Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module HIST3821: Popular Politics and the Left in Contemporary Britain

Department: History

HIST3821: Popular Politics and the Left in Contemporary Britain

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap 50 Location Durham


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


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to engage with key interpretive debates about 20th century British political history.
  • to conceptualize the Labour Party in terms of European social democracy and British political culture.
  • to introduce students to a range of explanatory themes, including: trade unionism.
  • varieties of socialism - key thinkers and concepts.
  • the role of the state.
  • Labour's Cold War.
  • class and gender in Labour's language.
  • visual imagery and political communications methods.
  • leader-member relations.
  • political participation and competition.
  • to examine Labour's claim to be the people's party and whether, despite a sorry electoral record, many of Labour's beliefs and hopes have come about.
  • to fulfil the generic aims for Level 3 History.


  • Whilst 1997 saw Labour sweep into office, the 20th century was the one of electoral failure for it.
  • Nonetheless, historians have paid it much attention and Blair's 'New' Labour has revived interest in the party's past.
  • This course assesses and contextualizes Labour within the wider sphere of European social democracy and in terms of social change in Britain - a political culture and civil society that socialized Labour as much as being reformed by it.
  • Labour serves as a portal to a study of the European Left.
  • The divisions of World War One.
  • trade unionism and the working class.
  • capitalism in crisis in the 1930s and booming in the post-war.
  • the 1960s' new social movements.
  • the end of Communism and rise of neo-liberalism these can all be traced through Labour.
  • Influences from Marxism and Methodism to the New Left and liberalism are considered.
  • A particular focus will be Labour's recurrent claim to be the 'people's party'.
  • How has Labour imagined the people and made its appeal to them and how have they seen Labour? Has Labour been a chiefly masculine party? How has it engaged with the broader political culture and institutions and social change notably the break-up of its traditional working-class audience?.
  • Students will assess different approaches to explaining Labour's past oral history, regional studies, electoral sociology, rational choice.
  • Besides this, the course draws on pamphlets, key texts, manifestos, conference reports, diaries and autobiography.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • In-depth knowledge of Labour's history and associated issues from the 1880s to the Blair era.
  • understanding of how historians, political scientists and others have interpreted and debated these.
  • understanding of significant themes in 20th Century British political, social, economic and cultural history within a European context.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
  • To reflect upon the nature of history as a discipline, by analysing the questions historians ask of their primary sources and/or the nature of the dabates among historians.
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:
  • 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 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. In addition, seen Examinations (with pre-released paper) are intended to enable Level 3 students to produce more considered and reflective work;
  • 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 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 1 hour 19
Seminars 7 3 in Term one, 3 in Term two; revision session 1 hour; 3 hours 9
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 1 - not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words maximum 50% submission of new essay on different topic (i.e. not resubmission of amended [failed] essay)
summative essay 2 - not including footnotes and bibliography 2000 words maximum 50% submission of new essay on different topic (i.e. not resubmission of amended [failed] essay)
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than twenty-four hours before the start of the 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