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Core Course: Debates in British History

Core Course: Debates in British History 

Michaelmas Term, 2 hour seminar per week x 8 weeks

Assessment: Essay: 3–4,000 words

Where is British history going? How is it related historiographically to 'national' and imperial histories, to European and global history? Should we be seeking to replace established narratives of Whig, Marxist and liberal historiography with new narratives or is a more plural, even fragmentary approach the right one for historians? What if anything is distinctive about the British experience in modern times; how seriously should we take the claims for Britain as the first 'modern' state and nation; in light of what transnational histories is Britain best considered; what does it mean to study modern British history from a 'four nations' perspective?

The core course is compulsory for all students enrolled in the MPhil in Modern British History. It is historiographically based, engaging students with key scholarship, classic texts, and their revisions. It provides the underpinning knowledge of historiography and controversy that will enable students to confidently navigate a broad range of historical topics, and to contextualise the specialist subfields in which they will undertake primary research during the MPhil. A subject specialist will lead each seminar, and students will be expected to read the assigned texts and contribute actively to the seminar discussions. Our reading will follow seven key lines of historical inquiry:

1. The Language of the Social Order, 1700-1880 
2. The First Industrial Nation 
3. Liberalism and its Limits 
4. The Impact of Empire 
5. A Secularising nation? Religion and multi-faith Britain 
6. The Rise and Fall of Separate Spheres: Gender, Bodies, Emotions 
7. Political participation and the social order in 20th century Britain 
8. Presentation of essay topics