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Constitutional and Territorial Ideologies in Britain and Ireland - POL00074H

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Adam Fusco
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module examines the constitutional political ideologies which have structured and restructured the territorial politics of Ireland and the UK. From Union, through Irish partition and independence, devolution, and the Good Friday Agreement, to Brexit and Scotland’s potential secession from the UK, this module examines the arguments and thought used to justify claims for constitutional change and defend the status quo on these islands.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

2022 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Irish Free State’s secession from the United Kingdom. It also marks the creation of the current territorial configuration of the UK. For the first 50 years following the IFS’s secession from the Union, British policy makers assumed the ‘Irish question’ closed - an attitude that was not entirely overcome with the onset of Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’. It has only been in the last decade that constitutional politics has come to the forefront of the British political imagination with Brexit and to a particular extent the issue of Scottish independence. What Brexit has recently illustrated is that Irish politics is not discrete from the constitutional fundamentals of the UK polity, nor is constitutional politics a one-off or peripheral issue, but a live and central concern in these islands. This serves as the departure point for this module which examines the constitutional ideologies that have structured and restructured the territorial configuration of these islands - Unionism(s); Irish Republicanism(s); British, English, Irish and Scottish nationalisms to name a few. The module will examine the ways in which the polities of Ireland and the UK have been made and remade, asking questions including whether Ireland’s departure from the Union was an act of decolonisation; if power-sharing in Northern Ireland and Brexit are democratic; and if Irish unity and Scottish independence should take place. The module takes an interdisciplinary approach drawing on literature and methods from Irish, British and intellectual history, democratic political theory, comparative political science and law. The module should be of interest, therefore, to hist-pol students and those who have enjoyed studying political theory and comparative and British politics at stages one and two.

Module learning outcomes

Demonstrate knowledge of the constitutional ideologies which structure politics on these islands, both historically and in application to contemporary debates (PLO1)

The ability to appreciate and critically evaluate the arguments presented by these positions (PLO2)

Present arguments and advanced ideas from the module in summative written work (PLO5)

Reflect on the ethical and political implications of holding differing constitutional positions in light of the values such as tolerance, sustainability and inclusivity (PLO6)

Module content

Likely structure to include:

  1. Union or internal colony?

  2. Unionism

  3. Irish Republicanism

  4. Home Rule all round? Devolution in the British Empire and UK

  5. Good Friday Agreement

  6. UKEXIT (or ‘Brexit’ so called)

  7. British nationhood and Scottish independence

  8. Irish Reunification


Task Length % of module mark
Critical Reflection
N/A 20
N/A 80

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Critical Reflection
N/A 20
N/A 80

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 25 working days; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

  • Bourke, R. (2003) Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas. London: Pimlico.

  • Whyte, J. (1990) Interpreting Northern Ireland. Oxford: Clarendon.

  • Kenny, M. (2014) The Politics of English Nationhood. Oxford: OUP.

  • O’Leary, B. (2019) A Treatise on Northern Ireland. Oxford: OUP.

  • Colley, L. (2014) Acts of Union and Disunion. London: Profile.

  • Jackson, B. (2020) The Case of Scottish Independence. Cambridge: CUP.

  • McHargh, A., Mullen, T., Page, A., & Walker, N. (2016) The Scottish Independence Referendum. Oxford: OUP

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.