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HIST1671: A Divided United Kingdom, 1851-1997

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run in each academic year. Each module description relates to the year indicated in the module availability box, and this may change from year to year, due to, for example: changing staff expertise, disciplinary developments, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Current modules are subject to change in light of the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19.

Type Open
Level 1
Credits 20
Availability Not available in 2023/24
Module Cap None.
Location Durham
Department History


  • Normally an A or B grade in A-Level History, or an acceptable equivalent (e.g. in terms of Scottish Highers or lB)


  • None

Excluded Combinations of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the key themes and developments in the political, social and cultural history of the United Kingdom
  • To enable students to understand the historical roots of much contemporary politics and society
  • To place a strong emphasis on exploring primary sources which will enable students to appreciate how contemporaries understood their own lives and society


  • This module will explore the United Kingdom between 1851 and 1997 around the three major themes of National Life, Unequal Lives, and Private Lives in a broadly chronological fashion. National Life will explore: how the mid-nineteenth century age of equipoise was established, and how it was extended or transformed by the tensions created by a democratising nation-state which nonetheless continued with the deeply embedded features of an ancien regime; how the relationship between centre and periphery, one national, imperial Parliament and four kingdoms was managed in the face of nationalist movements, economic dislocation and the challenge of total war; how the differing resource-allocation priorities of a warfare state and a welfare state were negotiated; and how the fear and reality of decline (e.g. late Victorian fears of deterioration, and economic and decline) impacted on political life. Unequal Lives will examine how life chances were determined by unequal access to education, employment, statutory and voluntary support by virtue of class position, ethnicity/race, gender, geographical location and other social or spatial differences. Finally, Private Lives will examine the impulses and movements behind emancipatory gains around, say, sexuality and physical or mental disability, and the forces making for social authoritarianism and emancipatory regress.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:

  • An understanding of the issues which are addressed by modern British political, social and cultural historians.
  • An understanding of the differing conceptual frameworks informing various (competing) historiographical traditions around the modern nation-state, social inequalities and the private lives of UK subjects.

Subject-specific Skills:

  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at:

Key Skills:

  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at:

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • Lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • Seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Lectures21weekly in terms 1 & 2; revision lectures1 hour21 
Seminars73 in term one, 3 in term two; pre-seminar consultations1 hour7Yes
Preparation and Reading172 

Summative Assessment

Component: ExaminationComponent Weighting: 60%
ElementLength / DurationElement WeightingResit Opportunity
Examination2 hours100 
Component: EssayComponent Weighting: 40%
ElementLength / DurationElement WeightingResit Opportunity

Formative Assessment

A written assignment of 1500-2000 words to be submitted in Michaelmas

More information

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