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Beatles to Blair: Britain since 1960

  • Module code: HS6004
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: Year 6
  • Credits: 30.00
  • Pre-requisites: Successful completion of required modules at level five.
  • Co-requisites: None


This module explores the social, cultural and political history of Britain from 1960 to the present day.  Particular weight will be attached to considering the changes and continuities in ordinary people's lives and leisure in this period, through an examination of the impact of such phenomena as the Beatles, Eastenders and Facebook.  These cultural aspects will be complemented by an evaluation of the role of such social factors as class, gender, ethnicity, and education as well as the place of individual character in influencing people's experiences and opportunities.  The inter-action between socio-cultural changes and politics will also be a major theme, with analysis of changes in government policy, ideology and leadership style from Harold Wilson through Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair.  The issue of a changing British national identity and character will also be addressed.  This is contemporary history, with a firm emphasis on the relationship between the near past and the present, encouraging students also to reflect on their own experiences of a very recent period of history.  A range of contemporary sources, including film, television, music and memoir will be used to foster engagement with the period.  This is also an era increasingly attracting the attention of historians both of society and political culture, and this growing historiography will be analysed, with a particular focus on debates over the leisure, habits and attitudes of 'the people'. 


  • To develop students' understanding of the changes and continuities in ordinary people's lives and experiences since 1960, and in particular how culture, society and politics inter-acted to influence those lives.
  • To enable students to critically analyse the debates between historians on this period, in particular in the spheres of political culture and social history.
  • To equip students with the skills to critically evaluate a range of primary sources relevant to contemporary British history, and to communicate their ideas clearly and analytically.
  • To encourage students to reflect on the relationship between past and present in a period of contemporary history through which they have themselves lived.



Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the changes and continuities in British life since 1960, and of the inter-connectedness of cultural, social and political history.
  • Synthesise and critically analyse historiographical debates on this period.
  • Critically evaluate a variety of contemporary sources, and express their ideas fluently and analytically in written form.
  • Display evidence of awareness of the relationship between past and present in this period of contemporary British history.

Curriculum content

  • Cultural change and its limits in the 1960s and 1970s eg the Beatles, Coronation Street and Punk.
  • Comprehensive schools, Enoch Powell's 'River of Blood' speech, and the Women's Liberation movement.
  • Harold Wilson and the 'white heat' of technological revolution.
  • Margaret Thatcher and Thatcherism's roots in, and impact upon British society.
  • Prosperity, poverty, and social divisions in the 1980s: the Brixton riots, miners' strike, and poll tax riots.
  • Leisure and culture in the 1980s: Eastenders, home computers, Live Aid.
  • New Labour and Tony Blair's 'third way'; educational expansion and opportunity.
  • Race, religion, and morality in contemporary Britain: 'Back to Basics', the London bombings, the London riots.
  • Culture and technological change: the social impact of Facebook, the X Factor, and 'Americanisation'.
  • Changes and continuities in British identities and national character.

Teaching and learning strategy

Course delivery will be via weekly lectures and seminars, with a broadly chronological approach to the different developments over the period.  Lectures will introduce students to each topic, and in particular to relevant debates amongst historians.  Connections will also be drawn between topics, identifying links between social, cultural and political changes.  Seminars are for a deepening of the topic, with students' participation and engagement to the fore.  There will be four main types of seminar.  Debate seminars will encourage students to prepare, articulate and debate different sides of key historiographical debates.  Source seminars will enable students to evaluate and discuss a range of primary evidence relevant to that week's topic, including music, television, and memoir.  Group presentation seminars will invite groups to present on a particular, focused historical question followed by whole class discussion of this.  Skills seminars will include discussion and advice about essays and exams, including a range of self-assessment exercises to prepare for, and feed forward for these.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive KIS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 one-hour keynote lectures 22
Scheduled learning and teaching 22 one-hour seminars 22
Guided independent study 256 hours of guided independent study 256
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Summative assessment is by means of a 1500-word essay submitted at the midway stage of the module, worth 40% of the total module mark, followed by an unseen two-hour examination at the end of the module, worth 60%.  The examination will consist of an essay and a series of short answers on primary source extracts.  These are directed at achieving the learning outcomes.  Essays offer students the opportunity to write at length on questions of interest to them, enabling them to display an appreciation of historical changes and continuities, and analyse historiographical debates.  The examination at the end will allow students to reflect on their learning from the whole module, and thus to draw connections between past and present.  The examination will also test students' evaluation of primary sources.

Formative feedback, and feed forward will come in the form of: tutor's comments on group presentations; preparation and discussion of primary source material from which examination extracts will be drawn; and a tutor-guided self-assessment exercise both when completing the first essay, and after the tutor's comments on it, encouraging students to reflect on strengths, and points that could be improved for the final essay. 

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Demonstrate understanding of the changes and continuities in British life since 1960, and of the inter-connectedness of cultural, social and political history. Assessed formatively by the group presentations and self-assessment exercise, and summatively by the in-course and examination essays.
Synthesise and critically analyse historiographical debates on this period. Assessed formatively by the self-assessment exercise, and summatively by the in-course and examination essays.
Critically evaluate a variety of contemporary sources, and express their ideas fluently and analytically in written form. Assessed formatively by the primary source preparation exercise, and summatively by the source extract answers in the examination.
Display evidence of awareness of the relationship between past and present in this period of contemporary British history. Assessed formatively by the group presentations and self-assessment exercise, and summatively by both essays.

Breakdown of Major Categories of Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment Name Assessment Weighting
CWK Essay 40
EXWR Exam 60
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Carnevali, F and Strange, J.-M (2007). Twentieth-Century Britain: Economic, Cultural and Social Change. Pearson.

Marwick, A (2003). British Society Since 1945. Penguin.

Pugh, M (2008). State and Society: a social and political history of Britain since 1870. Hodder Arnold. 

Bibliography recommended reading

Addison, P and Jones, H (eds.) (2005). A Companion to Contemporary Britain 1939-2000 Blackwell.

Clarke, P (1997). Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-1990. Penguin. 

Halsey, AH and Webb, J (eds.) (2000). Twentieth-Century British Social Trends. Macmillan. 

Lawrence, J (2009). Electing Our Masters. The Hustings in British Politics From Hogarth to Blair. Oxford University Press. 

Mandler, P (2006). The English National Character. The History of An Idea from Edmund Burke To Tony Blair. Yale University Press. 

Nuttall, J (2006). Psychological Socialism. The Labour Party and qualities of mind and character, 1931 to the present. Manchester University Press. 

Obelkevich, J and Catterall, P (eds.) (1994). Understanding Post-War British Society. Routledge.

Panayi, P (2010). An Immigration History of Britain. Pearson. 

Shaw, E (2007). Losing Labour’s Soul?: New Labour and The Blair Government 1997-2007. Routledge.

Zweiniger-Bargielowska, I (2001). Women in Twentieth-Century Britain. Longman.

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