HST680: Media and Political Culture in Modern Britain

The Reading Bench

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Spring)

Module Leader: Dr David Vessey


Module Summary

This module explores the ways in which the media have shaped and reflected political culture in Britain since 1945. You will examine and assess the different political traditions of the press and the broadcast media which led to the former producing unapologetically partisan coverage and the latter striving for impartiality and balance. Themes to be studied include: political communication during general election campaigns; the reporting of industrial relations; the coverage of war and political violence; the increased scrutiny of the private lives of politicians; and the supposed decline of political reporting in favour of celebrity and entertainment content.

Module aims

This module aims to enable you to understand and evaluate the ways in which the media have shaped and reflected political culture in Britain since 1945. You will undertake a structured programme of reading, presentation and discussion, exploring the different political traditions of the print and broadcast media and analysing key debates about their impact on political affiliation and political discourse in recent decades. As well as discussing the relevant historiography, you will assess a variety of approaches and theories from other academic disciplines, including sociology, politics, cultural studies and media studies. The module therefore serves as an introduction to the history of the media and political culture for those wishing to develop interdisciplinary approaches towards the study of the modern Britain.

Learning outcomes

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

  1. A detailed understanding of the ways in which the media have shaped and reflected political culture in Britain since 1945;
  2. The ability to distinguish between and critically evaluate different schools of interpretation and historical debate on the media and political culture in Britain;
  3. An awareness of the contribution made by sociology, media and cultural studies to our understanding of media and politics in modern Britain;
  4. A practical understanding of the problems and opportunities associated with the use and interpretation of media content as evidence by historians;
  5. The ability to elaborate and defend an intellectual position to other members of the seminar group as well as presenting scholarly arguments and historiographical debates to them.


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour seminars, each focusing on a particular theme. You will engage in detail with the issues debated in the secondary literature, and will also focus on the close analysis of primary sources. Seminars will enable you to share knowledge, debate controversial issues and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment. You will, in addition, have an individual tutorial in which to discuss the work you will write for assessment for this module.



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

You will prepare a paper (not more than 3000 words) which demonstrates an ability to handle bibliographical resources and which explores one of the key themes raised by your study of the media and political culture in modern Britain.


Selected reading

  • Michael Bailey, (ed.), Narrating Media History (London, 2008)
  • Martin Conboy, Journalism: A Critical History (London, 2004)
  • Andrew Crisell, An Introductory History of British Broadcasting (2nd edn., London, 2002)
  • James Curran, ‘Rival Narratives of Media History’, in J. Curran, Media and Power (London, 2002)
  • James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without Responsibility: The Press, Broadcasting and New Media in Britain (7th edn., London, 2009) [ebook]
  • J.E.T. Eldridge, J. Kitzinger and K. Williams, The Mass Media and Power in Modern Britain (Oxford, 1997)
  • Colin Seymour-Ure, The Press and Broadcasting since 1945 (2nd edn., Oxford, 1996)
  • Mick Temple, The British Press (Maidenhead, 2008) [ebook]
  • Jeremy Tunstall, Newspaper Power: The New National Press in Britain (Oxford, 1996)
  • Kevin Williams, Get Me a Murder a Day! A History of Mass Communications in Britain (London, 1998)
  • Kevin Williams, Read all about it! A History of the British Newspaper (London, 2009)



*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.