HIST3016 Eyewitness to the Past: Photography and History

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the History major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category A broadening unit for Bachelor of Arts students where relevant according to the broadening requirements for each student
  • Level 3 elective
This unit considers the way that photography has contributed to new ways of seeing across the globe since its invention in 1839. It addresses the emergence, dissemination and legacies of photography, a globalised and culturally diverse technology and social force, within a range of historical and social processes. We explore how historians draw on photography to understand the past, applying this disciplinary focus to diverse cultural settings - including industrializing and war-time Europe, colonial sites in South Africa, Canada and south-east Asia, international conflicts from Europe to the Middle East, the application of the apparatus of Human Rights to diverse contexts, and a myriad of local, vernacular uses around the world.

Through investigating photography across disciplines, historical periods, and global settings, the unit explores a range of debates about the status of photographs as a historical source. The unit considers photography's promise to represent the 'real' world, and practices in which the real is manipulated; the ‘pre-history' of photography and the desire to fix the image; and its potential to monitor and control, but also to communicate across social boundaries and argue for human rights.
Students are able to (1) understand the globalised and culturally diverse social impacts of photography within a range of historical and social processes, and demonstrate familiarity with case studies drawn from diverse cultural settings; (2) understand how historians have used photography to interpret the past through diverse case studies drawn from a range of global and cultural settings; (3) develop an understanding of the personal, social and ethical framework that guides learning and analysis in a culturally diverse world; (4) identify and evaluate the key historiographical issues in this field; (5) gain the bibliographical skills necessary to find appropriate sources and produce a viable research proposal in order to undertake a research essay; and (6) develop critical skills in visual analysis and argument.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay based on course reading; (2) visual project report; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Professor Jane Lydon
Unit rules
any one level 2 History unit
Contact hours
lectures: 2 hours per week; tutorials: 1 hour per week for 10 weeks from week 2
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.