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Unit information: Political Culture and Communication in Britain, 1867-1939 (Level I Special Field) in 2016/17

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Unit name Political Culture and Communication in Britain, 1867-1939 (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HIST26015
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Thompson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Recent years have seen revolutionary changes in our understanding of modern British political and intellectual history. Grand narratives of the rise of class, the growth of party, and the nationalisation of politics have come under increasing pressure. The enduring strength of a liberal free trade political culture has been repeatedly emphasised. This unit responds to these developments by examining the nature of political culture and communication in the years traditionally seen as those in which modern British politics was made.

The unit has four main themes. The first concerns the nature of popular politics, particularly attitudes to party and to violence. The second major theme is the relationship between politicians and the public. This is approached through the study party propaganda, both visual and literary. The period also sees significant developments in the modes of communication by which activists sought to build constituencies of support. Contemporary efforts to conceptualise such developments furnish a fourth object of study. The aim throughout is to understand political action as the self-conscious product of a complex and various culture.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should have developed:

  1. considerable familiarity with the principal features of the political culture of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain
  2. an understanding of, and ability to critique, different perspectives which have been applied to British political culture
  3. an ability to form independent interpretations relating to this subject
  4. the capacity to express these interpretations with an eloquence appropriate to level I.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

1 x 2 hour exam

Reading and References

  • J. Thompson, British Political Culture and the Idea of 'Public Opinion' (2013)
  • A. Jones, Powers of the press: newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth-century England (1996)
  • Patrick Joyce, Democratic subjects: the self and the social in nineteenth century England (1994)
  • Jon Lawrence, Speaking for the people: party, language and popular politics in Britain, 1867-1914 (1998)
  • A. J. Lee, The origins of the popular press in England 1855-1914 (1976)
  • H. C. G. Matthew, Rhetoric and politics in Britain, 1860-1950' in P. J. Waller ed., Politics and social change in modern Britain (1987)