BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
London and Modernity 1880-1960

Unit code HIST30102
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course will explore key aspects of modernity in relation to the changing character of London as a metropolitan centre from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s. The aim will be to encourage students to ground historical debates about modernity, modernism, and modernisation in relation to the study of a particular environment and setting. The course will not provide a general overview of urban development in London, rather it will select key themes for detailed study. These will cover aspects of the social and economic development of the city, together with more recent research on urban cultures, historical geography, sexuality and the imperial and post-imperial metropolis. The course will provide students with the opportunity to encounter London as it is represented in a range of visual media, as well as in written texts. Students will be encouraged to develop a critical awareness of key primary and secondary sources and their use in researching aspects of metropolitan history and to examine specific thematic case studies in relation to the transformations of particular zones or quarters of the city.


HIST30101 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; Euro Studies programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas.

This module is available to students on an Erasmus programme subject to VSO approval.


1.      Understand the defining features of London’s cultural, social and political modernity in the period 1880 to c. 1960     via lectures, seminar, discussion, a fieldtrip and assessment.

2.      Engage with the dominant historiographical traditions in this field.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to;


Indicative Course Structure:

Week 1: Course Introduction and The Imperial City: Facets of Empire

Week 2: Gender, Popular Culture and Performance in the late-Victorian and Edwardian City.

Week 3: The Experience of War and the Planned Future in the 1940s

Week 4: Tradition and Modernity in the late Imperial City: The Coronation, 1953

Week 5: Society and the Social Elites in 1950s London

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: ‘The Most Polluted City in the World’:  Vice and Sexual Scandal in the Post-War Metropolis.

Week 8: English Bohemia: Soho

Week 9: Study Afternoon of London’s West End and Bohemian Soho.


Week 11: The Post-Imperial Metropole: Case Study Notting Hill.

Week 12:  ‘Permissive’ London: The Case of the Profumo Affair

Teaching and learning methods

1 x 3 hour lecture/seminar/in class group discussion per week, essay tutorials and office hours. One London fieldtrip to be arranged midway through the course.  

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

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course students will have:

1.Become familiar with the key cultural and social features of urban modernity and their application to London as a metropolitan centre.

2. Become competent in analysing the historical forces that have shaped modern London and its peoples, with particular emphasis on the cultural and spatial dimensions of change.

3.Be able to utilize the historiography in application to key urban case studies

Intellectual skills

On successful completion of the course students will have:

1. Developed a critical awareness in the handling of primary sources on the city and how they are used to research the history of modern London.

2. Evaluated and applied a range of varied methodologies in the analysis of modern urban cultures. 

Practical skills

1. Developed their analytical and presentational skills in group discussion and presentations.

2. Produced informed, well-written and effectively researched pieces of academic prose.

3. Worked effectively and creatively with a 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
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
Convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills
Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence.
Written communication
Convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Summative: Written feedback on coursework submissions via Turnitin, and on exam papers in hard copy.

Formative: Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hours or by appointment).

Recommended reading

Booth, C. (1889-1893), Labour and Life of the People of London, Vol. 2.

Cannadine, D (1983) ‘The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the Invention of Tradition c. 1820-1977’, in E Hobsbawm and T. Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge University Press, pp. 101-64.

Forshaw, J and Abercrombie, P (1943) County of London Plan.

Jephcott, P (1964) A troubled area: notes on Notting Hill, Faber.

McKibbin, R (1998) Classes and cultures in England 1918-1951, Oxford University Press.

Mort, F (2010) Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society, Yale University Press.

Port, M (1995) Imperial London: civil government building in London 1850-1915, Yale University Press.

Ransome, A. (1907), Bohemia in London, Guild Publishing.

Walkowitz, J. (1992) City of Dreadful Delight, Chicago University Press.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Fieldwork 5
Seminars 30
Tutorials 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 160

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Frank Mort Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

One close comparative analysis of two primary or secondary source texts selected from the reading list, summative, 1500 words, 20%

One essay from the Course Handbook, summative, 2500 words, 30%

One two-hour unseen examination, summative, 2 exam questions in two hours, 50%



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