BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Imperial Nation: The Making of Modern Britain, 1783-1902

Unit code HIST10191
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


Britain lost its first empire in 1783, yet by 1902 had amassed its second and made it the largest in history. This course explores the changing nation behind that new empire: who were nineteenth-century Britons? How did they see themselves, each other and the wider world? What values motivated them? How were they governed? And how did their empire shape them?

The course is structured chronologically, but will introduce students to key historical themes throughout, including debates about class, gender, national identity, religion, the impact of new technology on society, urbanisation, liberal democracy and the relationship between identity and space.

Individual lectures and seminars will address topics ranging from anti-slavery campaigns to changing conceptions of childhood and old age, from sexuality to the memorialization of the Boer War, from the rise of public parks to mass Irish immigration, and from criminal gangs to the death of Queen Victoria.


HIST10191 is restricted to History programmes and History joint-honours programmes (please check your programme regulations for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas. Available to students on an Erasmus programme.


The aims of this course are:

  • To provide a general introduction to key themes in modern British history.
  • To understand the emergence of new categories of identity in nineteenth-century Britain.
  • To consider how looking at identities can uncover broader chronological shifts in British history.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Analyse key historiographical debates on nineteenth-century Britain.
  • Produce coherent and well-researched pieces of academic prose, which conform to the conventions in style as used by historians and sociologists.
  • Understand the need to attend and participate in lectures and seminars and be more creative and co-operative individuals.


The following themes will usually be amongst those explored in the course:

  • Separate Spheres? Gender and politics, 1760-1830
  • The rule of freedom and liberal democracy
  • Religion: the death of Christian Britain?
  • Urbanisation and Victorian civic pride
  • Poverty, the workhouse and charity
  • Crime, Sexuality and the Victorians
  • Empire
  • Drugs, alcohol and temperance
  • Immigration and race
  • Histories of sport and leisure
  • An empire of things? Consumer culture in late-Victorian Britain
  • War

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures and 1 weekly seminar
  • Seminar tutors will offer office hours as appropriate to support the course assessments and they will offer regular feedback through the reflections assessment exercise.
  • All the support materials for seminar readings will be available on Blackboard, or accessible through library catalogue as e-journals.
  • All assignments will be submitted through Turnitin

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will:

  • Have an awareness of key concepts in modern British history (e.g. separate spheres, class formation)
  • Be familiar with key approaches applicable to modern British history and history more generally (e.g. gender, national identity).
  • Have an understanding of continuities and changes in British society in this period
  • Have a broad chronological understanding of key factors such as urbanisation, industrialisation, liberal governmentality, imperialism.
  • Understand the particular role of cities and urban space in modern British history.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Conduct critical analysis of primary and secondary source materials.
  • Understand, assess and summarise historical debates and arguments.
  • Make connections between overarching historical explanations within modern British history and detailed case studies in a comparative context.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Exercise strategic and critical reading.
  • Locate and analyse appropriate historical evidence.
  • Write short, insightful primary source analyses.
  • Write essays which organise research into a coherent argument.
  • Demonstrate enhanced verbal communication skills.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Exercise appropriate time management.
  • Communicate ideas orally.
  • Work effectively as part of a team, e.g. in discussion with other students.
  • Communicate ideas in writing, both in long and short forms.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group/team working
Oral communication
Written communication
The course will help students to develop and to improve several important workplace-relevant skills. These will include, but are not limited to, time management skills; oral and written communication skills; skills in critical analysis, an ability to work effectively both as a self-motivated individual and as part of a team, and skills in understanding and acting upon detailed feedback.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on source analyses and on essay
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Examples of general reading:

Colin Matthew, ed., The Nineteenth Century: The British Isles, 1815-1901 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Callum Brown and W. Hamish Fraser, Britain since 1707 (London: Routledge, 2010)

Susan Kingsley Kent, Gender and Power in Britain, 1640-1990 (London: Routledge, 1999)

Martin Pugh, State and Society: A Social and Political History of Britain, 1870-1997 (London: Bloomsbury, 2012).

Martin Daunton, Progress and Poverty: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1700-1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)

Martin Daunton, Wealth and Welfare: An Economic and Social History of Britain, 1851-1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)


Examples of specific reading for seminars or essay topics:

Hannah Barker, ‘ “Smoke Cities”: Northern Industrial Towns in Late Georgian England’, Urban History, 31 (2004), 175-90.

Louise Carter, ‘British Masculinities on Trial in the Queen Caroline Affair of 1820’, Gender and History, 20 (2008), 248-69.

Judith R. Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London (London: Virago, 1992)

Andrew Davies, ‘Youth Gangs, Masculinity and Violence in Late-Victorian Manchester and Salford’, Journal of Social History, 32 (1998), 349-69

Catherine Hall and Sonya O. Rose, eds, At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Eloise Moss Unit coordinator

Additional notes

x 2 Source Analyses, x2 1000 words, 50% (25% each)

Essay, x1 2000 words, 50%*

* The two assessments are weighted differently in order to reflect their differing nature and students’ intellectual development across the course (less ‘traditional’ assessments like the source analyses, with which students will be unfamiliar at this stage, have a lower weighting than the essay, which they will have experience of writing during semester 1.

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