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Unit information: The Development of the Modern Mass Media: Disciplining Democracy (Level H Lecture Response Unit) in 2016/17

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Unit name The Development of the Modern Mass Media: Disciplining Democracy (Level H Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST30012
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Potter
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores the development of the modern mass media from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, focusing on Britain, but also glancing at the wider English-speaking world. During this period, the modern mass media took on many of the features so familiar to us today: production on an industrial scale; close links with the worlds of advertising on the one hand, and politics on the other; the targeting of particular markets, including women as a discrete group of consumers; a fascination with sex, violence and scandal; and a tendency to claim to serve the best interests of democracy. The unit aims to subject these developments to critical scrutiny, and also to examine the concepts that historians have worked with when thinking about the role of the mass media in society, such as ‘hegemony’ and the idea of a ‘public sphere’. The unit will allow students to work with on-line digital newspaper archives to pursue their own research. We will look at the history of newspapers and broadcasting, examining how media enterprises and authorities such as The Times and the BBC have established themselves as ‘national’ institutions, and how other, perhaps more liberating, influences have struggled to find a voice.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • To provide a broad grounding in the history of the mass media.
  • To provide a particular perspective from the tutor to which students can react critically and build their own individual views and interpretations.
  • To enable students to think historically, and for themselves, about the role of the mass media in modern society, culture and politics.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour interactive lecture sessions

Tutorial feedback on essay

Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in consultation hours

Assessment Information

A 3000 word essay (50%) and 2-hour unseen written examination (50%) will assess the student’s understanding of the ways in which historians have interpreted developments in the field; test the student’s ability to think critically and develop their own views and interpretations; and test their ability to work with on-line digital newspaper archives.

Reading and References

Kevin Williams, Get me a Murder a Day! A History of Media and Communication in Britain (London and New York, 2010, 2nd edn)

James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without Responsibility: press, broadcasting, and the internet in Britain (7th ed. London, 2009)

Mark Hampton, Visions of the Press in Britain, 1850-1950 (Urbana and Chicago, 2004)

Adrian Bingham, Gender, Modernity, and the Popular Press in Inter-war Britain (Oxford, 2004)

D. L. LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy: mass communication and the cultivated mind in Britain between the wars (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988)

Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff, A Social History of British Broadcasting: volume one 1922-1939 serving the nation (Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1991)