British History c.1850-1997


This module provides an introduction to the political, economic, social and cultural history of Britain between 1850 and 1990. Britain’s position in the world is a key theme of the module, but we will also trace longer-term developments that cut across the period.  In 1850, the British empire was expanding; from the mid-twentieth, decolonisation and its aftermath fundamentally shaped British society, culture and politics. The two world wars—both closely entwined with the history of the British empire—form key turning points in modern British history and significantly impacted Britain’s place in the world as well as domestic politics and society. In domestic politics, we examine the birth of mass democracy, the rise of working-class politics and the growth of women’s suffrage campaigns, as well as the development of the welfare state and ‘warfare state’. In economics, we explore both industrial revolution and recurrent ideas about British economic ‘decline’. Britain has always been a ‘four nations’ country; the ethnic make-up of society also changed substantially across the period, with Irish, Jewish and new commonwealth migration. Ideas about race and its relationship to national identity changed significantly between 1850 and 1990, and are key topics for this module. Changes in race, class and gender are, thus, key themes in the module, alongside broader cultural trends such as demographic change, secularisation, the development of mass consumerism, and the decline of deference.

Module type: Survey

Level: 5

Module code:

  • HIST0178 (HIST6304): 30 credits
  • HIST0179: 15 credits - Term 1 Affiliate students only
  • HIST0583: 15 credits - Term 2 Affiliate students only

Assessment methods

  • HIST0178: 1 X 2,500-word essay (25%), oral presentation (10%) and a 3-hour examination (65%)
  • HIST0179: 1 X 4,000-word essay (100%) - Term 1 Affiliate students only
  • HIST0583: 2 X 2,500-word essay (40/60%) - Term 2 Affiliate students only

NB: Students are not permitted to take this module if they have already taken HIST6406: Britain and the Wider World.