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Unit information: Decade of Discord: Britain in the 1970's (Level I Special Field) in 2021/22

Unit name Decade of Discord: Britain in the 1970's (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HIST26008
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Charnock
Open unit status Not open




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


This Special Field explores a decade commonly seen as the fulcrum around which postwar British politics moved and one of profound economic crisis and mounting social and political unrest in Britain. But had the UK really become ‘ungovernable’ by the end of the 1970s. Were the governments of the decade really as bad as they’re today commonly alleged to have been? Was it really the case that ‘trade union barons’ were increasingly running the country by 1979? During the course of this unit students will examine a range of primary sources such as memoirs and diaries, political pamphlets, government documents, TV news and light entertainment, and popular music. These will be used to assess the degree to which the 1970s can be termed the ‘decade of discord’; to evaluate the performance of Conservative and Labour governments during the decade; and to reassess today’s ‘folk memory’ of events. Seminars will examine both ‘politics from above’ through an examination of elite responses to economic and political crisis, and ‘politics from below’ in the shape of nationalism, shifting class identities, the emergence of 2nd wave feminism, and the impact of new sub-cultures. In the process, students will consider whether recent historiography is right to argue that our view of the 1970s have to some extent been politically constructed.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of Britain in the 1970s
  2. Understand and use historical methods specific to the study of contemporary history.
  3. Discuss and evaluate the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  4. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  5. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I.

Teaching details

1 x 2hr Seminar per week

1 x 1hr Seminar per week

Assessment Details

  • Portfolio Part 1: 750 word primary source analysis [10%] (ILOs 1-3)
  • Portfolio Part 2: 750 word broad question [10%] (ILOs 1-3)
  • 4000 word research project [80%] (ILOs 1-5)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

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