The Camera Never Lies

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Course Date: 04 August 2014 to 15 September 2014 (6 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Film, images & historical interpretation in the 20th century for those who have a general interest in history that draws on photojournalism as primary evidence, and films based on historical events.

Estimated Workload: 5-10 hours/week

Course Instructors

Emmett Sullivan

Emmett Sullivan is the Senior Departmental Tutor in History at Royal Holloway, University of London.  He is responsible for the Department’s e-degree provision, undergraduate research methods and economic history courses.  Employed at Royal Holloway for the past 15 years, Emmett previously worked at VUW (New Zealand), La Trobe (Melbourne, Australia), the ANU (Canberra, Australia) and Leicester University, and holds a doctoral degree from the economics programme at the ANU.

Course Description

This short course is an introduction to use of images and other media as historical evidence in the twentieth century, issues of authenticity and manipulation, and the place of film and historical adoptions as public history. 


  • Can I gain credit for this course?
    This is intended to be an introductory outreach course, taken on an extramural basis.  No credits will be awarded.
  •  Do I have to read the books listed, and watch the films?  
    The course is intended to be reasonably self-contained, and material will be mounted in the Coursera class pages to this end.  However, your experience will be enhanced if you are able to access the films and watch them privately.

  • Where can I find out about more information regarding this subject and the University of London programmes?
    The content of this course is drawn from the extensive world renowned portfolio of flexible study programmes offered through the University of London International Programmes.  These programmes result from a collaboration between the University of London International Academy and 12 Colleges of the University of London.  Established in 1858, the International Programmes is the world’s oldest provider of flexible learning. Today there are 52,000 students in 180 countries studying  through the University of London International Programmes, for more than 100 qualifications at degree, higher education diploma and certificate level.  The University also works with a network of independent teaching centres worldwide, all of which provide teaching, tutoring and pastoral care. For more information please visit: 


Week 1: The Camera Never Lies - Introduction
Week 2: Images and History in the Twentieth Century
Week 3: The Air-Brushing of History: Stalin and Falsification
Week 4: Photojournalism, Authenticity and Matters of Public Acceptability - The Battle of Mogadishu
Week 5: The Power of the Image - Mount Suribachi, 1945
Week 6: From Page to Screen - Film as Public History


The course will cover the following subjects: 

Images and History in the Twentieth Century
Jacobson, C. (ed.) Underexposed: Pictures of the 20th Century They Didn't Want You to See. 2002

The Air-Brushing of History: Stalin and Falsification

King, D. The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia. 1997.

Photojournalism, Authenticity and Matters of Public Acceptability: The Battle of Mogadishu 
Scott, R. (dir). Black Hawk Down. 2001.

The Power of the Image: Mount Suribachi, 1945
Kakehashi, Kumiko. Letters From Iwo Jima. 2007.

From Page to Screen: Film as Public History

Eastwood, C. (dir). Flags Of Our Fathers. 2006. Letters From Iwo Jima. 2006.

Course materials will be written up in the form of an introductory talk, followed by reflective tasks, video clips, and internet links to augment the seminar materials.

Suggested Reading

To give a background perspective to the course, participants may wish to consult:
Marien, M. W. Photography: A Cultural History, 4th Edn.  2014.
(The earlier editions – from 2002, 2006 and 20010 – can also be used.)

Course Workload

5-10 hours/week

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