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Contemporary British Politics

Key Information

Module code
ISSU1045
Taught during
Session 1
Module leader
Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite
Pre-requisites
None. Standard UCL Summer entry criteria apply.
Assessment method
10-minute presentation (25%), 2,500 word essay (75%)
Download syllabus (PDF)
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Module overview

Bringing together political science and history, this module will examine British politics since 1945. It is not narrowly about politicians and political intrigue, though: it's about ideas and ideologies, social and cultural change, spin-doctors and think-tanks. We will start by examining the structure and institutions of British political life. We’ll examine the construction of the welfare state and postwar social democratic settlement, before looking at the big turning point in the 1970s as politics shifted towards a ‘neoliberal’ governing paradigm. We'll ask what 'neoliberalism' really means. We’ll think about how the Second World War, social change, the end of empire and the development of Europe transformed politics in the postwar period.

At a moment when Britain has just voted to leave the EU, thinking about the role of Europe in the development of British politics is more important than ever. We’ll think about the practice of politics, the role of ideas and idea-producers like think-tanks, campaigning and the media. There will be a strong focus on linking history and contemporary politics, and we’ll hear from people in the thick of current politics as well as visiting key sites in Westminster and Whitehall including the Houses of Parliament and where the civil service is based. We will also visit Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s home, now a National Trust property and one of Britain’s most interesting country houses.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Have a broad understanding of the structure and development of postwar British politics, including how changes in society and in the wider world (in particular the end of empire and the development of the European project) impacted British politics
  • Have the ability to discuss the content and usefulness of the terms ‘social democracy’ and ‘neoliberalism’
  • Have developed the ability to think critically about the nature and limitations of primary sources as evidence for the construction of historical narratives and political science analyses
  • Have developed the ability to digest historical and political science texts, and analyse their arguments
  • Have developed and honed their essay writing skills: the ability to formulate a question, write in a scholarly style, construct and defend a coherent argument

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). No prior subject knowledge is required to study this module but students are expected to have a keen interest in the subject area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.

Assessment

  • 10-minute presentation (25%)
  • 2,500 word essay (75%)

Module leader

Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite is a lecturer in twentieth century British history; before coming to UCL she was a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. She has published on Thatcherism and New Labour, and her monograph, Class and the decline of deference in contemporary Britain is due to be published by Oxford University Press. She is co-editor of Renewal: a journal of social democracy, a quarterly journal of the left founded in 1993; in the latter role she has extensive links with Labour Party think-tanks, MPs, peers, councillors and activists. She is also an interviewer on the History of Parliament Trust’s Oral History project.

Application information

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