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Britain in the Twentieth Century: A Social History (HI180)

Various items from the Modern Record Centre's collections on twentieth century Britain.

Module Description

This 30 CATS undergraduate first-year option module explores the history of Britain in the twentieth century from a social history perspective. It pays special attention to the experiences and everyday lives of ‘the people’, rather than focusing on the actions of a powerful elite. It introduces students to historiographical, methodological and political approaches associated with social history, such as ‘history from below’, labour history and the history of everyday life, critically examining them in light of feminist and postcolonial scholarship. It examines how gender, race and class united and divided ‘the British people’ and has shaped British identity. It examines the roles of social change, war, empire, culture, and politics in the construction of the nation. It considers the relationship between British identity and that of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, and it concludes with examination of the roles of history and the heritage industry in the narration of the nation. Throughout the module, students will be asked to reflect upon their own position as students living and studying in Britain - and how the past has shaped the world we live in today.

Teaching and Learning

This module consists of a weekly lecture and related seminar, and weekly topics can be accessed via the Module TimetableLink opens in a new window. You are expected to attend lectures and seminars, and should undertake the required preparation assigned for each seminar (this can be viewed either on the Module Moodle Page or Module Reading List). Details of the time and location of lectures and seminars can be found on Tabula. Further advice on getting the most out of lectures and seminars can be found via the History department's Undergraduate Handbook pagesLink opens in a new window.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate a broad understanding of historical and theoretical interpretations of Britain in the twentieth century, particularly regarding ideas of nation, gender, race and class.
  • Identify key historiographical debates and contributions to interpretations of Britain in the twentieth century.

  • Identify and engage with key primary sources in British history, having gained experience of reading such documents for the meanings and evidence that they contain.

  • Demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills through the delivery of a presentation.

  • Devise well-defined essay topics, construct bibliographies, collect relevant data from a variety of sources and present results in an effective fashion.


  • 1000 word historiographical review (10%)
  • 2000 word primary source analysis (30%)
  • 3000 word essay (50%)
  • Seminar participation (10%)

More information on assessments for this module is available on the Moodle page.