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Unit information: Political Culture and Communication in Britain, 1867-1939 (Level I Special Field) in 2020/21

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Unit name Political Culture and Communication in Britain, 1867-1939 (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HIST26015
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Thompson
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

Recent years have seen revolutionary changes in our understanding of modern British political and intellectual history. Grand narratives of the rise of class, the growth of party, and the nationalisation of politics have come under increasing pressure. The enduring strength of a liberal free trade political culture has been repeatedly emphasised. This unit responds to these developments by examining the nature of political culture and communication in the years traditionally seen as those in which modern British politics was made.

The unit has four main themes. The first concerns the nature of popular politics, particularly attitudes to party and to violence. The second major theme is the relationship between politicians and the public. This is approached through the study party propaganda, both visual and literary. The period also sees significant developments in the modes of communication by which activists sought to build constituencies of support. Contemporary efforts to conceptualise such developments furnish a fourth object of study. The aim throughout is to understand political action as the self-conscious product of a complex and various culture.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the modern history of British political culture and communication
  2. Understand and use historical methods specific to the study of British political culture and communication.
  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
  5. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I.

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of 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 3500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

  • James Thompson, British Political Culture and the Idea of 'Public Opinion' (2013)
  • Laura Beers, Your Britain: Media And The Making of the Labour Party (2010)
  • Aled Jones, Powers of the press: newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth-century England (1996)
  • Patrick Joyce, Democratic subjects: the self and the social in nineteenth century England (1994)
  • Jon Lawrence, Speaking for the people: party, language and popular politics in Britain, 1867-1914 (1998)
  • Alan Lee, The origins of the popular press in England 1855-1914 (1976)