Each of the following modules are 20 + 20 credits at final-year level and run in the Autumn and Spring terms.
History Special Subjects are assessed in the summer term by 2 equally-weighted examinations of 3 hours each; one will be essay-based and the other primary-source (or ‘gobbet’) based. You will have a total of 3 formal seminar-based contact hours per week, plus up to two weekly staff office hours for one-to-one consultation at your request.
Islam Along the Silk Roads: Tracing the Development of Islam in Afghanistan and other Eastern Islamic Lands
Dr Arezou Azad
“How can we build our future when we don’t even know our own history?” With these words the Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan emphasized the urgency of a historical study of Afghanistan some years ago. Mr Massoudi single-handedly rescued thousands of shattered remains of third-century Buddhist statues that were bombed by the Taliban in 2002. He was referring to the “history vacuum” that resulted from the massive brain drain of Afghan historians and cultural heritage workers. Attaining a historical narrative that is evidence-based is, to Mr Massoudi and his colleagues, a matter of peace and development. This module aims to fill this gap through a comprehensive, diachronic, multilingual and interdisciplinary study of the evolution of Islam in Afghanistan, Central Asia, northern India and Iran. It examines the administrative, socioeconomic, and cultural and religious impact of Islamic rule from the Arab conquests of 709 A.D. to the beginning of the modern nation-state of Afghanistan in 1747 A.D. We will draw on newly accessible historical evidence, such as a set of translated early Islamic documents from northern Afghanistan, local histories and archaeological material. We will study the way in which scholarship in Islamic history is researching questions on the origin and transmission of ideas that led to the formation and development of Islam as a political, socio-economic, religious and cultural force. Situated at crossroads of the “silk routes,” Afghanistan was a melting pot of religions. Afghanistan holds a key to understanding the spread of Islam, and this module intends to probe its mysteries.
Game Without Thrones: Saga Age Iceland c.900-c.50
Dr Chris Callow
How would you organise a brand-new society set up by people drawn from diverse geographical and social backgrounds? How would that society function if it were remote from other places and where material conditions were poor? What would you make of this society if the major written sources it produced were soap-opera-like epic stories dominated by tales of bloodfeuds, zombies, and where when people were not fighting with weapons they fought with sexual insults? Questions like these are ones historians consider for early society in Iceland, one of the world’s most distinctive societies in one of the world’s most unusual physical landscapes. The ‘viking’ colonisation of Iceland is one of the most unusual events in world: in the late ninth century a completely new society was established from scratch in a country which had never been inhabited before. Why people went to Iceland and how this new society of migrants evolved forms the first part of this module. Equally intriguing is how this society functioned in later centuries. Iceland had no king, just a series of public assemblies where legal and social business was carried out. It was materially poor and political power was weak. The most important figures were often regional leaders (chieftains) whose charisma and personal qualities mattered as much as their wealth and military muscle. While Christianity arrived in Iceland in c.1000 it was slow to take hold.
1066: Epic Tales of Saints, Swordsmen and Scribes
Dr Simon Yarrow
This Special Subject offers a chance to explore one of the most colourful and formative periods of English history both as a subject of historical enquiry and a product of historiographical invention. The century after Duke William’s famous conquest of England saw an explosion of historical writing - largely in the cultural context of monastic-centred religious reform - aimed at interpreting and inventing new accounts of the past to make sense of the startlingly dramatic developments of the present. Warriors and warfare, sex and marriage, saints and miracles, honour and humiliation, violence, insurgency and subjection were all themes in the narration of a new Anglo-Norman history of England that grappled with the consequences of a small alien force of Normans and French that completely subdued and supplanted the English ruling elite. Such a wholesale regime change was rare even in medieval history, and seems to have shocked the native culture into stunned silence for at least a generation. When English and mixed birth scribes finally broke that silence, they unleashed a torrent of narrative designed to make sense of events set in train by 1066. As we shall see, their answers to questions of continuity and change have shaped the way subsequent English history has been written and read to this day.
Bearers of the Cross: Violence and Devotion in the Crusading World
Dr William Purkis
From its origins in 1095, through its zenith in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, crusading was an act of devotional violence that was defined by a central concern with the recovery, possession and transformation of sacred spaces and objects that were believed to be threatened or polluted by religious ‘others’, whether Muslims, pagans, or heretics. In this module we will examine the religious beliefs and devotional practices associated with crusading and Latin frontier settlement in the central Middle Ages through a wide-ranging study of texts, images and objects. We will ask: Why were medieval Catholics so obsessed with the idea of bringing the Holy Land under Latin Christian rule? What religious objects and images were prized and venerated by crusaders, and why? How were non-Latins affected by these dramatic expressions of Catholic piety? In what ways were the religious sensibilities of medieval Christendom reshaped by victories, defeats and disasters in the East? What was the ongoing appeal of crusading as an act of Christian piety? To what extent was crusading an ‘extreme’ display of medieval Catholic devotion?
Village Life in Medieval England c.1100-1500
Dr Miriam Muller
We will explore in depth aspects of daily life in later medieval English village society, using both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the historiography of village life and be able to critically analyse primary sources, which will be practiced in gobbet exercises.
Peasants made up the vast majority of the population and very much defined later medieval society. Therefore the roots of the great social and economic changes which occurred in the later medieval period are to be found in village communities. Peasants therefore matter, and this course will examine a number of aspects of peasant life from ca. 1200 to 1500.
How did peasants live, what did their villages look like and what were their typical daily trials and tribulations? How did rural society cope with famines and harvest failure? What was the impact of the Black Death in village communities, and how important was lordship to the daily peasant experience?
Peasants were not simply victims of either the vagaries of the weather or lordship. They were on the whole competent, skilled and intelligent people, who planned ahead, and who had a very high level of understanding of various legal matters, which meant that they spend quite a lot of time suing each other. Some had experience of warfare as soldiers and archers, and some used this knowledge and experience in fighting back against lordship. So we will explore themes such as peasant revolts, including the rising of 1381, daily struggles against lordship as well as conflict within peasant communities. Peasants were not all the same, some were free, some unfree, and some were well off and others were extremely poor, so we will look at such divisions within peasant societies, including the division arising from gender. What was it like to be a peasant woman? Can we define concepts of masculinity or femininity in peasant society?
We have a wealth of primary sources available which shed a lot of light on these questions. Local court records (manorial records), can tell us a great deal about the daily experiences of peasants in this period, from how much land they held, over whom they got into arguments and fights with at the local ale house. We also have poems and chronicles which can help us explore contemporary perceptions of peasants as well as their actions and aims in peasant revolts. We also have archaeological sources, which can help us to explore the material culture of rural society.
The Mongols and China
Professor Naomi Standen
The Mongols ran the largest land-based empire ever known in history. The drama of the initial conquests by Chinggis Qan (whom you may know better as Genghis Khan) is matched by the ambitions of his successors, not least Qubilai Qa’an (Khubilai Khan), who completed the conquest of China and founded the Yuan (1260-1368) dynasty there. Although the Mongol empire extended out from Inner Asia to the limits of Persia in the west and to China in the east, the attention of Europeans was riveted by the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe in 1240-2, and subsequently by the extraordinary travelogue recounting Marco Polo’s twenty-year sojourn (1271-92) at Qubilai’s court in China and journeys to neighbouring countries. Thanks to Marco Polo, the Mongols in China have remained on Europeans’ radar ever since. We will work with some of the many primary materials accessible to those with no knowledge of the original languages, including Marco Polo, Rashid al-Din and the Secret History of the Mongols. We will investigate where the Mongols came from and the different ways in which their expansion was received: were they embraced, tolerated, resisted, and who sought their support? We will examine relations between the Mongols and the conquered peoples, and address issues such as collaboration and assimilation. The module gives you the opportunity to develop a deep appreciation of what many regard as the first truly global empire.
Law and Society in Medieval Europe
Dr Jens Rohrkasten
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries England developed a legal system that was independent of the previous Anglo-Saxon principles and of other legal traditions. Initially mainly dealing with disputes of land and thus concerning the aristocracy and those immediately subordinate to them, it gradually widened its scope to include many other types of legal conflict such as trespass or debt, disputes which could affect many other social groups as well. As the scope of the law widened it affected an ever wider social sphere, extending also to the unfree. Their legal actions were heard in royal law courts, based on the king’s court, which emerged from the last quarter of the twelfth century. The courts were staffed by expert personnel, responsible only to the king and formed part of a sophisticated system of government.
This special subject will trace the development of the English Common Law as a part of the development of English society and royal administration, beginning with the state of the law after the Norman Conquest. It will address the legal changes under king Henry II, and look at the mechanisms of the main royal courts, including the Eyre, the Court of Common Pleas and the King’s Bench. Major documents like Magna Carta will be analysed as to their legal and political significance. It will also include aspects of the law which were relevant to large sections of society: Forest law, the workings of manorial courts and the legal status of people – freedom and villeinage. Students will deal with extracts from the rich documentation which survives in the form of legal records, statutes as well as legal treatises. These will be available in modern English translation.
Age of Discovery
Dr Margaret Small
The focus of this module is the period of European discovery and encounter with the wider world beyond the confines of Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Between c. 1400 and c. 1600 Europeans passed the tropic of Cancer, hitherto seen as a complete barrier to expansion, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, sailed through the Straits of Magellan, circumnavigated the world and founded the first large international trading monopolies. In this period, the Atlantic seaboard ceased to be a periphery region and became a key region of European power. This module examines the politically-laden term of discovery, and debates its suitability. We shall discuss and evaluate some the technological and intellectual developments that needed to occur to bring about an age of discovery, and examine both some of the practicalities involved in exploration and encounter, and the implications for the political, social and intellectual history in Europe. We shall examine the role of individual explorer, nations and the Catholic church in this period of European expansion, and will look at how, and to what extent the newly encountered regions of the world, which include not only the New world, but also regions of Africa and Asia were assimilated into European thought by the end of the century. We will focus on the countries directly involved in expansion, particularly England, France, Spain and Portugal. A wide range of historical sources will be analysed, including ships papers, official and personal papers, memoirs, journals, letters, maps, navigational instruments and cosmographical treatises.
A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects
Dr Tara Hamling
In this course we will examine a rich body of surviving objects from the Tudor period to explore how key themes in the study of early modern history were experienced by people in everyday life. Each week we will discuss the ways in which a particular object-including the legendary ‘Round Table’ of King Arthur, a nit-comb from the shipwrecked Mary Rose, a defaced religious icon, a witch-bottle and a codpiece-might inform our understanding of, for example, dynastic and religious change; social mobility; superstition and popular belief; domestic and family life; gender; health and hygiene. We will investigate and vote for additional objects each week to arrive collectively by the end of the course at our own version of a history of the Tudors in 100 objects.
In the last two decades there has been a popular turn towards the study of ‘material culture’ in historical studies. The sixteenth century in England is often identified with the start of a commodity culture and a pronounced increase in the production and consumption of a wide range of material goods. Yet the artefactual evidence presented by the objects themselves and the micro-histories they open up is often neglected or buried within broader narratives. This course will engage with a range of primary texts and secondary readings to identify the material, economic and symbolic values of ‘things’ for early modern people, as well as the different approaches to the study of material culture offered by disciplines such as art history, archaeology, anthropology and literary studies. We will also ask questions about the ways in which historic objects are presented in museum and heritage contexts.
Big City, Small Worlds: the Making of Early Modern Cities
Dr Simone Laqua-O'Donnell
In this course we will trace the growing fascination of early modern Europeans with city-life and urban culture by exploring some of the great cities of the period ourselves: Venice, Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, London, Nuremberg, Barcelona and Madrid. Though only 15% of the population of Europe lived in towns and cities in the early modern period, urban centres had an enormous impact on popular imagination and discourse at the time. Political, social, economic and cultural developments, such as the Renaissance and the Reformation, were shaped by and in cities. The course will be structured thematically around topics such as politics and power, popular culture, community and diversity, space, and art. This will be done by focussing on two or more cities in each seminar and working comparatively. The objective of this method is simple: to work out the complexity of urban development by identifying common issues and differences.
Histories of Hate: Fear and Loathing in Early Modern Europe
Dr Elaine Fulton
The early-modern period was marked by ferocious persecution of many groups perceived to be in some way threatening, deviant or simply different from the established social order. Islamophobia was rife, as was anti-semitism, with the Jews of Europe being subject to inquisition, expulsion, ghettoisation, exploitation and execution. Within Christianity, the tumult of the reformation led to religious division and difference that resulted in outbreaks of vicious sectarian mob violence bolstered by unbending state persecution of confessional minorities, while those who were seen as racially or physically different, deformed or simply female (!) could also be subject to harsh treatment. Sexual behaviour was also a matter of public concern rather than private predilection, with the criminalisation of acts seen as immoral, such as adultery and sodomy. Lastly, this was an age in which the devil was believed to walk the earth; as a result, prosecutions for witchcraft soared in the period, with tens of thousands of women and sometimes men tried and executed for their suspected diabolism.
The religious changes of the period acted to a large extent accelerant, intensifier and legitimiser of all of these manifestations of persecution. Scholars have, however, suggested other reasons too, including apocalypticism, confessionalization (the development of the early modern state), class tensions (the view of Marxist historians), the dissemination of propaganda thanks to the spread of print, environmental and climactic concerns (the sixteenth century saw the peak of the so called Little Ice Age), and valuable insights drawn from the fields of anthropology and psychology on how people behave in groups against perceived enemies or 'pollutants'. You will be invited to consider the value of all of these explanations, allowing you to come to your own conclusions about the origins of persecution, not only in early-modern Europe but in the broader past and indeed present.
Stray Dogs: Confronting Loss in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain
Dr Kate Smith
‘Stray Dogs’ will encourage you to question the strategies Modern Britons developed to confront instances of loss and decay. Using newspaper articles, parliamentary reports, minute books, pamphlets and advertisements, the course will begin by examining the establishment of institutions such as foundling hospitals, animal homes, lost property offices, archives and museums. It will consider how and why these institutions came to be and will interrogate their role in redirecting the social lives of people, animals and objects. Alongside institutions, ‘Stray Dogs’ will also explore practices, which emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that sought to stem loss by capturing and conserving. It will look to museum and archive conservation and photography, as well as life writing, taxidermy and food preservation techniques to consider how Britons increasingly worked to resist decay. Finally, the module will also explore how people living in eighteenth- and nineteenth century Britain came to confront the emotional impact of loss by examining the processes of memorialisation found in funerary rites, epitaphs and monuments. In studying these themes, this module will challenge you to consider the place of loss and failure within broader projects of progress and modernity, which have tended to characterise eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.
Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-slavery in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
Dr Malcolm Dick
Britain’s emergence as the dominant slave trading nation and involvement in the slave-based economies of the Americas at the end of the eighteenth century were linked, paradoxically, with the development of campaigns to end the slave trade and slavery. The module will consider connections between the country’s industrial and commercial development, religious beliefs, secular ideologies and social and political protest. It will also explore the relationship of the slave trade and anti-slavery to the growth of the British Empire, the rise of evangelicalism and Liberalism, the emergence of racial stereotyping and the role of black people and women, as well as white males, in shaping Britain’s past. There is a considerable amount of secondary and primary literature on this subject, including parliamentary papers, autobiographies, slave narratives, pro-slavery and anti-slavery texts, visual material, artifacts and records of abolitionist societies. The Cadbury Research Library and new Library of Birmingham also hold many records. At the end of the course, we will visit the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and see how the displays and objects illuminate our studies.
Building Nations in the "Bloodlands." a History of Conflict, Occupation and Independence in East Central Europe c. 1880-1953
Dr Klaus Richter
Some historians argue that East Central Europe is the quintessential region of mass violence in the 20th century: “The victims’ homelands lay between Berlin and Moscow” (Timothy Snyder). With the rise of nationalism at the peripheries of the Russian, Austrian, and German Empires, East Central Europe became a region of ethnic conflict. The First World War led to the emergence of national states with clear-cut territories in a region where ethnographic borders between Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Jews, etc. were at best fuzzy. Moreover, the region became the main focus of revionist policies and violence of its neigbouring states, first being occupied by Nazi Germany and then included into the Soviet sphere of influence. In this seminar, we will look at how different ethnic, social, and religious groups interacted on a social and political level, how both conflicts and cooperation were carried out. This will involve looking at issues such as nationalism, economic networks, political visions, and violence in the consecutive but very different contexts of imperial rule, the First World War, the interwar nation states, Nazi occupation and the Holocaust, and Soviet social engineering. A second focus of this seminar will be on conflicting national narratives and their implications for contemporary policies of remembrance. Sources used will include edited documents in English translation, historical maps, audio sources (such as interviews), diaries, and visual materials (such as historical footage and photography).
The Lure of the Modern: Defining China from New Culture Movement to Cultural Revolution 1910's - 1970's
Dr Shirley Ye
China’s search for modernity in the 20th century was shaped by violence: from its violent encounters with western imperialism to the violence of a series of civil conflict that followed the collapse of the last imperial dynasty in 1911. From the New Culture Movement of the 1910s through to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, traditional Chinese culture was under attack by an array of political and social actors. How did Chinese people and politics define “China” through the tumultuous events of the 20th century? This special subject will open with an examination of culture and politics during the Warlord period (1916-1925), a period during which power was decentralized and located in the hands of regional territorial power holders. Next, we will explore the eclectic cultural production by artists and intellectuals of the New Culture and May Fourth Movements. As the Nationalist government attempted to unify and modernize China during the Nanjing Decade (1927-1937), new institutions and organizations of academic and scientific knowledge attempted to quantify and define China and Chinese life through indigenized western social, economic and population surveys. Those state-building efforts by the Nationalist government took place against the backdrop of intense violence, from both civil conflict and foreign intrusion. We will explore the lasting legacies of China’s long war – both the Civil War (1927-1949) and War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) – on the traumatic state-inflicted violence that lasted through the 1970s in both China and Taiwan. It was during the years of World War Two that Mao Zedong consolidated his own power in the Communist Party. We will assess ‘Civil War’ as an analytic category, and discuss the role of Civil War in catalyzing changes in Chinese society.
After 1949, when the People’s Republic was declared on the mainland, the Communist Party undertook a number of large state-building projects, which involved the displacement of people and forced labour: we consider the origins and implications of this sort of violence, and the way that it fit into, or deviated from, broader patterns of violence in twentieth century China. In Taiwan, where the Nationalist Government fled to after it lost the Civil War in 1949, the ruling political party was intent on suppressing political voices that dared to show any sympathy to the Communist Party on the mainland: to what extent did the political terror on Taiwan reflect those on the Mainland? The module ends with Mao Zedong’s last great Cultural Revolution: young Chinese Red Guards shared – along with ’68-ers in other parts of the world – a generational identity of being born during the years of World War Two. Background in Chinese history is not required. However, if this is your first course in Chinese history I suggest that you read Jonathan Spence’s textbook The Search for Modern China, 3rd edition before the start of the course.
The British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918
'Mud, blood and endless poetry': is that all there was to the First World War? This most controversial of wars has become surrounded by stereotypes and myths. The aim of this module will be to analyse the British Expeditionary Force’s response to the challenge of the Western Front. Was it just an army of ‘lions led by donkeys’, endlessly blundering through the mud in a sterile and senseless conflict? Or a highly effective institution which faced and eventually overcame extreme difficulties and created modern warfare as we know it today?
In the Autumn Term, students will study the chronology of the war on the Western Front from the British perspective. In the second term, students will engage with some of the important themes relating to Britain’s conduct of the war. The module will allow students to engage with the key debates about the conduct of the war: debates which will be very much in public focus in this, the centenary year.
The Russian Revolution 1917
Dr Arfon Rees
The module examines the events in Russia from the February Revolution to the October Revolution of 1917. It analyses the factors shaping the political crisis that gripped the country in this period, the dynamics in the development of the popular responses to the crises, and the way in which different political forces sought to control and lead events. These events are studied against the background of the collapse of the tsarist regime, the problems created by the Great War, and by the international situation and Russia’s relations with its allies. The seminars will focus on the chronological sequences of events, from February to October 1917, based on a close reading of primary documents. This will be complemented by a thematic exploration of developments and an exploration of the historiography of the revolution.
People of the Aftermath: British Culture in the 1920's and 1930's
Professor Matt Houlbrook
This is a module about British culture in the 1920s and 1930s. In these two decades Britain was transformed as the Great War’s disruptive legacies intersected with the accelerating pace of peacetime change. Just as writers, poets, artists, sculptors, and ordinary men and women tried to make sense of the war, so at least some Britons found new opportunities for leisure and pleasure for at least some Britons. The popularity of the cinema, dancehall, and cheap novel represented a reinvigorated consumer culture that prompted excitement, anxiety, and the disdain of ‘highbrow’ intellectuals. The wireless programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the films of the documentary movement, and Penguin’s paperback revolution all sought to educate and inform. Many of the cultural forms we take for granted today emerged in the decades after the Great War.
Rather than focus just on the work of modernist writers, poets and artists, we will treat culture as something ordinary and everyday. Culture encompasses attitudes or ways of seeing the world - how we think about class or gender or the ways in which ideas of Britishness are defined. Culture also encompasses the objects and practices that give those ideas material form. Films, novels, songs or buildings all reflect something of the mood of the age, though, as we will see, not necessarily in immediately obvious ways. Britons were divided by profound differences of class, wealth, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and geography. Acknowledging these differences, we will explore how new cultural forms both brought Britons together and drove them apart. Finally, we will explore the explosive politics of culture in the 1920s and 1930s. The demands of fighting a total war, the expansion of the franchise to all adult men and women, and the commercial imperatives of the market made the idea of the ‘people’ increasingly important. Politicians and advertisers alike sought to identify their needs and provide for their desires. Part of the story of the 1920s and 1930s is about the nature of that process, and the question of who was – and was not – to be included among the people of the aftermath. Over the course of the year our discussions will take us to war memorials and art deco buildings, romantic fiction and modernist poems, trashy films and highbrow ‘art’, social surveys and sensationalist newspapers. From the confidence trickster to the abdicating monarch, from the unemployed ex-servicemen to the ‘scantily dressed jazzing flapper’, from the crofters of St Kilda to the long-dead Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen we will meet the people of the aftermath and use their lives to explore the world they inhabited. To explore how ordinary Britons made and made sense of their culture we will read their love letters and diaries, watch them dancing, and listen to their memories. Taking Peaky Blinders and Downtown Abbey as a starting point, we will use these primary sources to think critically about the mythologies of ‘The Long Week-End’ and the historical significance of the 1920s and 1930s in the making of modern British culture.
Facing the Fuhrer and the Duce: British Foreign and Defence Policies 1935-1940
Dr Steve Morewood
The overall aim of the course is to analyse the development of British foreign and defence policy towards the European dictators during the late 1930s. The aim of the two linked modules is to enable you to display a good understanding of the changing character of British foreign policy during the 1930s. To understand the rationale under which British defence policy was framed; and to have a good understanding of the political, economic and social conditions under which British policy makers operated. The final part considers the opening part of the Second World War to the end of 1940.
The Nazis at War
Dr Steffen Prauser
War was the essence of National Socialism. The movement was born out of war, it created a warlike society, it saw its fulfillment in war and it ultimately went down in war. It is not surprising that most of the research on Nazi Germany of the last two decades revolved around war.
The aim of this module will be to familiarise the student with this recent research and engage them with the key debates as well as with the key primary sources on National Socialism and its peculiar relationship to war. Arguably, nothing is more crucial to understanding its ideology and the reality of the Third Reich than this relationship.
Of Rice and Men: NGOS and Humanitarianism since 1945
The long and complex history of humanitarianism is attracting growing interest from historians. Many of the key actors in this history have been international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Although many of these NGOs are instantly recognisable, such as Oxfam, Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), they are a relatively recent historical phenomenon. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, these NGOs have collectively developed from small, amateur groups into large, professionalised aid agencies with significant influence at the national and transnational level. This course assesses the complex and shifting history of humanitarianism since 1945, with a particular emphasis on the importance of NGOs, examining the cultural, social and political phenomena that inspired the rapid expansion of the sector in both Britain and abroad.
After Hitler: Politics and Society in West Germany During the Adenauer Era 1945-1965
Dr Armin Grunbacher
The aim of the module is to examine the development of post-war Germany, from the collapse of the Nazi dictatorship to the stepping down of Chancellor Adenauer in 1963. Many, if not most, of the events in Germany during this period have to be seen against or are linked to the background of the Cold War, the emerging European integration and the Nazi past. The module will be based on extracts from contemporary documents and visual images.
Planes, Trains, Boats and Autos: Transporting People (and other things) in Twentieth-Century Britain
Dr Julian Greaves
Travelling is something we all do virtually every day. Society depends on ourselves and our goods being able to move around, whether it is the mundane pleasures of the School run or Christmas arriving on a container ship from China. Mobility has always been central to the economy and to society and so it is easy to take for granted. But it is not something that simply “happens”. The methods of transport we possess today have been shaped by a complex mix of social political and economic forces, and have had wide ranging consequences for business organisation, the urban and rural environment, culture, international relations even gender relations (yes women drivers have always been a better insurance risk than men!). These forces change over time Before the First World War railways were the lifeblood of the inland transport. By the 1960s some regarded them as a quaint anachronism. But attempts to slash the rail network by Dr Beeching provoked bitter controversy. Rail nationalisation and privatisation have likewise prompted huge debates since 1945. Road building, the motor car airports were all seen in the 1950s as a key element of national renewal. But the 1980s many questioned their economic and environmental cost (prompting both peaceful and violent protest). Ships (cargo and passenger) were once integral to the British self-image (and indeed national survival) but have gradually morphed into an anonymous global milieu, largely bereft of national identity entity but still integral to our everyday lives. Travel by air has gone from being a project of imperial renewal and technological nationalism, to a largely consumer driven product supporting business and leisure tourism. Not everything changes of course. London traffic moves no quicker than it did 100 years ago. Aircraft cross the Atlantic no quicker than they did fifty years ago. But continuity like change can tell us something important about our economy and society.
These issues (and others) will be explored on this module by examining the evolution of transportation in twentieth-century Britain, on land, sea and air. Central to the analytical framework will be the role of the state and its interaction with other social and economic actors. Primary source will include Government reports, newspapers, pamphlets certain forms of imagery and advertising.
The Revolting Right: Conservative Activism in Post-war Britain
Dr Chris Moores
How have citizens been political in the post-war and to what extent have activists brought about political, economic, cultural and social change? This module assesses such questions by examining various forms of non-party mobilization from the political right. What happens to the history of political activism if we look to voices which might often be dismissed as ‘cranky’, ‘backwards-looking’, ‘marginal’ and ‘peripheral’? The module largely focuses on British movements and NGOs, but places these in transnational and comparative contexts.
The module grapples with the histories of conservatism, neo-liberalism and neoconservatism. It takes a broad conceptualization of the political, considering elite think tanks (such as the Mont Pelerin Society), social movements (including Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers and Listeners Association), campaigning organizations (like the National Association for Freedom) while also assessing the individual life-stories of some less conventional political activists such as Theresa Gorman, Rhodes Bhoyson, & Norris McWhirter. It considers different non-party political spaces where mobilization occurred: the English countryside, the university campus, the suburban neighbourhood watch, the planned Enterprise zone. It seeks to understand the networks which connected Cold War and security NGOs with the not-in-my-back-yard activists supporting British nuclear policy and opposing lesbianism from a shed in Newbury, Berkshire. Did the late twentieth century see a new world order created along neo-liberal or neo-conservative lines, how did this play out within the British state, and what forms of activism articulated and drove such shifts?
Where There is Discord: Making Thatcher's Britain
Dr Matthew Francis
Drawn from remarks made on the steps on 10 Downing Street on her first morning as Prime Minister, the title of this module, ‘Where There Is Discord’, reflects the way in which Margaret Thatcher polarised opinion in Britain during the 1980s. As anyone who observed the reaction to her death in April 2013 cannot help but have noticed, Thatcher provoked enormously strong reactions among both her supporters and her critics, and her personality and her policies played the dominant role in forming the febrile political atmosphere of the 1980s. More than two decades after her departure from 10 Downing Street, Thatcher remains an enormously divisive and controversial political figure.
This module seeks to explore the nature of Thatcherism and the impact that it had on Britain during the 1980s (and subsequently). Though primarily a political history of the period, the module will also encourage students to consider the way in which ‘ordinary people’ responded to Thatcherism and the imprints that her ideology has left on British culture. After a brief introduction to the political history of post-war Britain – and in particular the idea of the ‘post-war consensus’ – in the Autumn Term the module will focus on two of the areas in which Thatcher made the sharpest breaks from her predecessors: economic policy and social policy. In economic policy, though the enthusiasm for monetarism would prove to be short-lived, attempts to reduce inflation through control of the money supply would be one of the hallmarks of the early Thatcher period; privatisation, by contrast, was little-heralded in 1979 but now looks to be one of the abiding legacies of the Thatcher governments, and has had a profound economic and cultural effect on contemporary Britain. Meanwhile, Thatcher’s assertion that there was ‘no such thing as society’ is seen by many to have marked a new emphasis on individualism and self-reliance rather than collective provision. There remains a suspicion, however, that Thatcher’s approach to the welfare state was ultimately a story of restraint rather than radicalism.
In the Spring Term the focus will shift onto foreign policy, and onto the wider politics of the 1980s and 1990s. For many the recapture of the Falkland Islands in 1982 remains the defining moment of Thatcher’s premiership, while her steadfast opposition to the USSR earned her a reputation for being an ardent Cold Warrior and the moniker ‘the Iron Lady’. On the issue of Europe, however, Thatcher’s initial enthusiasm for EEC membership was rapidly eroded by fears over the loss of sovereignty, and her hostility to the European project would eventually lead to her downfall as Prime Minister. For the Labour Party the 1980s was marked by a journey into the political wilderness – the defections to the SDP, the ‘longest suicide note in history’ – and a slow and difficult march back towards the centre ground. Finally, the module will consider the legacies of Thatcherism for both major political parties in the 1990s and beyond. For many historians the election of Tony Blair in 1994, and with it the advent of New Labour, marked the moment at which socialism ‘capitulated’ to Thatcherism and to the demands of the Right. For the Conservative Party, meanwhile, it remains an open question whether the legacies of Thatcherism are an asset or a liability. Though her immediate successor, John Major, did win the 1992 general election, the Conservative Party has failed to win a parliamentary major since, and David Cameron’s attempts to ‘detoxify’ the Conservative brand have only been partially successful.