Losing an Empire, Finding a Role: Britain Since 1945 (HIH1002)

StaffKeith McLoughlin - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to the important themes in contemporary British history; of how post-colonialism, social change and re-adjustment to a new international role after the Second World War continues to shape debates around Britain’s recent past. Students will learn to interpret and analyse documents, films and literature that sheds light on how social and political events were perceived at the time. They will also learn of the vibrant historiographical debates that have occurred around contemporary British history, and will be require to critically assess the idea of ‘decline’ that has been apparent in many analyses of this period.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the political and social changes in Britain since 1945.
  • 2. Analyse social, cultural and economic change in Britain from a variety of perspectives, from government to social history.
  • 3. Develop a critical appreciation of history-writing on modern Britain, and in particular develop a critical ability to question the idea of ‘decline’ in contemporary British history.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

  1. Introduction: The Effects of the Second World War

  2. Forging the Welfare State

  3. Foreign Policy in the Cold War

  4. The White Heat: Modernising Britain

  5. A Civilised or Permissive Society?

  6. Britain and Europe

  7. In Place of Strife: The Crises of Industrial Relations

  8. The Rise of Scottish and Welsh Nationalism

  9. Multi-Cultural Britain

  10. The ‘End of Consensus’ and the ‘New Right’

  11. Conclusions: New Labour, New Britain? Evaluating the Post-War Experience

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Paul Addison & Harriet Jones, A Companion to Contemporary Britain, 1939-2000 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).

David Childs, Britain since 1945 (Oxford: Routledge, 2012).

Richard English & Michael Kenny (eds.), Rethinking British Decline (London: Macmillan, 2000).

Jonathan Hollowell (ed.), Britain since 1945 (London: Blackwell, 2003).

Peter Leese, Britain since 1945: Aspects of Identity (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006).

Rodney Lowe, The Welfare State in Britain since 1945 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Alex May, Britain and Europe since 1945 (Oxford: Routledge, 1999).

Andrew Marr, A History of Modern Britain (London: Macmillan, 2007).

Kenneth O. Morgan, Britain since 1945: The Peoples’ Peace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

David Reynolds, Britannia Overruled: British Policy and World Power in the Twentieth Century (Oxford, Routledge, 2013).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Exeter University Historical Newspapers http://as.exeter.ac.uk/library/subjectguides/philosophy/newspapers/historicalnewspapersavailableonline/

Hansard House of Commons Debates, http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/

Online Accessible British Government Cabinet Minutes http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/cabinet-gov/meetings-papers.htm

British Political Speech http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm

British Pathé, http://www.britishpathe.com/

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Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Britain, 1945, Political, Social, Post-Colonial, Cold War, Europe, Decline