Accessibility statement

Britain in the Long Twentieth Century - HIS00058I

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Mark Roodhouse
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

According to Sellars and Yeatman, authors of spoof history 1066 and All That, ‘English’ history ended when America replaced Britain as ‘Top Nation’ in 1918. For them the national story after the First World War was a forgettable tale of decline and fall. Contemporary historians echoed this ‘declinism’ in their accounts of the period. All agreed that the years since 1870 have been a time of dizzying change. Technological and economic change associated with the development of industrial capitalism propelled the ‘workshop of the world’ and its ‘first industrial nation’ into a ‘modern era’ characterized by industrialization, urbanization, ‘modernity’, and ‘mass society’ – at least that is how some have come to see it. While few dispute the pace and extent of change, historians continue to struggle to understand its causes, consequences, and significance. In recent years historians have turned away from an earlier narrative of imperial and economic decline offset by rising living standards and a more inclusive notion of citizenship. An agreed overarching narrative has yet to emerge, although this is not for want of trying. There are many tales to tell that challenge or complement a story of comfortable decline, including ‘the short life of social democracy’ (or ‘the long life of market culture’), neo-corporatism, and governmentality amongst others. This module explores all of these tales as we survey, in turn, the major trends in the economic, political, and cultural and social history of the United Kingdom since 1870.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students’ progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing

Module content

Teaching Programme:

This 20-credit module consists of sixteen twice weekly lectures delivered in weeks 2-9, plus one round-up session in week 10 and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:


Briefing: Why study Modern Britain?

  1. These Islands

  2. Island Stories

  3. Free Trade and Greater Britain

  4. War and Peace

  5. The British Disease: Decline and Declinism

  6. Reconstruction - and Reconstructionism?

  7. Leaps into the Dark: Democratisation in Britain

  8. War, Labour and Realignment

  9. Road to and from 1945

  10. Thatcher and after

  11. Class Systems and Class Identity

  12. Gender and Region in Social Identity

  13. Listening and Viewing

  14. Recreation and the Mass Market

  15. The Death and Legacies of Christian Britain

  16. A Globalised Britain?

Debriefing: Reflections on Britain’s Long Twentieth Century


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in either week 5 or week 7 of the autumn term. They will then complete a 2,000-word essay for summative assessment, due in week 1 of the spring term.


Task Length % of module mark
2,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Carnevali, Francesca and Julie-Marie Strange, eds. Twentieth-century Britain: Economic, Cultural and Social Change, 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2007.

Thane, Pat. Divided Kingdom: A History of Britain, 1900 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Vernon, James. Modern Britain: 1750 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.