BA History and French

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Sex, Drugs and Shopping: Readdressing Inter-war Britain

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST31342
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Britain’s inter-war period has been characterized as the “Long Weekend” and the “Devil’s Decades”, as contemporary writers and historians have both stressed stark divisions and contrasts in society. Images of hunger marches and dole queues have been placed alongside flappers and glamorous mill girls in ‘cheap artificial stockings, cheap short-skirted frocks, cheap coats, cheap shoes, crimped hair, powder and rouge’ (Walter Greenwood, ‘Love on the Dole’). However, more current research suggests the inter-war period was unique because of the possibilities and opportunities offered and, for instance Matt Houlbrook suggests there was a ‘profound fascination with individuals who faked it – who masqueraded as something or someone they were not–or who crossed boundaries of class, gender, race, ethnicity, or age in other ways.’ In particular, new opportunities in consumer culture provided methods of self-fashioning that were previously unavailable.



Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure 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.


1. To explore the impact of World War One on British society by focusing on identity and culture

2. To examine the role of consumer culture in self-fashioning and offering individuals opportunities to perform new forms of selfhood.

3. To consider how identities could be transcended, disrupted or obscured in inter-war Britain.

4. To assess how far certain social identities were seen as problematic or dangerous and why anxieties about gender, race and sexuality were so acute in inter-war society.

Intellectual skills

  • Have a wide-ranging and imaginative understanding of inter-war English society and culture
  • Possess a detailed knowledge of the implications of mass consumer culture, especially in terms for social identities and self-fashioning
  • Understand why and how social identities could be obscured and boundaries of class, race and gender could be transcended or disrupted in inter-war societ

Practical skills

  • Produce informed, well-written and well-researched pieces of academic prose.
  • Work effectively and creatively with a range of primary source materials, especially literary and visual sources.
  • Consider the historical specificity or uniqueness of inter-war Britain, especially in terms of the new consumer opportunities and the implications for self-fashioning.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Possess excellent communication and presentation skills by contributing to seminar tasks and group discussion.
  • Synthesise historical data and offer informed, analytical insights based on research.
  • Offer persuasive and convincing interpretations that are presented clearly to others

Employability skills

- Thinking and presenting critically, with sophisticated analytical thinking - Effective communication and team-working skills - Working to deadlines and effective time management skill

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0
Essay 50%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

Essay Plan: Formative


Recommended reading

Adrian Bingham, Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-War Britain, (Oxford, 2004).

Lucy Bland, Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper (Manchester, 2013). Carol Dyhouse, Glamour: Women, History, Feminism (2011).

Matt Houlbrook, ‘“The Man with the Powder Puff” in Interwar London’, Historical Journal, 50, 1, 2007, 145 – 171. Marek Kohn, Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground, (London, 1992)

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover, (Originally written 1928, first published London, 1961).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charlotte Wildman Unit coordinator

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