The Strange Death of Liberal England, 1900-1945 (HIH1003)

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

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce students to the wide range of sources available to historians of modern British political history, as well as to provide students with a critical understanding of the issues and contexts which shaped the collapse of the Liberal Party. Students taking this module will gain experience of working with a diverse range of the types of sources available to historians of early-twentieth century British politics, such as speeches, memoirs, posters, parliamentary debates, election results, campaign literature, newspaper reports, manifestos and satirical works. In particular, this module will invite students to consider how historians can move beyond the traditional interpretations of many of these sources, using evidence of the Liberal decline as a means of engaging with the wider transformations within British politics and society prior to the Second World War. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material and the context of the Liberal decline, to consider its utility and limitations, and use it to explore topics of interest to them, with students particularly encouraged to make use of the University’s digital collections in this area. In this fashion, this module will help students develop skills in research, source analysis and concise writing, providing a foundation for future work such as the third-year dissertation.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess and contextualise the nature of the Liberal Party’s decline between 1900 and 1945.
  • 2. Work critically with a varied range of sources on politics in early-twentieth century Britain, identifying their uses and drawbacks.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates surrounding political change in the Edwardian and inter-war periods.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Develop an understanding of the problematic nature of historical sources, their uses and limitations.
  • 5. Experience producing brief reports analysing a historical source.
  • 6. Present work orally before fellow students, demonstrating an ability to field questions.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Carry out independent research into a range of topics, building upon the seminar core content.
  • 8. Evaluate and organise source material in the completion of a project.
  • 9. Work together with others in completing team-based tasks, contributing material for group discussion.
  • 10. Ability to write concise reports.

Syllabus plan

Examining the Liberal Party’s performance between 1900 and 1945, this module will explore some of the key political issues relating to both the short-lived heyday of Edwardian Liberalism and the party’s subsequent electoral collapse during the inter-war period. Individual topics may include:

  • The challenge of labour
  • The Irish question
  • The defence of Free Trade
  • Coalition politics and party disunity
  • Unemployment and the Great Depression
  • Foreign policy and the politics of war

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

Maurice Cowling, The Impact of Labour, 1920-1924: the beginning of modern British politics (CUP, 1971)

George Dangerfield, The Strange Death of Liberal England (1935)

David Dutton, A History of the Liberal Party in the Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Ross McKibbin, Parties and People: England 1914-1951 (OUP, 2010)

Ian Packer, Liberal Government and Politics, 1905-15 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)

Nick Smart, The National Government, 1931-40 (Macmillan, 1999)

Trevor Wilson, The Downfall of the Liberal Party, 1914-1935 (Collins, 1966)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

‘British Cartoon Archive’ -

‘British Periodicals Online’ – [accessible via the Electronic Library]

‘History of Parliament Trust’ -

‘Liberal History’ -

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

India, Modern, Raj, Empire, Colonialism, Nationalism, Partition, Independence