BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Winds of Change: Politics, Society and Culture in Britain, 1899 -1990

Unit code HIST20251
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


In 1899 Queen Victoria ruled a vast overseas empire, well over half the population could not vote, the Independent Labour party had no MPs, sex between men was a crime and convicted murderers were hung. By 1990, the empire had fallen, all adult men and women had been enfranchised, the Labour party had over 225 MPs, including open homosexuals, and Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, was serving a life-sentence in Broadmoor. This course will examine these profound transformations, paying particular attention to political allegiance, government policy and social attitudes. Scholars have challenged the assumption that social class was the primary determinant of political allegiance, emphasizing how parties actively constructed political constituencies. Major reforms did not simply reflect changing social attitudes, but were shaped by party politics, ideologies, and individuals. This course will enable students to 1) assess the range of factors which influence political allegiance, including social class; 2) evaluate the range of factors which influence the formation of government policy; 3) analyse key historiographical debates surrounding party politics, free trade, the enfranchisement of women, empire & immigration, and moral regulation; 4) write fluent, coherent essays; 5) engage creatively and effectively with online resources.



HIST20252 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes, and Euro Studies (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, subject to VSO approval.


  1. Understand the defining features of British society, politics and culture in the period 1880-1990.
  2. Understand the dominant historiographical traditions defining this field.
  3. Engage with relevant and appropriate key primary sources

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will have:


Indicative Course Structure:

Week 1 – Introduction, Welfare and the ‘New Liberalism’, 1899-1914

Introduction: Party Politics, Free Trade & the Victorian State

Welfare & the ‘New Liberalism’

Week 2 – World War One, 1914-1918

The First World War & the Battle for Peace?

Women from the First World War to the Flappers

Week 3 – British Politics Between the Wars

Stanley Baldwin & British Politics Between the Wars

Modern Monarchy: Constitutional Politics & Popular Spectacle

Week 4 – The ‘Hungry Thirties’

Slump, Depression and Recovery?

‘The Hungry Thirties’.

Week 5 – World War Two, 1939-45

‘The People’s War’

Women & the Second World War

Week 6 Reading Week – No Lectures on Mon. 30 October.

Week 7 – The Post-war Consensus, Reconstruction and Affluence

Post-War Reconstruction & Affluence

Paths to Mass Consumption in the 1950s

Week 8 – Sexuality and the Permissive Society, c. 1945-70

Redefining The Post-War Moral Consensus

Short presentation on Careers Advice from Louise Sethi followed by

lecture. How did the 1960s Swing?

Week 9 – Labour and Protest, c. 1950-1990

Class and Politics in the age of affluence, c. 1950 – 1970

The Women’s Liberation Movement, c.1968-90

Week 10 – Race & Immigration after 1945

‘Powellism’ & the Politics of Immigration

“The colour… is just how you recognise ‘em”: Race and the 60s Sitcom

Week 11 - The Thatcher Revolution, c.1975 – 1990

From Consensus to Thatcherism: Remaking the British Political


The Thatcher Legacy

Week 12 - From Classes to Consumers and Course Review

From Classes To Consumers

Course Review and Exam Workshop

Teaching and learning methods

Two weekly lectures, one weekly seminar, essay tutorials and office hours.

Blackboard used throughout the course for: Course Handbook, Assessments, weekly required readings, visual and recorded material, communicating with students.

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Become familiar with the key themes and developments in British society 1880-c.1990.
  2. Become competent in analysing the historical forces that have shaped British society, politics and culture during this period. .
  3. Be able to utilize the historiography on this period in application to key case studies

Intellectual skills

  1. Developed a critical awareness in the handling of key secondary sources covering modern British society, culture and politics.
  2. Evaluated and applied these to historically specific case studies and events covered in the syllabus.
  3. Become familiar with a range of accompanying primary sources and begin to develop tools for their analysis.

Practical skills

  1. Develop students, analytical and presentational skills in group discussion and presentations.
  2. Produce informed, well-written and effectively researched pieces of academic prose.
  3. Work effectively and creatively with a wide range of source materials, including visual sources.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  1. Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication
  2. Accomplish independent research projects
  3. Work collaboratively as part of a team
  4. Critical thinking and analysis

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical thinking and analysis. Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence.
Group/team working
The ability to collaborate in team-work settings.
Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities)
Oral communication
To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills
Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities)
Written communication
To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Feedback methods

Written feedback and individual discussion (by appointment) for source analysis - summative

Written feedback and individual discussion (by appointment)  for essay

Written feedback for exam - summative

Recommended reading

Francesca Carnevali & Julie-Marie Strange (eds.), Twentieth-Century Britain: Economic, Social and Cultural Change (2007)

Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-2000 (2004). Also use earlier editions to 1900-90.

Kenneth O. Morgan, Britain since 1945: The People’s Peace (2001)

Martin Pugh, State and Society: a Social and Political History of Britain since 1870 (3rd ed. 2008)

Martin Pugh, The Making of Modern British Politics, 1867-1939 (Revised edition, 1993)

C. J. Wrigley (ed.), A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain (2002). This text is available online: UML > Databases > Blackwell Reference Online

Lesley Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880 (2000)

Susan Kent, Gender and Power in Britain 1640-1990 (1999)

Ina Zweiniger-Bargiolowska (ed.), Women in Twentieth Century Britain: Economic, Social and Cultural Change (2001)

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Frank Mort Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

Source Analysis, summative, 1000 words, 20%

Essay, summative, 2000 words, 40%

Exam, summative, 2 hours, 2 questions, 40% 



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