HIS2037 : Progress and Plenty? British History 1815-1918

  • Offered for Year: 2012/13
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Joan Allen
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


How are we to read this period of British history which was punctuated by so many profound social, economic and political changes? We can, arguably, home in on the way that the period has been read heroically as The Age of Reform, The Age of Progress, The Rise of Democracy, or The Age of Improvement. There was certainly progress and plenty of it. Electoral reform slowly transformed the old elitist political structure into something which resembled representative parliamentary democracy by 1918. A tranche of social reforms delivered educational opportunities and improved living and working conditions for the masses. Shifting patterns of consumption reflected the relaxation of social mores and the acceptance of religious pluralism.

The transition to a relatively modern British society as outlined above was, of course, far from trouble-free. Riots in London over the Corn Laws were not an isolated instance. Resistance to the introduction of mechanisation, Chartist agitation in the 1830s and 1840s, and popular campaigns for shorter working hours, the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act, and social welfare provisions were symptomatic of a society in some distress, struggling to cope with the pace and impact of change. Notwithstanding philanthropic and charitable endeavours, poverty was an abiding feature of Victorian society; and attempts to tackle the problem did not preclude the existence of an equally strong desire to control the working classes. Suffragette riots and social unrest provided the backdrop to the declaration of war in 1914.

This module aims:
1. To explore changes and continuities in British society from 1815-1918
2. To trace and analyse the rise of popular politics and the development of social welfare
3. To develop the capacity for independent study
4. To provide an opportunity to acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it

Outline Of Syllabus

1. Introduction
2. British society before 1815
3. The independent artisan
4. Populism and class
5. Chartism
6. The nineteenth-century press
7. Patriotism
8. Labour, Liberalism and Democracy
9. Conservative Politics and Tradition
10. Patriotism
11. Living and learning
12. Belief and Unbelief
13. The pursuit of pleasure
14. Women, work and family
15. Care and control in the community
16. Early Socialism
17. New Liberalism
18. The Impact of war
19. Progress and Plenty?
20. Revision

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:0040% of guided independent Study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading651:0065:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study341:0034:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures will provide an overview of the subject and general introduction to the relevant themes. They will also provide an introduction to the key historiographical and conceptual debates. They will impart core knowledge and an outline of the knowledge that students are expected to acquire. They will also stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills.
2. Seminars will encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A60unseen
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M402000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes and develops key skills in research, reading and writing. Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress. The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

ERASMUS students at Newcastle One 2,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all work required of domestic students. It remains the case that, if an ERASMUS student specifically requests that s/he be permitted to do the same assessments as the domestic students, that option remains open to them. No variation of the deadlines will be allowed except on production of medical or equivalent evidence

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.