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Brexit: A History - HIS00077C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. David Clayton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

Some would argue that it is too early for a historical appraisal of Brexit; its consequences will continue for decades to come. This module contends that reviewing Britain’s interaction with the process of European integration is urgent and important. It will explore Britain and the process of building supra-national co-operation within Europe, 1945 to date; and how interactions with and integration within Europe altered Britain’s relationship with its Empire and the Commonwealth.

The historical literature on this topic is well developed for the early post-war decades, and focuses on discontinuous negotiations, c.1960-1973, that led to Britain’s entry into a customs union governed by the Treaty of Rome. The historical literature on the 1970s, a period of tariff convergence punctuated by the first referendum on Britain’s membership is reasonably well developed. The literature on the development of the single market, one of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest legacies, is scant but there is a social science literature to found our knowledge. Britain’s recent retreat from Europe is extremely well documented by those writing the first draft of history, including journalists, business elites and policy advisers.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to the history of Britain’s engagement with European integration
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials.
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography, specifically, economic, political, legal and public history—how history has been used and misused to shape current debates.
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into historical study of an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials; inter alia, government documents, legal treaties and judgements, trade statistics, and insider accounts.
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have practiced core skills identified in the Autumn Term Making Histories module, including historical analysis, note-taking, essay writing, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars: and,
  • Have delivered advanced level historical work in essays, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the module topics.

Module content

Teaching Programme:  


  • Brexit as Public History;
  • Integration before the EEC;
  • Britain and European Free Trade;
  • Brentry, 1960-1973;
  • The First Referendum, 1975;
  • Liberalisation and Monetary Disorder 1980-1992;
  • The Second Referendum;
  • Brexit Negotiations: a Constitutional Crisis?


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7.

Students will then submit 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. 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 on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

Kevin O’Rourke, A Short History of Brexit: From Brenty to Backstop (UK: Pelican, 2019) [currently, February 2019, hardback only]

Catherine Schenk, International Economic Relations Since 1945 (London: Taylor & Francis, 2011)

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students