HST6052: Stories of Activism, 1960 to the Present

Stories of Activism

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Spring)

Module Leader 2019-20: Dr Lucy Brown


Module Summary

'This module examines how and why people have fought for change, and considers how effective their campaigns have been, how they were portrayed by the media, and how they were treated by national and local authorities. We explore local case studies using papers from Sheffield Archives, and situate them in broader work about British political culture.' Dr Adrian Bingham

This module will enable you to explore modern political and social activism by studying specific campaigns in Sheffield and beyond. You will get the opportunity to draw upon the material deposited in the ever-growing Stories of Activism archive (including oral history interviews, campaign materials and organisational records), as well as other sources, including the local press, to learn about this often untold side of Sheffield's history. Potential areas of study include trade unionism, employment and labour rights; women's issues, environmentalism, community-building; and peace, refugees and human rights. You will learn how to analyse local activism using perspectives from the broader literature on democratic culture and social movements.

Module aims

This module will enable you to develop a critical understanding of modern political activism by examining local case studies. You will deepen your knowledge of public history and oral history, learn how to situate local examples in a national and/or international framework, and develop your skills of primary source analysis. You will learn to evaluate the historiography on political activism and social movements. Seminars will provide a forum for you to make and defend your arguments orally.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to demonstrate:

  • A detailed knowledge of a specific political or social campaign in Sheffield and be able to relate it to a broader national and/or international context;
  • A critical understanding of the historiography on political activism and social movements;
  • An awareness of the methodological possibilities and implications of public history, local history and oral history;
  • An ability to formulate and articulate historical arguments both orally, before the members of the seminar, and in written form in assessed work;
  • Interpersonal skills and the ability to engage in cooperative group learning in seminar discussions of interpretive issues;
  • Strong bibliographical skills in various media.


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five two-hour classes. Each seminar will focus on a particular theme which will be discussed comparatively, drawing on preparatory reading. Primary sources will be provided for some of the sessions. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a 3,000 word paper which treats one of the topics studied in the seminars for this module. You will be expected to draw on a thorough knowledge of the secondary literature. You will be encouraged, via a reading list and your tutorial, to investigate primary material on which to base your argument. 


Selected reading

  • Donatella Della Porta, Social Movements: An Introduction (Oxford, 2006)
  • Pippa Norris, Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism (Cambridge, 2002)
  • Adam Lent, British Social Movements since 1945: Sex, Colour, Peace and Power (Basingstoke, 2001)
  • Paul Byrne, Social Movements in Britain (London, 1997)
  • C. Binfield et al., The History of the City of Sheffield 1843-1993, 3 vols (Sheffield, 1993)
  • D. Hey, A History of Sheffield (Preston, 2005)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.