• Offered by School of History
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject History
  • Areas of interest History
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Martin Thomas
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in First Semester 2014
    See Future Offerings

This course examines the effect of photography upon human consciousness, upon other media, upon political systems and thus upon the making of history. Photography is revealed as a shaper of the past and as a defining - albeit sometimes unreliable - recorder of it. The course will encourage you to develop your critical faculties when interpreting photographic evidence and constructing historical narratives. ‘How the Camera Changed History’ is an image-rich voyage through a range of photo-media, concentrating on the first hundred years of the camera. We will venture from the Victorian drawing room to the war front; from the great theatres of industrial power to the image making of photographers in imperial outposts. The course will include behind-the-scenes inspections of photography collections at major institutions in Canberra.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand, and reflect critically upon, the historical context in which photographic technology emerged in the nineteenth century and how that technology influenced the course of modernity.
  2. Make sophisticated analysis of how the dissemination of photography influenced historical events and how they were perceived.
  3. Demonstrate awareness of the distinctive challenges posed by photographic evidence and demonstrate heightened awareness of the distinct possibilities it offers to the historian.
  4. Demonstrate a high level of sophistication in their use of photography in writing and illustrating historical narratives.
  5. Reflect critically upon debates about visual culture and the 'information revolution' in the modern epoch.
  6. Interpret archival records with reference to debates within historiography, and within critical literature more generally, about the evidential status of photographic records.

Indicative Assessment

Research Essay of 4000 words, 50% (LOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Photographic Essay, to be constructed in Powerpoint, consisting of visual and written components, 40% (LOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Oral and/or written contribution to class activities - 10% (1, 2, 3, 5)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130  hours over the semester including 11 x 2 hour lectures; 11 x1 hour tutorials; and the excursions.

Prescribed Texts

Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977 and later editions) plus course brick.

Assumed Knowledge

Students are expected to be able to reflect critically on primary historical evidence and to apply the work of historians and other theorists in interpreting it. A background of undergraduate study in visual art, art history, cinema theory, anthropology, media studies, curatorship or digital humanities is desirable.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1470
2014 $2484
2013 $2478
2012 $2358
2011 $2310
2010 $2250
2009 $2178
2008 $2178
2007 $2178
2006 $2178
2005 $2178
2004 $1836
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $3618
2014 $3762
2013 $3756
2012 $3756
2011 $3756
2010 $3750
2009 $3618
2008 $3618
2007 $3618
2006 $3618
2005 $3618
2004 $3618
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
4950 17 Feb 2014 07 Mar 2014 31 Mar 2014 30 May 2014 In Person N/A

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