Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module HIST2901: Cool Britannia? A Cultural History of Post World War II Britain

Department: History

HIST2901: Cool Britannia? A Cultural History of Post World War II Britain

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2010/11 Module Cap n/a Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • HIST 1421


  • To enable students to analyse the post-1945 period in British history, by introducing to them a diffuse range of sources, readings and debates.
  • To interrogate dominant themes (e.g. of national decline) by assessing a broader range of sources and issues than has been the historical convention.
  • Themes students will assess include: national identity (post-colonial, the break-up of Britain, Europe), the monarchy (coronations, jubilees and Diana), consumerism and affluence, leisure and culture (sport, TV, music, the 1960s' cultural renaissance, post-industrial creative economy), gender and sexuality, race, immigration and multi-culturalism, youth, old age, generation, representing and imagining Britain (the Festival of Britain, the Millennium Dome, films), comedy. Fashion, notions of heritage, the 1970s as the epitome of decline strikes and football hooligans.
  • To encourage students to subject cultural artefacts to historical analysis and to discuss how the history of the contemporary might be written.
  • To fulfil the generic aims for Level 2 History.


  • Besides a cultural history of postwar Britain, this course explores the evidence historians use. It does not supplant traditional sources, but assesses them in tandem with popular sources - textual, visual, everyday material culture.
  • Popular culture was often the means by which popular political and national identities were shaped and perceptions of society generated - or, put bluntly, more people watched TV than read political statements and film, music, sport shopping had plenty to say about gender, ethnicity and, indeed, politics.
  • Historiographically, it questions whether ‘decline’ is a useful framework for understanding postwar Britain and Britons and engages an interdisciplinary literature including sociology and cultural studies. Chronologically, it ranges from the Festival of Britain to the Millennium Dome.
  • It probes what a film like the Italian Job can reveal about attitudes to Europe; what commentary James Bond provides of perceptions of the nation, sexuality and masculinity; or what a novel like White Teeth tells of multi-cultural Britain? Can Ireland be understood without reference to U2? Britain by the 1960s was no longer one of the ' Big Three' - did the 'Fab Four' or Diana's death? What typified 1970s Britain: strikes, soccer hooligans, or 'God save the Queen'? A 'special relationship' with the USA existed at a popular level (music, film) before the WW2/Cold War alliance - might this help explain Britons as reluctant Europeans?
  • Was Britain increasingly a nation of shoppers more than shopkeepers and what store might we put by this? De-colonization, globalization, immigration, the EEC and Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalism shifted Britain's boundaries.
  • Has Britain become a more disunited Kingdom or more multi-cultural?Have cultural industries and a creative economy flourished as manufacturing industry declined - was Rule Britannia now Cool Britannia?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of the post - 1945 period in British cultural history.
  • familiarity with a diffuse range of sources, readings and debates in post-1945 cultural history.
  • understanding of a broad range of relevant themes.
  • familiarity with the historical analysis of cultural artefacts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2; revision session 1 hour 22
Seminars 6 3 in Term 1, 3 in Term two 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 1 - not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words maximum 50%
essay 2 - not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words maximum 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination two-hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

1. Coursework essays are formative as well as summative. They are to be submitted in two copies, of which one will be returned with written comments and a standard departmental feedback sheet. 2. Preparation to participate in seminars and tutorials. 3. At least one oral presentation or short written assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University