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HI31G - The Birth of Modern Society? Britain 1660-1720

  • Module code: HI31G
  • Module name: The Birth of Modern Society? Britain 1660-1720
  • Department: History
  • Credit: 30

Content and teaching | Assessment | Availability

Module content and teaching

Principal aims

This module examines how far the period 1670 to 1720 – the age of Isaac Newton, Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift – marked a period of transition from an ‘early modern’ to a ‘modern society’. This was the period in which ‘Britain’ was formed (after England’s union with Scotland in 1707), and in which the impact of two major revolutions was assimilated. We will study, through a close engagement with primary sources, the emergence of a free press, the power of public opinion, intense party rivalries, novel forms of journalism, an innovative literary culture that saw the birth of the novel, a scientific revolution and an early enlightenment in ideas and beliefs. The module explores claims that in politics, religion, the economy, science, ideas, nationhood, culture and society, Britain witnessed transformative change, the legacy of which we still face today.

Principal learning outcomes

Intended learning outcomes: A good knowledge of the period and of the key debates surrounding it; Improved skills in communication, both written and oral; an understanding of how the critical analysis of sources contributes to historical debate, and a capacity to undertake such analysis; An understanding of the key social, political and cultural forces shaping a clearly-defined historical period; A capacity to handle different types of historical evidence.; A critical and reflexive appreciation of the way that the meaning of history is continuously rewritten, re-remembered and contested.

Timetabled teaching activities

Weekly seminars.

Departmental link

Module assessment

Assessment group Assessment name Percentage
30 CATS (Module code: HI31G-30)
D (Assessed/examined work) Oral Participation 10%
  Essay 10%
  Essay 40%
  Exam 40%
VA (Visiting students only) 100% assessment visiting/exchange (NOT IN USE) 100%

Module availability

This module is available on the following courses:



Optional Core


  • Undergraduate History (V100) - Year 3
  • Undergraduate History (with Year Abroad) (V101) - Year 4
  • Undergraduate History and Sociology (VL13) - Year 3
  • Undergraduate History and Sociology (with Year Abroad) (VL14) - Year 4
  • Undergraduate History and Politics (VM11) - Year 3
  • Undergraduate History and Politics (with Year Abroad) (VM12) - Year 4