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Unit information: Millennial Britain in 2021/22

Unit name Millennial Britain
Unit code HIST30125
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. McLoughlin
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

In 1997 the Labour Party adopted D:Ream’s hit song, ‘Things can only get better’ as their anthem for the forthcoming general election. Was this just clever marketing, or was Britain coming through the other side of a particularly difficult period in its history?

As historians we have very clear narratives for much of the post-war period: the austerity of the late 1940s and early 1950s; 1960s affluence and the permissive society; a fractured and discordant 1970s; and a turbulent and painful economic realignment under Thatcher in the 1980s. Historians have repeatedly seen the post-war as a time in which Britain sought a new role in the face of steady economic decline, decolonisation and a diminished world status.

But what of the 1990s and 2000s? This is a period of the British past that has yet to receive thorough historical examination, in no small part due to its contemporaneous nature. Popular understandings of the period, too, seem to offer little clarity over the meaning attached to Britain as it faced the coming of the millennium. On the one hand, with the end of the Cold War, reconciliation in Northern Ireland, a period of relative economic growth and apparent political stability, it seemed that Britain had much to be positive about. Brit Pop, multiculturalism, socially progressive attitudes towards sex and sexuality all suggested that the British nation was looking forward to a bright new future with a steady sense of confidence.

And yet, this moment, if it ever existed, was surely only fleeting. A growing awareness of a detrimental human impact on the environment, fears of the millennium bug, a new global role fighting an American-inspired War on Terror, and a global financial crash signalled new challenging times ahead. Any sense of domestic harmony was countered by the anxieties that came with negotiating a truly globalised world.

This unit introduces students to the challenges of undertaking contemporary history, working at the edges of historical knowledge, and piecing together new narratives for periods that have yet to come under extended historical scrutiny. Turn of the century Britain was a place that at once seems familiar, but also now a distinctly historical place. How can we make sense of our immediate past, and its relationship to our ever-formulating present?

Unit Aims:

  • To provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the history of turn-of-the-century Britain, and the emerging historiography of this topic
  • To provide students with transferable skills appropriate to a range of employment opportunities in sectors adjacent to history.
  • To develop student’s ability to identify connections between contemporary history and present-day societal debates, issues and concerns.
  • To expose students to the range of channels through which historians can and do contribute to political discussions.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of issues, themes and tensions in contemporary British history.
  2. Discuss and evaluate the key historiographical and theoretical debates surrounding the challenges of undertaking contemporary history.
  3. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  4. Present and frame their ideas in a fashion consistent with the conventions of proposals and applications familiar to the academic world and a variety of work environments.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 2500-word Mock Proposal (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-3]


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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.