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Parliament, People & Representation in Britain since the Late 18th Century - HIS00103M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Miles Taylor
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

Since 1997 successive UK governments have embarked on what amounts to perhaps the widest programme of constitutional reforms since the Victorian era. Devolution, the incorporation of EU laws, and the abolition of hereditary peers have already altered the way Westminster works, whilst other projected changes such as those to constituency boundaries or to the ‘first past the post’ voting system might transform it even further. The aim of this course is to study the reform of Parliament in a longer-term context, stretching back to the late 18th century.

Much of what appears unprecedented and innovative today has in fact been debated and considered before. And throughout the last 200 years the question of parliamentary reform has been focused as much on what Parliament does, as with extending the right to vote.  The course concludes by considering perhaps the greatest challenge of all to representative democracy: devolution to the Scottish Parliament, and to the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies, and the sharing of sovereignty with the European Parliament. For these developments led in turn to the referenda of 2014 and 2016, the most radical alternative yet to representative democracy, the consequences of which will be felt for years to come. 

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2019-20

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Using primary sources contextualise different phases of parliament reform since c. 1780;
  • Place recent and contemporary discussion of constitutional issues in a longer-term perspective;
  • Understand historically, with insights drawn from sociology, anthopology and auto/biography the culture around the Palace of Westminster

Module content

Teaching Programme:
Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  1. From chapel to palace: the Westminster bubble
  2. Elections and electioneering, past and present
  3. Maps, boundaries and borders
  4. The secret of the vote
  5. Who needs the House of Lords?
  6. Political women
  7. Money, sleaze and corruption old and new
  8. The break-up of Britain


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 of the spring term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 1 of the summer term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 4000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

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

Crewe, Emma (2015) Commons and Lords: a short anthropology of Parliament. London: Haus Publishing, 2015

Jones, Clyve, ed. A short history of parliament: England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland. The Boydell Press: Woodbridge, 2012.

Kelso, Alexandra. Parliamentary reform at Westminster. Manchester University Press, 2009.

Lawrence, Jon. Electing our masters: the hustings in British politics from Hogarth to Blair. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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.