Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST30J1: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Britain

Department: History

HIST30J1: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Britain

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • HISTMD36 Sexual Revolutions: The Politics of Gender and Sexuality in Britain and Beyond, 1920s to 1970s


  • To introduce students at an advanced level to the history of masculinity, femininity, heterosexuality and homosexuality in modern Britain
  • To enable students to engage in methodological and historiographical debate about gender and sexuality


  • This module will consider how ideas about masculinity, femininity, heterosexuality and homosexuality have changed in Britain since the late nineteenth century, how these intersect with class, race and locality, and how this has affected both the lives of men and women and the way they define their own identities. It will also ask how thinking about sexuality and gender changes the way we do history: what does it mean to use gender ‘as a useful category of historical analysis’, to ‘queer’ the history of the British state, or to discard ‘heteronormativity’? The module will be organised around six significant themes:
  • Boyhood, girlhood and education
  • Sex, marriage and parenthood
  • Work, masculinity and equal pay
  • Feminism and the women’s movement
  • Lesbianism
  • Male homosexuality
  • These themes will be tied into the wider history of the British state from the 1870s onwards. How was the relationship between the state and the citizen changing? How did ideas of selfhood, emotion and subjectivity alter? What new medical and psychological ideas about ‘healthy citizenship’ or ‘normal development’ were propagated, and how did this affect state action?
  • Lecture topics will include, but not be confined to: the nineteenth century ‘woman question’; suffrage feminism; prostitution; masculinities and fatherhood; male homosexuality; lesbianism; bisexuality, crossdressing and transgender experiences; ‘second-wave’ feminism; race and gender; contraception and abortion; equal pay; and the gender politics of Thatcher and New Labour.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To develop an empirical understanding of key shifts in masculinity, femininity and sexuality.
  • To examine some of the methodological questions raised by these topics, including, but not confined to: what does it mean to do women’s history, or gender history? How are ideas about sexuality and gender relevant for all historians? How can we trace the histories of ‘hidden’ groups such as gay men, lesbians and transgender people?
  • To consider the potential advantages and pitfalls of contemporary social and cultural history, and encouraging students to put aside their own assumptions by promoting historical empathy for subjects as personal and political as gender and sexuality.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/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 21 Weekly in Terms 1&2, 2 in Term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 4 in Term 1, 3 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Two Essays Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 - not including footnotes and bibliography maximum of 2000 words, not inclusive of scholarly apparatus 50%
Essay 2 - not including footnotes and bibliography maximum of 2000 words, not inclusive of scholarly apparatus 50%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than seventy-two hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Preparation to participate in seminars. 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