Skip to main content

IP202 Brexitland: British Political Culture in an Age of Neonationalism

Dr Mike Finn
Module Leader
Term 1
10 weeks

Moodle Platform »

This module is not running in 2017/18

Principal Aims

Brexitland examines contemporary British political culture through the historical context of the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. It will situate the referendum in the longue dureé, emphasising its status as a critical discursive rupture in British political culture, which can be read across languages of nationalism, imperial decline, economic insecurity and technological change.

Through the interrogation of diverse source materials, from popular culture, including film, television and sport, to ‘high culture’ and contemporary news reportage, key questions of British identity and self-understanding will be explored. Whilst attention will be paid to empirical findings from political science, this module will model a broad, inclusive definition of political culture which will enable students to trace the full implications of Britain’s Brexit vote.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

  • Acquired an in-depth understanding of key features and issues in British political culture;
  • Acquired an in-depth understanding of the role of historical vocabularies in British political culture;
  • Examined the social and political implications of Britain’s EU referendum decision of 23rd June 2016;
  • Examined the rhetorical space occupied by the military in public political discourses and popular memory;
  • Developed an ability to critically examine and critique concepts of nationhood, culture, citizenship and identity through a transdisciplinary approach;
  • Developed an ability to use methodologies from political science, history, sociology, social anthropology and cultural studies to analyse contemporary political events in historical perspective;
  • Developed an ability to critically assess interventions in political debate in the public sphere by situated actors.


I. Brexit means…what? 23rd June 2016 and its aftermath
  1. Independence Day? 23rd June 2016 as a discursive rupture
  2. Political culture and political change: The shifting electoral context
  3. Understanding Brexit: Paradigms and their discontents
  4. Brexit and the media
  5. ‘Theresa Maybe’: Reading Brexit in the aftermath
II. Back to the future: British political culture
  1. Our Island Story: The sacralisation of history
  2. Poppy fascism: The rhetorical place of the military in public life
  3. ‘Our ancient constitution’: Law, myth and reality in British political culture
  4. The monarchy idea of sovereignty
  5. Nobody does it better: British exceptionalism and Brexit

Reading List

I. Brexit means…what? 23rd June 2016 and its aftermath

Arron Banks, The Bad Boys of Brexit. London, 2016.
Rob Brown, ‘Brexit and the press: A project 25 years in the making’, Political Quarterly, 2017.
Ian Dunt, Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? London, 2016.
Mike Finn, ‘Paradigm shift’, Political Insight, 2016.
Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin, Revolt on the Right. London, 2014.
Andrew Glencross, Why the UK Voted for Brexit: David Cameron’s Great Miscalculation. London, 2016.
Gary Gibbons, Breaking Point. London, 2016.
Craig Oliver, Unleashing Demons. London, 2016.
Denis MacShane, Brexit. London, 2016.
Tim Shipman, All Out War. London, 2016.

II. Back to the future: British political culture

Roland Barthes, Mythologies. London, 1973.
Patrick Bishop, 3 PARA. London, 2008.
Angus Calder, The Myth of the Blitz. London, 1992.
David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire. London, 2000.
David Cannadine, In Churchill’s Shadow: Confronting the Past in Modern Britain. London, 2001.
David Cannadine, Jenny Keating and Nicola Sheldon,The Right Kind of History. London, 2011.
Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837. London, 1992.
Mike Finn and Anthony Seldon, ‘Constitutional reform since 1997: The historians perspective’, in Matt Qvortrup (ed.), The British Constitution: Continuity and Change. Oxford, 2013.
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford, 1975.
Michael Paris, Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850-2000. London, 2000.
Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years. London, 1992.
Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning. Cambridge, 1995.