Them and Us: Imagining the Social "Other" in Britain since the 1880s: Context (HIH3057)

StaffProfessor Jon Lawrence - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesThem and Us: Imagining the Social “Other” in Britain since the 1880s: Sources.
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module interrogates social and cultural change in modern Britain through the lens of social encounters – real and imagined – between people from radically different social backgrounds. It explores the changing interaction of class, gender, ethnicity and age as lines of social division and as sources of personal and group self-realisation. Sources include film, music, fiction, social commentary, political speech, contemporary sociology, social-science field-notes and memoirs.  

The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on perspectives from sociology, anthropology, social psychology, literary criticism and film studies as well as history. While engaging with the complex historiographies of social change since the 1880s, we will consider concepts that remain relevant for understanding social interaction today, including debates about selfhood, social bonding and social exclusion. The module aims to develop research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the different historical claims made about how people have imagined, experienced and contested social difference in Britain since the 1880s.
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse key developments in Britain’s social and cultural history since the 1880s.
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex historical issues and questions of historical method.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Critically to engage with and apply social-science concepts relevant to the substantive historical problems raised by the module.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent and autonomous study and group work, including 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. Present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

The module focuses on the sources for the study of social and cultural change in relation to the following indicative topics/themes: Imagining in ‘the People’ in politics; ‘Knowing’ the Victorian poor; Edwardian social investigation and sexuality; Imperialism and racialised others; Democracy and ‘the worker’; Knowing (and Being) ‘The Unemployed’; Mass-Observation’s Anthropology of Ourselves; Constructing the post-war ‘Immigrant’; Women, work and motherhood; Literature, Music and the ‘working-class hero’; Social-science encounters and the decline of deference; Memory and social identity; Neoliberalism and the demonizing of disadvantage; Brexit and the Nativist/Cosmopolitan divide.

Some of you will already have studied aspects Britain’s modern social history; others will not. The introductory sessions will therefore be important in offering a broad overview within which framework everyone can place their subsequent work. The co-requisite module will also provide close focus on the historical sources available for study. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading the set secondary sources alongside the primary sources they have been paired with. You will be asked to discuss the issues raised by these sources in the seminars.

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 activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7, 9Verbal from tutor and fellow students

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
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and written
Essay253,000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

[See sources module for primary texts & secondary source criticism]


Peter Bailey, ‘Will the real Bill Banks please stand up? Towards a role analysis of mid-Victorian working-class respectability,’ Journal of Social History, 12 (1979): 336-53 [e-journal]


Peter Keating, The working classes in Victorian fiction (1971)


John Welshman, Underclass: a History of the Excluded, 1880-2000 (2006)


Joanna Bourke, Working-class Cultures in Britain, 1890-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity (Routledge, London, 1994) [e-book]


Stephen Brooke, ‘Bodies, Sexuality and the “Modernization” of the British Working Classes, 1920s to 1960s’ International Labor and Working-Class History 69 (2006): 104-22 [e-journal]


Jon Lawrence, ‘Labour and the politics of class, 1900-1940’ in David Feldman and Jon Lawrence (eds), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (Cambridge, 2011) [e-book]


Helen McCarthy, ‘Social Science and Married Women’s Employment in Post-war Britain,’ Past & Present, 233 (Nov. 2016): 269-305 [e-journal]


Ross McKibbin, The Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain, 1880-1950 (Oxford, 1990)


Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures in England, 1918-1951 (1998)


Mike Savage, ‘Working-class Identities in the 1960s: Revisiting the Affluent Worker Study’, Sociology, 39 (2005): 929-46 [e-journal]


Selina Todd, The People: the Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 (John Murray, London, 2014)


Selina Todd and Hilary Young, ‘Baby-boomers to “Beanstalkers”: making the modern teenager in post-war Britain,’ Cultural and Social History 9, 3 (2012)


Lucy Delap, Knowing their Place: Domestic Service in Twentieth-Century Britain (2011)


Chris Waters, ‘“Dark Strangers” in our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947-1963’ Journal of British Studies, 36, 2 (1997) [e-journal]


Kennetta Perry, London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (2015)


Claire Langhamer, The English in Love the Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (2013)


Becky Conekin et al (eds), Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1964 (1999)


Deborah Cohen, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day (2013)


Frank Mort, Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society (2010)


Lynn Abrams, Liberating the female self: epiphanies, conflict and coherence in the life stories of Post-war British women, Social History, 39, 1 (2014)


Ben Rogaly and Becky Taylor, Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England (2009)


Mike Savage, Gaynor Bagnall and Brian Longhurst, ‘Ordinary, Ambivalent and Defensive: Class Identities in the Northwest of England,’ Sociology, 35, 4 (2001),


Ben Jones, The Working-class in Mid Twentieth-century England: Community, Identity and Social Memory (2012)


Jon Lawrence, ‘Inventing the “traditional working class”: a re-analysis of interview notes from Young and Willmott’s Family and Kinship in East London,’ Historical Journal, 59, 2 (2016)


Robert Colls, ‘When we lived in communities: working-class culture and its critics’ in Robert Colls & Richard Rodger (eds), Cities of Ideas: Civil Society and Urban Governance in Britain, 1800-2000 (2005)


Guy Standing, The Precariat: the New Dangerous Class (2011)


David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: the Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (2017)

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Key words search

British history, social identity, social and cultural change.