BA Archaeology and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
From New Left to New Times: Socialist Ideas in Post-War Britain

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST32151
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


Left-wing ideas saw an upsurge in popularity amongst the young in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, with the rise of the 2010s student movement, Corbynism, a growing left-wing alternative media ecology and the popularisation of online activism and discussion. This course provides students with a longer intellectual history of post-war British socialism. It will examine how socialist thinkers tackled issues including affluence, the end of empire, globalisation, the dissolution of the ‘traditional’ working class and the rise of New Right. It will assess how they engaged with theoretical frameworks such as class, culture, gender, race and the self. Through analysis of primary and secondary material, students will attain a detailed understanding of the intellectual history of British socialism, and the changing cultural, social and political context of late twentieth-century Britain.


Restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).


  • To develop foundational knowledge of the intellectual history of the post-war British Left.
  • To situate left-wing arguments within historical context, and understand their relationship to social change.
  • To explore established historical themes in Modern British History such as race, gender, class and the rise of neo-liberalism through the lens of left-wing activism and ideology, using published primary texts.
  • To engage with a range of methodologies for writing the intellectual history of the recent past.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of some of the main debates in post-war British intellectual life.
  • Develop a nuanced, detailed understanding of key themes and concepts in post-war British left-wing thought.
  • Understand the defining features and concerns of the post-war British Left, and how these changed over the period.

Intellectual skills

  • Critically assess the ways in which ideas are generated in particular historical contexts, and for a range of purposes.
  • Analyse online primary source material from a variety of perspectives and genres in seminar activities and through written assessments.
  • Investigate and synthesise secondary scholarship on post-war Britain, and deliver persuasive independent interpretations orally and in written work.

Practical skills

  • Confidently navigate relevant digital humanities resources.
  • Independently synthesise and organise primary and secondary source material.
  • Communicate findings and interpretations in oral and written formats.
  • Contribute to group discussions.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Articulate complex ideas to groups through seminar contribution as well as in written work.
  • Critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Completion of independent research on an identified problem or question.
  • Engage collaboratively as part of a team.
  • Confidence in navigating of online research tools.

Employability skills

- In selecting, analysing, and synthesising relevant published literature, students will develop the ability to carry out self-directed research, devise and test hypotheses, and articulate persuasive lines of argumentation. - Group discussions will prepare students for effective communication in the workplace. - The contemporary relevance of the course content will be particularly beneficial to students pursuing careers in journalism, politics, and the civil service.

Assessment methods




Primary Source Analysis



Feedback methods

Oral feedback on group discussions


Written feedback on coursework submissions via turnitin


Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by making an appointment)


Recommended reading

Lawrence Black, The political culture of the left in Britain, 1951-1964: old Labour, New Britain? (2003).

Lise Butler, Michael Young, Social Science, and the British Left, 1945-1970 (2020).

Ben Jackson, Equality and the British Left: a study in progressive political thought (2007).

Kennetta Hammond Perry, London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (2018).

Celia Hughes, Young Lives on the Left: Sixties activism and the liberation of the self (2015).

Margaretta Jolly, Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the U.K. Women’s Liberation Movement (2020).

Wade Matthews, The New Left, National Identity, and the Break-up of Britain (2013).

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Class, Politics and the Decline of Deference in England 1968-2000 (2018).

Rob Waters, Thinking Black: Britain, 1964-1985 (2018).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Alexandre Campsie Unit coordinator

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