HIS32710 Manufacturing Truth in the Modern World

Academic Year 2023/2024

False information proliferates in the modern world. Words are used to confuse, mislead and deceive. Images are manipulated to shift their meaning. Statistics are misused to lie in support of agendas and causes. Developments in Artificial Intelligence creates new challenges and opportunities. From propaganda to click-bait, from satire to conspiracy theory, from pseudoscience to partisan reporting, from stories describing events that actually never happened to unintentional errors of fact, false information is everywhere. The ubiquity of social media has radically redrawn the manner in which information is shared, but false information is not a product of the age of the Internet; it is something that has run through modern history. Using a series of case studies, this module will examine the history of misinformation, or ‘mistakes’; disinformation, or ‘lies’ and ‘hoaxes’, which are false and spread deliberately to deceive; and malinformation, or ‘gossip’, which may perhaps be correct but is used to harm. In some case studies, all three categories are interwoven in the story. Attempting to understand the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence will play a central role across the module.
Ultimately, this is a module about the primacy of analyzing evidence: it seeks to develop an understanding of how to assess evidence in all its aspects and how to use it. It is further concerned with critical thinking, as an essential tool for every historian and for every citizen in the modern world.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will:
1. Be able to analyse evidence in a sophisticated manner, place it in context and assess its reliability;
2. Demonstrate understanding of the importance of critical thinking;
3. Demonstrate an understanding of diverse research methodologies and multi-platform information literacy that are fundamental to historical inquiry and more broadly applicable;
4. Assess how information is used by states, institutions and individuals;
5. Have an enhanced understanding of the manner in which Artificial Intelligence impacts on knowledge and on history in particular;
6. Give presentations and submit written work which demonstrates critical thinking, creativity, is backed up by evidence, and is well-organised.

Indicative Module Content:

This module will include topics such as:
The Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Wrap the Flag Around Me and Ask No Questions: Nationalist Fairytales
The Hitler Diaries and other Forgeries
Moving Statues: Religion, Hysteria and the Suspension of Reason
Climate Change: A History of Denial
The Democratisation of Lies: Google, Facebook and Twitter (and WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat……)
Imperialists: Past, Present and Future
Bodycount: the (Mis)Use of Statistics
Protecting the Rich: How to Smear, Spy, Lie and Lawyer-Up for Harvey Weinstein
Xi, Trump, Brexit and ‘the Establishment’

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module will be taught through a two-hour weekly seminar. The seminars will focus on small-group active and task-based learning by means of class debates, discussion and presentations. Autonomous learning is advanced through student-led debate and discussion of set primary sources and student presentations. As well as readings, students will engage with TV documentaries, films, news reports, social media postings, podcasts, radio programmes and other media. Student reflection is promoted by participation in all activities. Advanced research, writing and citations skills are developed through a 1,000-word essay and a 2,500 word end-of-term project. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: 1,000 word essay Week 7 n/a Graded No


Assignment: End of Trimester Project (2,500 words or equivalent) Unspecified n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Class Participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on continuous assessment, presentations and participation is given individually and to the class, verbally and in writing, during the trimester. Feedback on end-of-trimester projects is given individually and to the class on drafts and essays plans before final submission, and by appointment after submission and grading.