From Wigan Pier to Piccadilly: Britain Between The Wars (HIH1411)

StaffDr David Thackeray - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce the important themes in inter-war British history, and consider why the memory of this period remains controversial and contested up to the present day. Students will learn to interpret and analyse a range of sources including films, social surveys, novels, plays, political broadcasts and oral histories. Using the collections held by the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum students will also have the opportunity to conduct their own research into the source material, to consider its utility and limitations. The module will help students develop skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work, and introduce some of  the rich archival sources which are available at Exeter’s cinema museum.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the culture and politics of Britain during the 1920s and 1930s
  • 2. Analyse a range of political perspectives of the problems of inter-war Britain
  • 3. Develop a critical appreciation of the different portrayals of Britain between the wars

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

2. The bright young things before The Crash: Vile Bodies (1930)

3. The status of women: A Room of One’s Own (1929)

4. Race and urban life: Piccadilly (1929)

5. Putting the unemployed struggle on stage: Love on the Dole play (1934)

6. One nation or many: English Journey (1934)

7. Representing the nation: Stanley Baldwin political broadcast (1935)

8. Social Investigation in the Great Depression: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

9. Imagining the ‘Modern’ Twenties: Peaky Blinders (2013-)

10. Remembering the Great Depression: The Worst of Times (1984)

11. Concluding discussion

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 a weekly source 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)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

Basic reading:


S. Constantine, Unemployment in Britain between the Wars (Longman, 1980)


J. Hinton, The Mass Observers, A History 1937-1949 (Oxford, 2013)

R. McKibbin, Classes and Culture: England 1918-1951 (Oxford, 1998)

M. Pugh, We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars (Vintage, 2008)

J. Stevenson and C. Cook, Britain in the Depression (Longman, 1994)

A. Thorpe, Britain in the 1930s (Blackwell, 1992)

S. Todd, The People: The rise and fall of the working class 1910-2010 (John Murray, 2015)


Web based and electronic resources:


British Pathe (political broadcasts) Photographs from Mass Observation


Mass Observation Online (available via Exeter Electronic Library)

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?