BA History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Anglo-American Connection & National Identity in the long C19: Race, Reform & National Identity

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32251
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit encourages students to reassess the nature of Anglo-American relations. It does this by going back to the long nineteenth century and asking them to consider the ways that the shared sense of identity which underpinned the so-called ‘special relationship’ originally emerged. It looks at why Anglo-American reference points were so important in formulations of national identity during this era of monumental change in the gendered, racial and class parameters of the nation. It highlights the ways in which those advocating reform within one nation were able to frame their ideas with reference to the other and why this was such a common thing to do. It also demonstrates how those in power came to formulate an exclusive form of Anglo-American identity which would go on to underpin all aspects of the 20th century relationship.


  • To provide an examination of the different ways in which Britain and the United States interacted during the long 19th century and how this influenced changing ideas of national identity in each.
  • To engage with the relationship from various perspectives.
  • To encourage students to consider both the practical and symbolic entanglements between the two.
  • To utilize a broad array of primary source materials.
  • To critically interrogate relevant historiography.
  • To understand the ongoing implications of this period in both nations.

Teaching and learning methods

1 x 3-hour seminar session per week.  

Seminar reading lists and source materials will be made available on Blackboard, as will links to digitised content and other online source/databases

Lecture slides will be uploaded onto Blackboard.

All coursework to be submitted and marks returned via Turnitin 

Knowledge and understanding

Through this unit learners will:

  • Engage with relationship between Britain and the US in the long 19th century and examine how transnational processes impacted the development of both.
  • Consider a wide range of primary texts including pamphlets, poetry, songs, newspaper articles, novels and cartoons as a way to explore various aspects of the Anglo-American relationship.
  • Examine the ways in which the parameters of national identity within each nation were constructed by those in power and the ways that others challenged these ideas.

Develop knowledge of the material and key analytical skills.

Intellectual skills

By the end of the unit students will be able to:

• Understand the multifaceted relationship between Britain, the US and the Atlantic world.

• Engage with historiographical debates at an advanced level.

• To identify and interpret primary sources.

• Assess primary sources within the context of existing scholarship.

• To develop and defend intellectual positions with the use of evidence.

Practical skills

By the end of the unit students will be able to:

• Identify and critically analyze primary texts.

• Conduct original research and present ideas in written and oral forms.

• Develop intellectual positions.

• Contextualize their ideas with reference to existing scholarship.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of the unit students will be able to:

  • Undertake independent research tasks.
  • Interpret both primary and secondary sources.
  • Communicate sophisticated ideas in both written and verbal form.
  • Work effectively within a group and independently.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The skills to analyse and respond to complex problems.
Problem solving
The skills to identify, gather and synthesize information from various sources
The ability to formulate and answer relevant research questions.
Written communication
Experience of deriving arguments from evidence and presenting these arguments in a compelling way and in a variety of forms.
The ability to critically interrogate primary materials.

Assessment methods

Seminar Participation (Summative) 10%

Research Essay (Summative) 55%

Group Presentation (Summative) 35%

Feedback methods

Oral feedback on group discussions, presentations and essay workshops.


Written feedback on coursework submissions using Turnitin.


Additional personalized feedback through office hours or by appointment.


Recommended reading

  • Butler, Leslie, Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007)
  • Campbell, Duncan Andrew, Unlikely Allies: Britain, America and the Victorian Origins of the Special Relationship (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2007)
  • Dzelzainis, Ella & Ruth Livesey, eds., The American Experiment and the Idea of Democracy in British Culture, 1776-1914 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013)
  • Fisch, Audrey, American Slaves in Victorian England: Abolitionist Politics and Popular Culture Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Giles, Paul, Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002)
  • Haynes, Sam W., Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010)
  • Kilbride, Daniel, Being American in Europe, 1750-1860 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)
  • Pace Vetter, Lisa, The Political Thought of America’s Founding Feminists (New York: New York University Press, 2017)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter O'Connor Unit coordinator

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