HST6089: Wikipedia and Medieval History

HST6089 Image

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr Charles West

Please note: this module is subject to approval by the University's Learning and Teaching Committee

Module Summary

'Editing a Wikipedia page is the easiest way to share your historical knowledge of a topic – and not just with a few people, but with the world. But this course not only gives you practical experience in Wikipedia editing, it also asks you to reflect on the process.' Dr Charles West

Wikipedia is today probably the world’s chief source of historical knowledge. Every day, its pages on history are read by many thousands of people. Yet professional historians tend to avoid engaging with it. This course seeks to change that. As well as discussing critical perspectives on Wikipedia, you’ll receive practical training in creating or editing a page on a historical topic you’ve chosen. You’ll then apply your studies in a hands-on way to improving the encyclopedia’s coverage of the Middle Ages, and reflect on the kind of historical knowledge of the period it promotes and disseminates. You don’t need a background in medieval history for this course, but please note that you will be required to edit a page on a medieval topic.

Module aims

This module aims to:

  1. Enable you to apply your subject knowledge in basic Wikipedia editing
  2. Introduce you to the conceptual and intellectual implications of the global dissemination of historical knowledge through Wikipedia
  3. Develop your reflection on your practical experience in light of the wider academic literature

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you (should be able to):

  1. Demonstrate a practical ability to edit Wikipedia pages (Aim 1)
  2. Explain Wikipedia’s implications for academic and public knowledge of the past (A2)
  3. Reflect on your experience in the light of the wider academic literature (A3)


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

This module will be taught in five two-hour seminars. Each of these seminars will address a different aspect of the knowledge politics of Wikipedia (Learning outcome 2), based on readings from the critical literature. After a practical session on editing in seminar 3 (LO1), students will identity a page to create or edit, on the basis of which experience they will write a reflective essay (LO3).

Provisional seminar topics are:

  1. The rise of Wikipedia
  2. Why edit Wikipedia?
  3. How to edit Wikipedia
  4. Problematising Wikipedia
  5. Wikipedia and the Future of Medieval History



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

Assessment for this course is a 3,000 word reflective essay (LO3), linking the your practical experience of editing a Wikipedia page (LO1) to the Wikipedia studies literature (LO2) discussed in class.


Selected reading

  • D.G. Halsted, 'Accuracy and quality in historical representation: Wikipedia, textbooks and the Investiture Controversy', Digital Medievalist, 9 (2013)
  • T. Hitchcock, 'Confronting the digital: or how academic history writing lost the plot', Cultural and Social History 10 (2013), 9-23
  • T. Leitch, Wikipedia U: Knowledge, authority and liberal education in the digital age (Baltimore, 2014)
  • M. Phillips, 'Wikipedia and History: a worthwhile partnership in the digital era?', Rethinking History 4 (2016), 1-21
  • C. West, 'Wikipedia in the History Classroom', Wikimedia UK Blog, May 2018



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.