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Britain in the 1970s: Between New Society and No Society (HI399)

Module Leader

Professor Mathew Thomson
Office: Room 3.69 Faculty of Arts Building
Please note this module runs over two terms.

Seminars: Wednesdays 11-1; Thursday 11-1; or Thursday 2-4


This optional 30 CATs module examines modern British history through an in-depth focus on a long 1970s (reaching back to the 1960s and looking forwards to the 1980s at several points). The 70s has often been seen as a time of social and national crisis, key in destabilisation of the post-war settlement and in bringing about a turn to the right from 1979 under Margaret Thatcher. Others have pointed out that the decade saw levels of equality at an historical high and that the experience for many was of social security, on the one hand, and liberation, on the other (albeit tendencies that were arguably in tension). Until recently, there was little historical work that took us into such recent realms of national history, but the period is now fast emerging as a focus for exciting new historical research. You will have the opportunity to engage with the emerging debates and to make your own contribution through original research.

The module is taught through weekly two-hour seminars. Two introductory seminars will introduce you to the historical debates about the period. A series of 'Framework' seminars will introduce you to developments in the areas of political, social and economic history and will call on you to think outwards from the raw material of primary sources and evidence. We will then turn to a series of detailed 'Case Studies', which we will tackle as collaborative mini research projects, drawing on recent historical writing but also a rich variety of primary sources. A final set of 'Synthesis' seminars will involve you in pulling together our findings on the 'case studies' into a series of broader, connected thematic analyses and arguments about this period of British history. You will be assessed through three essays, one focusing on each section of the module, the first contributing 10% of your final mark, the second and third 40% each. The first will build upon your work in the Introductory and Framework Seminars. The second will focus on a Case Study and will involve extensive primary source analysis (it may take one of the sources that we have examined or you may select your own, inspired by one of the seminars). The third will develop a broader argument about the period drawing on work across the module as a whole and engaging with the theme and material of one of the four 'Synthesis' seminars. A final 10% of your mark will be based on participation across the module as a whole.