Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Government and International Affairs


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap


  • Political Ideologies.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to become acquainted with some of the major developments in British political thought since 1850, (regarded as defining the end of Classical Liberalism and the emergence of a more radical era of thought), and their significance at a high conceptual and historical level of understanding through use of primary and advanced secondary sources.
  • To enhance students' sensitivity to the role that political thought has played in the self-understanding of English and British society in the last century and a half.
  • To do so by examining how the boundaries of 'belonging' were drawn and contested through concepts of Citizenship, subjecthood, national character and identity, and international society.
  • To build on students' knowledge and understanding of ideology and ideologies acquired during the previous term by focusing on their role within a specific political tradition.


  • 1. Introduction to the module: An introduction to the subject-matter and themes of the module.
  • 2. J.S.Mill: liberty, democracy, and utility: An examination of the concerns that informed Mill's later thought and assessment of opposing interpretations of his success in reconciling them. Particular attention will be given to Mill's sensitivity to variations of national character as a key factor in the workings of government.
  • 3. Herbert Spencer, non-conformism and 'natural rights': An examination of the Spencer's evolutionary social theory and the English tradition of religious nonconformity, and his development of notions of identity that stressed natural rights, whilst attempting to reconcile this with a specific form of utilitarianism.
  • 4. English Idealism and Citizenship: An analysis of the concept of the 'citizenship' as espoused by the English Idealists, particularly T.H. Green and Bernard Bosanquet, and its distinctive analysis of the relationship between identity, nation and state that was highly influential in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
  • 5. Collectivism and Patriotism in Edwardian political thought: An analysis of the tensions and interaction between fabian and New Liberal Collectivism, on the one hand, and the patriotism of G.K Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, on the other. Particular attention will be given to different concepts of the 'people' in these streams of thought, and divergent evaluations of empire.
  • 6. International Thought and 'idealism' in the interwar period: An analysis of the interwar 'idealists' in international relations theory in Britain, particularly A.E. Zimmern, Gilbert Murray and Leonard Woolf. How devoid of 'realism' was their assessments of the League of Nations and their conceptions of international society? what ideals of liberalism - and imperialism - informed their international thought?
  • 7. Englishness: George Orwell to Enoch Powell: An analysis of the changing fortunes of 'Englishness' in political thought from Orwell in the late-1930s to Enoch Powell in the 1960s, particularly in response to the pressure of events. What roles do race, national culture and character play in their thought, and with what political consequences?
  • 8. Oakeshott and the Conservative ideal in Politics: How can we account for Oakeshott's embrace of 'modernity' as the cornerstone of his conservatism? How well does he reconcile individuality and tradition? An examination of the philosophic and cultural conceptions that are central to Oakenshott's thought, and their implications for ideas about identity.
  • 9. Multiculturalism and the politics of citizenship: This topic brings together much of the material of the module in a consideration of recent developments in political thought concerning multiculturalism, national identity and citizenship in Britain. It examines the idea of a 'community of communities' that underlies multicultural thought against the backdrop of earlier discourses of nationhood in Britain.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students will have acquired:
  • 1) An advanced understanding of the conceptual development, debates and controversies surrounding collective identity in British political thought from 1850 to the present day.
  • 2) Detailed and sophisticated knowledge and understanding of key turning points in the development of collective identity drawing on a diverse range of contemporary primary sources and advanced secondary sources.
  • 3) Understanding of the complex relationship between these developments and specific, key historical events.
  • 4) Enhanced sensitivity to the role political thought and thinkers have played in defining collective identity in Britain since 1850, including the implications of this for conceptions of international society and the role of Britain on the international stage.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • 1) The advanced ability to interpret and analyse and critically assess diverse sources, with particular emphasis on a wide range of primary sources extending beyond classic political thought texts to include general readership journals, newspaper columns, lectures, speeches, and popular pamphlets.
  • 2) A sophisticated critical engagement with advanced secondary sources and current scholarship on collective identity in Britain.
  • 3) The awareness of an ability to assess the idea of a 'national tradition' of political thought in the context of collective identity.
  • 4) Enhanced sensitivity to the historical embeddedness of diverse texts and an ability to identify the basis of their contemporary and in some cases, continuing appeal.
  • 5) Appreciation of the connections between culture, identity and political thought in the British case.
Key Skills:
  • 1) Independent thought and judgment on complex and controversial issues.
  • 2) Time management in preparing for seminars and writing essays to word limits.
  • 3) Organisation of material.
  • 4) Research skills in identifying relevant sources, both primary and secondary.
  • 5) Fluency of argument and depth of analysis in both seminars and written work.
  • 6) Capacity to work independently.

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

  • An introductory lecture will set out the module's subject matter and framework of analysis. It will introduce students to relevant sources, issues and perspectives. It will be followed by a one hour tutorial in which student presentations will be assigned and questions may be asked about the context and aims of the module.
  • The primary mode of teaching by seminars will provide a structured context for the acquisition of complex and specialised knowledge and understanding. The tutor will ensure that group discussions cover the major themes of debate concerning each topic and that the reverent historical context are brought into focus through critical review of the contested knowledge in this field. Seminar teaching will maximize scope for student engagement with a diverse range of primary texts and specialized commentaries, leading to the formation of independent judgment on their meaning and significance. There will be a minimum reading requirement for each seminar which all students will be expected to undertake.
  • The modes of learning through seminar presentations and essay writing will enhance the students' capacity to organise autonomously their material and ideas; they will place a premium on independent research and analysis but within a supportive learning environment in which the student's ideas may be consolidated and further developed. Oral feedback will be given on student presentations.
  • The mode of assessment through formative and summative essays permits students to develop research specialisms within the module, demonstrating their ability to utilize diverse primary and advanced secondary sources in an independent and innovative manner. The summative essays and associated feedback is a means of preparing for the summative essay of 4,000 words which students are required to submit at the end of the module. Summative assessment essays will include appropriate use of primary source material, critically reviewing complex and specialised secondary sources, including some from close to the forefront of current scholarship, in order to support independent judgment in a contested field and in appropriate context.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 1 1 overall 1 hour 1
Tutorials 1 1 overall 1 hour 1
Seminars 8 weekly 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 132
Other: 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 4,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 1,500 words

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