Ramsay MacDonald, Britain's First Labour Prime Minister: Traitor or Hero? (HIH1032)
|Staff||Professor Andrew Thorpe - Convenor|
|Duration of Module||Term 2: 11 weeks;|
The aim of the module is to use a case study of an individual politician to introduce students to the broad range of sources available to historians of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century British politics. Individual seminars (see topic list below) will focus on various sources, such as biographies and autobiographies, cabinet papers, speeches, party conference reports, party records, manifestoes, politicians’ diaries and correspondence, newspaper articles, cartoons, and film. You will have the opportunity to conduct your own research into these sources, consider their value and limitations, and use them to explore particular topics and themes. This module will help you develop skills in source analysis and research to provide a foundation for future historical work.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. Understand and assess the main developments in the reputation of Ramsay MacDonald in the broader context of Labour party historiography.
- 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
- 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour party more generally.
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.
Weekly seminar topics may vary, but can include sources on: MacDonald as a political organiser; MacDonald’s political thought; MacDonald and the Great War; MacDonald as party leader; MacDonald as Prime Minister; the 1931 crisis and the National government. These themes will be approached by a variety of sources, as stated above.
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Scheduled learning and teaching activities||2||2 hour lecture: Introduction to module|
|Scheduled learning and teaching activities||20||10 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 study||128||Students 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|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Group presentation (3-4 students)||10-15 minutes||1-4, 6-7, 9||Oral|
|Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries||500 words||1-5, 7-8, 10||Mark and written comments|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries||60||2000 words (500 per commentary)||1-5, 7-8, 10||Mark and written comments|
|Essay on Sources||40||1500 words||1-5, 7-8, 10||Mark and written comments|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries||4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries||1-5, 7-8, 10||Referral/deferral period|
|1500-word essay||1500-word essay||1-5, 7-8, 10||Referral/deferral period|
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Howell, David, MacDonald’s Party: Labour Identities and Crisis, 1922-1931 (Oxford, 2002)
MacDonald, Ramsay, The Socialist Movement (London, 1911)
Morgan, Austen, J. Ramsay MacDonald (Manchester,1987)
Morgan, Kevin, Ramsay MacDonald (London, 2006)
Marquand, David, Ramsay MacDonald (London, 1977)
Ramsay MacDonald’s Political Writings, ed. B. Barker (London, 1972)
Thorpe, Andrew, The British General Election of 1931 (Oxford, 1991)
Thorpe, Andrew, A History of the British Labour Party (London, 4th edn., 2015)
Tiltman, H. Hessell, James Ramsay MacDonald: Labour’s Man of Destiny (London, 1929)
Wertheimer, Egon, Portrait of the Labour Party (London, 1929)
Williamson, Philip, National Crisis and National Government: Politics, the Economy and Empire, 1926-1932 (Cambridge,
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Last revision date
Key words search
Britain, Modern, Labour, Party, MacDonald, Leadership.