Accessibility statement

Social Science and Modern Britain, c.1880-c.1970 - HIS00139I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Chris Renwick
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Britain has changed dramatically since the late nineteenth century. But so too have the ways people have tried to understand those changes. While industrialisation, the welfare state, and immigration are among the developments that have transformed everyday life, opinion polls and social surveys are just two of the tools that have emerged to help people make sense of the world and their place. This module gives students the opportunity to study both these processes, from the 1880s through to the 1970s, through a selection of landmark social studies, each of which changed what contemporaries thought they knew about modern Britain and now provide a window on to a different topic, such as inequality, affluence, gentrification, community, and race. In so doing, the module will introduce students to debates about the ways in which social knowledge was produced in Britain during the period, taking in questions about democracy, expertise, and objectivity, and enable them to evaluate the ways that social science has impacted on individuals and society.

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. Charles Booth on the life and labours of the people of London
  2. Seebohm Rowntree and poverty in York
  3. Mass-Observation and the anthropology of ourselves in the 1930s
  4. Opinion Polls and Market Research
  5. Family and Community
  6. Old Age
  7. Immigration
  8. Affluence


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:

  • Lawrence, Jon. Me, Me, Me? The Search for Community in Post-War England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • Savage, Mike. Identities and Social Change in Britain Since 1940: The Politics of Method. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Butler, Lise. Michael Young, Social Science, and the British Left, 1945-70. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

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.