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Unit information: Keeping the Red Flag Flying? Labour Party Thought and Practice, 1945-83. (Level C Special Topic) in 2015/16

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Unit name Keeping the Red Flag Flying? Labour Party Thought and Practice, 1945-83. (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14028
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. James Freeman
Open unit status Not open



HIST13003 Special Topic Project

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines the relationship between the British Labour Party's political thought and practice between its landslide victory in the general election of 1945 and the electoral disaster of 1983. It aims to develop an understanding of the intellectual currents that underpinned the party's political thought and to analyse the episodes and events that shaped its development in this key period in its history. Key themes covered include the party's political identity, the conflict between idealism and pragmatism in debates over party policy, and the restraints of both the party's structure and the British political system. We will look at four main periods: the lead-up to the 1945 election and the Attlee governments, 1945-1951; the ascendency of revisionist ideas in the 1950s; the degree to which New Left thinking affected the Wilson governments, 1964-70; and internal party conflict and the rise of the left between 1974 and 1983.


  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of academic tutors and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.
  • To introduce students to working with primary sources
  • To introduce students to issues relating to setting primary sources in their wider context
  • To introduce students to the practice of learning independently within a small-group context.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • deepened their understanding of the political development of the British Labour Party
  • identified and analysed the significance of key themes in that development significance
  • understood the historiographical debates that surround the history of the Labour Party
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from a small-group environment.

Teaching Information

  • Weekly 2-hour seminar
  • Tutorial feedback on essay
  • Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Information

1 x 2 hour exam

Reading and References

  • C.A.R. Crosland, The Future of Socialism (London: Cape, 1956)
  • S. Holland, The Socialist Challenge (London: Quartet, 1975)
  • D. Marquand, The Progressive Dilemma (London: Heinemann, 1992)
  • E. Shaw, The Labour Party Since 1945: Old Labour, New Labour (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)
  • A Thorpe, A History of the British Labour Party (London: Palgrave, 2001)
  • Labour Party, The New Hope for Britain: 1983 Election Manifesto (London: Labour Party, 1983)