History Workshop - a new era in history education at Sydney

5 March 2018

Shanghai in the 1920s
Shanghai in the 1920s

In March 2018, new undergraduate students at the University of Sydney will be taking part in a bold experiment in history education, where they will begin unravelling the racial dynamics of depression-era La Perouse or the crackdown on communists in 1920s Shanghai.

As part of the University’s reimagined undergraduate curriculum, the Department of History has developed new units of study about world history and a new unit unlike any other taught in an Australian university: HSTY1001 History Workshop.

‘An introduction to world history gives students a framework for thinking about change over time’, says Professor Chris Hilliard, Chair of the Department of History, ‘and History Workshop gives them a grounding in critical thinking about evidence and context.’

Every member of the department, from new lecturers to professors who are internationally acclaimed leaders in the field, will teach a seminar in History Workshop each year—students will get hands-on training on how to interpret different forms of evidence, and look at an event or a culture from multiple angles. ‘It’s like a lab experience for history students,’ says Hilliard.

Each seminar—or ‘lab’—will tackle a different topic. The significance of the seminar topics is easy to see. Beijing in 1966, the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Paris in 1661, the year Louis XIV became king. Chicago during the protest and confrontation of 1968.

What happened in the Singapore Strait in 1603? As Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice explains, ‘that year the King of Johor and the Dutch East India Company captured a Portuguese ship in the Strait of Singapore. The ensuing dispute was a key moment in the development of international law’, which Fitzmaurice’s students will have the opportunity examine further this semester through the ‘lab’.

To find out more about the history units of study, and many more offered by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, visit: