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Revolutions, Scandals & Reforms: British Political Culture, 1688-1832 - HIS00075I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Tim Riding
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

Eighteenth-century Britain felt the pressures of profound political developments and crises both at home and abroad. The “Glorious Revolution” (1689) replaced the nation’s Catholic king with a Protestant husband and wife team, and heralded a new relationship between crown, parliament and public. Revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789) challenged Britain’s place in the world, its political relationships and values. Britain itself became a new entity. Acts of Union brought more land under the national flag but with them came new regional identities, political tensions and questions about representation. Fledging parliamentarians tried to steer the country through difficult times. The nation’s first ‘prime minister’ Robert Walpole clung to his position for twenty-one years. Parliament sat regularly for the full century and politics became a business for parties and professional politicos. The staggering proliferation of newspapers, and the newly-employed grub street journalists that filled their pages, distributed news to a wider public than ever before. Caricaturists pilloried those in power and the private life of politicians became the subject of the century’s new mass media. Those without the vote still took part in politics: the urban population rioted in opposition or support of policies and candidates; women led campaigns, canvassed for politicians and used consumer power to influence policy; and even children were trained in political news writing and educated to become politically aware. Not least, the newly wealthy clamoured for representation and reform.

This course explores this varied political picture from the Glorious Revolution of 1689 to the Great Reform Act of 1832, paying particular attention to the interaction between parliament and the public and between the public and the press. Eighteenth-century British political history was originally written as a ‘Whig’ narrative of progress – but was this a time of change and for whom? Or did superficial political dramas mask a static culture of continuity?

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21 to Summer Term 2020-21

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth;
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material; and
  • To combine seminar preparation and discussion of the topic being studied with extended independent work on a project devised by the student.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module a student will:

  • Have an awareness of the major political developments of the long eighteenth century
  • Understand the relationship between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary political cultures
  • Have been introduced to the eighteenth century’s burgeoning print culture (and rich visual and textual primary source materials) and its relationship to politics.

Module content

Teaching Programme:
This 30-credit module is taught through a weekly two-hour seminar run from weeks 2-10 in the spring term and a four week period of project work undertaken in weeks 1-4 of the summer term. Students will complete their group project work within that period and tutors should arrange to be available for consultation with students twice during that time. There will be no formal seminar teaching during this period.

Seminars may cover the the following areas:

  1. The Glorious Revolution: A constitutional consensus?
  2. Queens, Kings and courtly decline
  3. The rise of party politics
  4. Scandals and the press
  5. Popular politics
  6. Empire, revolutions and war
  7. Enlightened ideas?
  8. Reform and its political legacy

Group project work will centre around primary sources – for instance a painting, a political pamphlet, a set of caricatures, or an artefact. Guidance will be given on the choice of topics and sources.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Group Project
N/A 33
Open Exam (2 day paper over 3 days)
Revolutions, Scandals & Reforms: British Political Culture, 1688-1832
8 hours 67

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative assessment will be a group presentation between weeks 5 and 7 of the spring term.

For summative assessment students take a 24-hour open exam in the summer term assessment period, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. For those taking two Explorations modules the 24-hour open exams are held on consecutive days, with both papers released at 11:00 on day 1 and both due for submission on 11:00 of day 3.

Students also submit a piece of written work for their group project of no more than 3,000 words in week 5 of the summer term.

The exam carries 67% of assessment and the project element 33% for this module.

Students who need to be reassessed in the project component of this module (for example due to Exceptional Circumstance) will be required to submit in the summer reassessment period a shorter individual project (2,000 words) which should include a short reflection (500 words max) on group work, considering how this project could be expanded if a team of three to four people were working on it. Students should consider how they would divide up the research tasks, and reflect briefly on problems which might arise and how they would manage them. Module tutors will advise on the content and design of this project. 


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Group Project
N/A 33
Open Exam (2 day paper over 3 days)
Revolutions, Scandals & Reforms: British Political Culture, 1688-1832
8 hours 67

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 seminars 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 during their tutor’s 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 unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. 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:

Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837. 2nd rev. ed., London: Yale University Press, 2005.

Langford, Paul. Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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.