BA Ancient History and History

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST20251
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
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.  


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  

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

On successful completion of the course students will have: 

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

On successful completion of the course students will have: 

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 seminars.

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) Critical thinking and analysis 

Employability skills

Students can expect to develop an important set of skills which will be highly valued in the workplace: 1) To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills 2) Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities) 3) Critical thinking and analysis 4) Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence.

Assessment methods

Seminar worksheet 0
Essay 50%
Exam 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Seminar Worksheet

Formative  throughout the course






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
Charlotte Wildman Unit coordinator
Maxwell Jones Unit coordinator
Frank Mort Unit coordinator

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