historical tourism
• journalism and media
• politics and public policy
• law
• public service
• land rights/native title research
• professional historical consultancy and research assistance
• foreign affairs and intelligence
• arts administration.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

External Benchmarks The program learning outcomes of this program have been benchmarked against the Threshold Learning Outcomes for History devised and endorsed by the Federal Office of Learning and Teaching:
Accreditation All Modern History units are accredited with the NSW Institute of Teachers for maintaining accreditation at Professional Competence.