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Children & Childhood in Britain & Empire, 1850-2000 - HIS00089C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Victoria Hoyle
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

What was life like for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? How did their experiences of education, work, play and family change over time? How did ideas about childhood in wider society impact on their daily lives?  This module will explore these questions in the context of Britain and the British Empire, from the reign of Queen Victoria until the turn of the 21st century. This was a period of enormous change in the experiences, living conditions and rights of children. How children should behave and how they should be treated was widely debated in the media and in parliament, from the ethics of child labour and the right to education to the necessity of child protection.  By the late 20th century, after the upheaval of two World Wars, childhood in Britain had arguably changed beyond all recognition. But such changes were not universally experienced. Children living under British rule in colonised societies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were differently affected, impacted by racist and classist agendas and policies.  Later, in the wake of independence and the global diaspora, children of colour faced new challenges in a post-colonial world.  

Throughout the module we will consider how diverse experiences of childhood were shaped by social and cultural change over time, and affected by ideas about class, race, ethnicity and religion. We will explore the thoughts and feelings of children themselves through diaries, testimonies and oral histories, and use a wide range of sources to access the perspectives of adults, governments and nations.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • 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 an unfamiliar period and/or approach to history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have further developed work undertaken in the Autumn Term lecture courses and skills portfolios, including historical analysis, note-taking, using primary sources, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars;
  • Be able to construct a coherent historical argument in oral and written forms

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over nine weeks, plus an overview and revision session in Week 2 of Summer Term. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion. 

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

Spring Term

1.                                         No teaching

2.                                         Introductory session: Constructing childhood

3.                                         The model Victorian child

4.                                         Education, work and poverty in late 19th century childhood

5.                                         Empire’s children, children of Empire

6.                                         Suffer the little children: War and violence

7.                                         Emigration and diaspora after independence

8.                                         The ‘teen revolution’

9.                                         Gender and sexuality in the late 20th century

10.                                       Childhood abuse and the Rights of the Child

Summer Term

2.        Overview and revision


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Children and Childhood in Brit
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

During the Spring Term students will prepare a presentation in pairs or small groups. Tutors will determine the formative work for the course: all groups will present either on a primary source or on an assigned historiographical question. Formative work will be completed in one or more sessions at the tutor’s discretion.

Summative assessment:

An open exam in the Common Assessment Period, comprising one essay question chosen from five options


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Children and Childhood in Brit
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:

Cunningham, Hugh. Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500. 2nd Edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2014 (particularly Chapters 6 & 7).

Morrison, Heidi, ed. The Global History of Childhood Reader. London and New York: Routledge, 2012

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