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People, Identity and Society: The Making of Modern Britain

Duration 9 weekly meetings
Tutor Dr Elizabeth Jones
Course code HIS24A5521A
Fee £264
Concessionary fee £211 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

John Percival Building
Colum Drive
CF10 3EU

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Where do our identities come from? What is their history? How did society in Britain develop into the diverse range of communities we are part of today?

We will begin with questions such as what it means to be ‘British’, ‘Celtic’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘English’, considering the influence of England within the British Isles and the concept of Four Nations History: the historical experience of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.

We will go on to investigate the impact of developments that shaped and changed British society, considering ideas surrounding Empire, slavery, perceptions of class, and the impact of both World Wars.

Finally, we will explore recent historical considerations offering a post-colonial viewpoint, and the diversification of historians’ work in examining how perceptions of race, gender, and sexuality transform our understanding, revealing hitherto unheard historical voices.

In exploring these topics, you will have the opportunity to explore, and to present – through a piece of public history writing such as a blog or a short magazine article – the history of communities and identities important to you.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered as nine sessions of two hours. Sessions will consist of a mixture of lectures, audio-visual resources, class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

Students will also be expected to read relevant printed material and use that as the basis for contributions in class.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures themselves will be supplemented by internet resources available to students via Learning Central


  1. Introduction: who do you think you are?
  2. Who are the Celts? Celts and Concepts of Celticness.
  3. The English Isles? Anglicisation and Four Nations History.
  4. Empire, Slavery and Legacy in 18th Century Britain.
  5. Class and Society in 19th Century Britain.
  6. War and the Workforce in 20th Century Britain.
  7. The Empire Windrush.
  8. Gender and Sexuality in Modern Britain.
  9. Conclusions: writing the history of modern British society.

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review of a book, article or primary source
  • a 1000 piece of public history coursework, such as a magazine article or blog

There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005).
  • Joanna De Groot, Empire and History Writing in Britain, c.1750-2012 (Baltimore, MD: Project Muse, 2017).
  • Hugh Kearney, The British Isles: A History of Four Nations, 2nd edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • Barbara Korte and Eva Ulrike Pirker, Black History White History: Britain’s Historical Programme Between Windrush and Wilberforce (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2011).

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.