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Popular Politics? The history of British political culture since 1945 - Semester 2 - HIS00140H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Lawrence Black
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

How do we write a history of political culture in modern Britain? What was politics like on the street, on doorsteps, in campaigns, protests, the media, in the popular mind and what sources can historians use to access this? Integrating official politics with a more grassroots approach, this course explores parties, elections, social movements, cultural and identity politics, the role of the media and, all-in-all, the shifting meaning of ‘the political’ since WWII. In the process it asks how and why political historians have shifted their focus to a history of political culture or, so to speak, from the body politic to the politics of bodies and emotions. Much as the course will discuss new initiatives and how politics was able to create new languages and practices, a subtext of the course will be to question quite how popular politics was. As such it will interrogate not just standard narratives, sources and chronologies of decline or consensus, but will take the issue of apathy more seriously than political historians have tended to. Primary sources range through key writings, speeches, diaries, pamphlets, posters, media images, opinion polls, manifestos and assorted ephemera of political activity.

Related modules

Students taking this module must also take the first part in Semester 1.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Students will attend a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 2. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight three-hour seminars in all. A one-to-one meeting between tutor and students will also be held to discuss assessments.

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

  1. Social Movements 1: Peace, consumerism and middle-class radicalism
  2. Cultural Politics 1: The Sixties, Whitehouse and the media
  3. Social Movements 2: Feminism - the personal as political.
  4. Counter-cultural Politics 2: Festivals, bodies, terrorism, modes of protest
  5. Social Movements 3: Race and memories of empire
  6. Media, Satire, Spin: Political communication
  7. Scottish Nationalism or the break-up of Britain
  8. Brexit


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students submit an essay draft of 2000-words.

For summative assessment, students complete a 4000-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This comprises 100% of the overall module mark. Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive a one-to-one meeting with the tutor to discuss the essay and their plans for the assessed essay.

Work will be returned to students with written comments in their tutorial and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to make use of their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For summative assessment tasks, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester 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:

  • Colin Hay, Why We Hate Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).
  • Matthew Hilton, The Politics of Expertise: How NGOs shaped modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • Emily Robinson, History, Heritage and Tradition in Contemporary British Politics (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 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.