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Unit information: Social Policy and the Welfare State: Historical Perspectives in 2016/17

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Unit name Social Policy and the Welfare State: Historical Perspectives
Unit code SPOL10011
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lart
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will provide an introduction to the history of British social welfare from the early nineteenth century Poor Law through the construction of the post-war Welfare State, to the end of the post war ‘consensus’ on welfare in the 1980s. It will focus on key areas of social policy such as poverty and social exclusion, health, housing, education, employment, citizenship and immigration, and criminal justice. While it is a core unit for the Social Policy programmes, it will also be of interest to open unit students from a range of backgrounds who want to understand more about how and why we have the social institutions of welfare that we do. It does not pre-suppose any knowledge of either the historical period covered, or of social policy, but does require an active interest in the kinds of issues discussed.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to demonstrate:

• An understanding of the history of British social policy from the beginning of the 19th century to the late 20th century, including the origins and development of UK welfare institutions, and the social and demographic contexts in which they have operated

•An understanding of non-governmental sources of welfare in that period, and of the relationship between different sectors of the mixed economy of welfare

• The ability to distinguish and critically evaluate different theoretical, technical, normative, moral and political approaches to understanding social problems and issues in that period

• The ability to analyse how social policies have been constructed in that period, responding to social problems and issues

Teaching details

Lectures and seminars

Assessment Details

Assessment will be against the programme criteria defined for the appropriate level.

Formative assessment: One essay up to 2000 words

Summative assessment : One essay up to 2500 words (100%). The essay will allow the student to demonstrate having met all the learning outcomes of the unit.

Reading and References

  • Daunton, M (2007) Wealth and Welfare: an economic and social history of Britain 1851-1951 Oxford University Press
  • Fraser, D (2009) The Evolution of the British Welfare State Palgrave Macmillan
  • Harris, B (2004) The Origins of the British Welfare State 1800 – 1945 Palgrave Macmillan
  • Thane, P (1996) The Foundations of the Welfare State Longman
  • Glennerster, H (2007) British Social Policy:1945 to the present Oxford : Blackwell
  • Lowe, R. (2005) The Welfare State in Britain since 1945. Macmillan