Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 5 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Semester Assessment Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 1 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%
Supplementary Assessment (Resit) Essay 2 - 1 x 2,500 words  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of a substantial body of historical knowledge in the field of modern and contemporary British political, social and cultural history.
2. Demonstrate an understanding of the variety of sources available for the study of modern British history.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of a wide range of historical techniques relevant to a comparative study of political and social developments.
4. Read, analyse and reflect critically on secondary and primary texts, in particular contemporary reportage and other media sources.


This option module considers British history from the turn of the twentieth century until the fairly recent past (the fall of Margaret Thatcher). It will focus primarily on political developments but will, in addition, incorporate social, economic and cultural change. The main theme of the module is the changing character of British politics throughout the twentieth century – its structures, discourses, political culture – and how these developments reflect, and in turn influence, other aspects of British society. Central to this theme are such topics as the evolution of a mass democracy, the impact of two World Wars, Britain’s search for a post-war international role, and the development and downfall of a politics of consensus.

Brief description

The twentieth century arguably saw more, and more profound, changes in the lives, attitudes, and beliefs of the British people than any previous era. This course seeks to investigate these changes through a study of the political and social history of modern and contemporary Britain.
The course will begin by establishing the political character of Edwardian Britain and the impact of the First World War on British politics and society. It will consider the political and the social changes of the inter-war years and the impact of the Second World War. It will investigate the growth of the state in the post-war period and the extent to which these years marked an era of 'consensus politics'. It will address the changing standards of living, social behaviour and political allegiances of the British people, the effect of Britain's changing role in the post-war world, and the increasing importance of the mass media in ordinary life. It will consider how a new 'conviction' politics in the 1970s challenged key assumptions about the 'post-war settlement', and address the legacy of that challenge to this day.

A recurring concern throughout the module is the political culture of Britain in the last century: that is, not simply the political events of the period, but also the British people's attitudes to their government and their political representatives, to society and its values, and to the role of the state itself, its obligations and its boundaries.



1. Introduction
2. Edwardian Britain: the 'strange death of liberal England'?
3. The Great War and British society
4. Inter-war Britain (i): politics and class
5. Inter-war Britain (ii): poverty and prosperity
6. Inter-war Britain (iii) the phenomenon of Stanley Baldwin
7. Britain and the Second World War (i): the ‘People’s War’
8. Britain and the Second World War (ii): ‘leftward shift’?
9. The Attlee governments and the welfare state
10. Conservative hegemony 1951-64 (i): the ‘Age of Affluence’?
11. Conservative hegemony 1951-64 (ii): the ‘Stagnant Society’?
12. State of the nation (i): Britain and the post-war world
13. ‘The Sixties’: Britain and the ‘Permissive Society’
14. State of the nation (ii): Britain and the British
15. Media and society in 20th century Britain
16. 'Who governs Britain?': the 1970s and the end of ‘consensus’
17. The ‘Thatcher revolution’
18. Conclusions: New Liberalism to Neo-Liberalism


1. Introduction: British political culture at the start of the 20th century
2. The First World War and the British state
3. ‘The morbid age’? Politics and society in inter-war Britain
4. Second World War: a new consensus?
5. Affluence and permissiveness
6. The ‘Thatcher revolution’

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will develop a range of transferable skills, including time management and communication skills, which may help them identify their personal strengths as they consider potential career paths.
Problem solving Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Research skills Students will develop their research skills by reading a range of texts and evaluating their usefulness in preparation for the coursework and the written examination.
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop their understanding of a range of historical concepts and source materials specific to 20th century Britain
Team work Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.


This module is at CQFW Level 6