HST290: Disunited Kingdom: Cultures and Communities in Twentieth-Century Britain

20 credits (semester 2)

Module Leader: Dr. Clare Griffiths


Pass in at least two of the Level One modules offered by the Department of History.

Module Summary

Ideas about national identity normally focus on the things which unite a country and are held in common. Notions of 'Britishness' in the modern period have often emphasised the coherence and traditional nature of British culture and the resilience of the political system, yet, throughout the twentieth century, there were many influences which raised questions about the nation, its character, and the sources of power within it. Through lectures and seminars, this module offers an opportunity to engage with some of the important debates about social, cultural, political and economic development in Britain during the twentieth century. The themes of the course include: changing experiences of class; industrial action and popular protests; nationalist movements and new versions of national identity; the rise of interest groups; the rural / urban divide; regionalism and devolution; challenges to the political system; race, religion and multiculturalism.


One lecture and one seminar per week.


The word limit for essays includes footnotes, but excludes the bibliography.

Selected Reading
  • Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-2002 (2004)
  • G. R. Searle, A New England? Peace and war, 1886-1918 (2004)
  • Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures (2000)
  • Brian Harrison, Seeking a Role: the United Kingdom 1951-1970 (2009)
  • Kenneth O. Morgan, Britain Since 1945: The People's Peace (Oxford, 2001)
  • David Powell, Nationhood and Identity: The British State Since 1800 (2002)
  • Robert Colls, Identity of England (2004)

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with the main themes in twentieth-century British history and a confidence in deploying that knowledge.
  • Engage with the debates in the relevant secondary literature.
  • Analyse critically the character of national and other identities in the past.
  • Show an ability to master the detail of topics, and to place them in a broader context.
  • Discuss and present ideas in seminar classes.
  • Apply skills and knowledge in structuring arguments and producing clear, informed and independent essays.