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Race, Racism and Resistance in Modern Britain (HI2D4)


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Module Convenor: Dr Simon Peplow

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Module Description

While there is currently great uncertainty surrounding issues of race and migration in the post-Brexit era, it is impossible to deny the long history of migration into Britain. For example, Zig Layton-Henry summarised that ‘Throughout its history Britain, especially England, has been a destination for immigrants and refugees’ (The Politics of Immigration, 1992). Following an introductory overview of earlier migration movements to consider wider contexts, this 30 CATS undergraduate second-year option module examines histories of race, ethnicity, and migration in modern Britain. Beginning with the nineteenth-century migration of people fleeing poverty and the Great Famine in Ireland, it takes a roughly chronological approach by charting major events and debates, including: the 1919 racist riots; various legislative measures designed both to limit immigration and (apparently) improve domestic ‘race relations’; anti-racism and the British Black Power and Asian Youth Movements; and how ideas of ‘Britishness’ have been (re)constructed in multicultural Britain.

Throughout, this module examines a wide range of key themes - particularly focusing on the experiences of people often omitted from histories of modern Britain, how immigration has influenced Britain and what it means to be British, and why some migrants appear to be more welcome than others. Through engaging with a wide range of sources, we explore changing notions of race, levels of racism and discrimination, and acts of resistance – not just public, organised movements or ‘visible’ events, but also private and subtle acts that demonstrate opposition to racism and unequal power structures in Britain. As education is neither neutral nor apolitical, this module implements an anti-racist pedagogical approach focused on challenging dynamics of power and dominant ideologies that reinforce systems and cultures of racial inequality in the classroom and wider society.

This module does not assume prior knowledge of the topic, and encourages students to engage with both the existing secondary literature and the wide range of sources available to conduct their own examination into this important and relevant aspect of modern Britain – including oral history interviews, songs, pamphlets, letters, police reports, government records, and other materials held by the Modern Records Centre.

Student Reviews

  • "I really loved and appreciated the lectures and I thought they offered just the right balance between context, content and historiography and I also thought the seminars were the best out of any module I have taken at uni so far in staying focused on the actual topic but remaining really engaging and interesting at the same time."
  • "The things that have had the most impact on my learning are the brilliant reading list/the general availability of and sign-posting to resources for learning and essays, and the willingness of the seminar tutor to help you pursue your areas of interest within the module."
  • "The use of engaging primary sources [both in seminars and during trips to the Modern Records Centre] has really enhanced my learning, and as a result this has been my favourite module of university so far."
  • "It’s a subject I’ve never studied before and it’s really interesting."

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of modern British race, ethnicity and migration history.
  • Generate ideas through the analysis of a broad range of primary source material.
  • Communicate ideas and findings, adapting to a range of situations, audiences and degrees of complexity.
  • Analyse and evaluate the contributions made by existing multidisciplinary scholarship.
  • Act with limited supervision and direction within defined guidelines, accepting responsibility for achieving deadlines.


  • 1500 word essay (10%).
  • 3000 word essay (40%).
  • Timed Take-home Assessment (40%).
  • Seminar Contribution (10%).