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(His)Tory: Conservatives and conservatism in modern Britain and America - HIS00134I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Lawrence Black
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Entangling official upper-case Conservatism and informal, everyday, lower-case conservatism, this course intersects social and political history. It focuses on the UK and USA after mass suffrage (1918/20), but also refers to earlier traditions and Christian democracy. Far from challenging elite power and privilege, democracy saw political parties like the Tories and Republicans able to cultivate and draw upon popular conservatism for electoral support. We explore the connections (if any) between institutional, ideological and policy forms (political economies from protectionism to free markets) and lived conservative attitudes, lifestyles, instincts, identity – cultures of conservatism, elite and popular.

The course deconstructs the differences between conservative and reactionary and between a traditional, patrician right and more militant New Right. The latter has been a radical agent of change, where left politics is often preserving values and institutions under threat. We examine conservatism in everyday attitudes towards gender, race, class, nation, empire, religion, sexuality and culture. And how conservatism features in activities like the media, shopping, ranking, time management through to children’s literature. Small-c conservatism – an emotional comportment and ideal-type vision - although not much studied as such, has had a significant presence in (his)tory. It will capture continuities in conservative visions of lifestyle and the nation, but also what it feared (feminism, ‘1968’, communism for much of this period), what lead it to change, and how it portrayed opponents and was portrayed by them. Like it or not, both Conservatism and conservatism are key sites for understanding the practice(s) of power, hegemony and capitalism.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

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

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Being Conservative (identity, imaginaries, ideology and spectres).
  2. Culture: literature, music, leisure, country / blood sports.
  3. Culture 2: gentlemanliness, iron ladies, manner, landscapes, tastes.
  4. Ways of Seeing: race, gender, history, media.
  5. Sub-cultures: Sloane Rangers and Preppies
  6. The old right and the new right or how Conservatism evolved.
  7. Moral Majority: The culture wars, religion, Schafly and Whitehouse
  8. Populism: Mafeking, the Churchill myth, Nixon, Brexit… MAGA


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed 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 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 formative 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 25 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:

  • Fawcett, Edmund. Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.
  • Frank, Thomas. What’s the matter with Kansas? New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004.
  • Light, Alison. Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the wars. London: Routledge, 1991.

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.