BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Wealth and Welfare: Reconceptualising British Economy and Society between 1832 and 1942

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST31051
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will explore the historical changes in British economy and society between c1830 and 1940. It is aimed at students interested in either deepening their understanding of British economic and social history, or those who are curious about such historical approaches but are unfamiliar with them. The unit does not assume any prior knowledge of economic or social history methods.  

The unit will be taught using a combination of historical case studies and theoretical approaches. The cases will explore how people responded to the big historical changes resulting from globalisation, colonialism, capitalism, socialism, and liberalism. We will examine how they made sense of these big changes in their daily lives, the challenges historical events posed, and the opportunities they presented. The course will also survey some of the big ideas that emerged in this period, such as social welfare, free trade, cost of living measurements, consumerist culture, and corporate capitalism.  


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


  • [Knowledge] To explore different aspects of the British political economy between c1830 and 1940. 

  • [Analysis] To differentiate between the various economic, social, political, and intellectual changes during this period. 

  • [Synthesis] To examine the relationships between people and institutions in historical societies. 

  • [Application] To critique primary and secondary sources using methods of historical, economic, or social analysis. 

  • [Skills] To develop communication skills based on independent research. 

Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify key historical changes in British economic and social policies between c1830 and 1940. 

  • Outline key actors and their role in shaping Britain’s political economy during this period. 

  • Recognise how political, economic, and social lives were entangled by examining case studies and primary sources. 

Intellectual skills

  • Explain the relationships between people, institutions, ideas, and objects by locating them in their social, political, and economic contexts. 

  • Apply economic and social history methods to evaluate these relationships. 

  • Demonstrate the significance of the study of past societies to inform contemporary issues. 

Practical skills

  • Utilise primary and secondary sources in a critical, reflective, and scholarly manner. 

  • Locate, retrieve, assimilate, and interpret relevant information and theory from primary and secondary sources.  

  • Formulate ideas, arguments, and narratives using disparate or fragmentary evidence. 

  • Compose written and verbal presentations to communicate ideas and arguments 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Communicate clearly and professionally and in a structured manner. 

  • Develop skills in engaging with unfamiliar modes of knowledge and communication, accepting responsibility for meeting deadlines and co-operating with others, developing confidence in their own abilities. 

  • Work independently or in collaboration depending on the situation.  

Employability skills

Oral communication
The oral work in seminars, and the feedback on it, will enable students to improve their communication skills.
Problem solving
The intellectual, knowledge and practical skills will prepare students for a range of careers requiring knowledge of historical changes to commercial and industrial institutions, businesses, markets, commodities, and products. Such careers could include law, business and management, advertising and communications, politics and administration, charities and voluntary organisations, private sector enterprises, self-employment, and entrepreneurship.
The practical and transferrable skills will enable students to engage with broader societal issues such as gender inequality, social inequality, responsibility and sustainability in consumption, speculation in commodity markets, moral economy and protest, influence of multinational corporations, etc. The course unit will raise awareness of such issues, and help students confront them, both in the workplace as well as in the broader social context.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Individual Presentation (Summative)

Feedback methods

Oral feedback on presentation and in seminar discussions.  (Formative)

Written feedback on all coursework, including presentations and essay. (Summative)

Additional one to one feedback during consultation hour (Formative)

Recommended reading

Velkar, Aashish. Markets and Measurements in Nineteenth Century Britain. (Cambridge University Press, 2012) 

Trentmann, Frank. Free Trade Nation (Oxford University Press, 2008) 

Howe, Anthony, ‘Free Trade and the City of London c1820-1870’, History 77 (1992), p. 391-410:  

Beckert. Sven. Empire of cotton (London: Penguin Books, 2015) 

Rappaport, Erika. A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World (Princeton University Press, 2019). 

Marrison, Andrew. British Business and Protection, 1903-1930 (Oxford University Press 1996) 

Searle, G. R. Morality and the market in Victorian Britain. (Oxford: 1998) 

Miller, Ian, ‘ “A Dangerous Revolutionary Force Amongst Us”: Conceptualizing Working-Class Tea Drinking in the British Isles, c. 1860-1900’, Cultural and Social History, 10 (2013), pp. 419-38.  

Huzzey, Richard, ‘Free Trade, Free Labour, And Slave Sugar in Victorian Britain’, The Historical Journal, 53, (2010), pp. 359–379,  

Higgins, David M., and Aashish Velkar. ‘“Spinning a Yarn”: Institutions, Law, and Standards c.1880–1914’. Enterprise & Society 18 (March 2017): 591–631.

Velkar, Aashish. ‘Making Inferences from Index Numbers (1860–1914)’. History of Political Economy 53, no. S1 (1 December 2021): 227–58.

Loftus, Donna, ‘Capital and Community: Limited Liability and Attempts to Democratize the Market in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England,’ Victorian Studies, 45 (2002), pp. 93-120.  

Johnson, Paul. Making the market: Victorian origins of corporate capitalism, (Cambridge, 2010) 

Taylor, James, ‘Privacy, publicity, and reputation: How the press regulated the market in nineteenth-century England’, Business History Review, 87(2013), 679-701.  

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aashish Velkar Unit coordinator

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