Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST3293: Politics and Welfare: England, 1880-1914

Department: History

HIST3293: Politics and Welfare: England, 1880-1914

Type Open Level 3 Credits 60 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • A pass in at least TWO level two modules in History.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To give students an advance understanding of the connections between political and social history in the creation of the New Liberal 'welfare state'.
  • To give students a detailed understanding of the policy-making process in a democracy, including the contributions of politicians, civil servants, employers and trade unionists.
  • To develop the skills necessary for critical analysis and evaluation of a wide range of primary sources including social and medical investigations, journalistic writings, speeches, party propaganda, and government and civil service documents.
  • To advance understanding of the relationship between contemporary sources and subsequent historical interpretation.


  • This special subject will examine:
  • Why did Tony Blair refuse to talk about socialism, but chose to talk about community? Why was he not so keen on the trade unions, but very keen on business? Why did New Labour's welfare reforms appear punitive towards the poor? Part of the answer is to be found in his admiration for the 'Progressive Alliance' of New Liberals and Labour before 1914, and this special subject examines the origins, difficulties, and achievements of that relationship. It explores the ideological affinities between Liberalism and Socialism, the challenge of increasing working-class and middle-class class consciousness, and the impact of state action in facilitating or hindering the creation of a 'Progressive Alliance' after 1900. Specifically, it involves the close study of the following topics: the foundations of popular Gladstonianism, Lib-Labism and working-class Conservatism; the attitudes of old and new trade unions to political versus industrial action; the Fabian strategy of 'permeation' versus independent action; the Independent Labour Party, the Labour Representation Committee and the Gladstone-MacDonald Pact; the defence of Free Trade; the reforms of the New Liberal Governments, especially Health and Unemployment Insurance, and the reaction of the Parliamentary Labour Party; the significance of Lloyd George's land campaign; Syndicalism and the Edwardian 'crisis' of industrial relations; Liberals, Labour, and the outbreak of war. The primary sources include government reports, Parliamentary debates, Labour Party and trade union conference reports, the works of New Liberal and Socialist intellectuals, speeches, and diaries. As if that were not enough, you will have a chance to hear recordings made by Asquith and Lloyd George defending the record of their government.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students should have:
  • an understanding of the origins and course of co-operation between the Liberal Party and the Labour Party in Britain before 1914, and of how the changing social relations, specifically increasing working-class and middle-class class consciousness, determined popular politics;
  • an understanding of the changing historiographical fashions in this area.
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:
  • 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;
  • tutorials either individually or in groups to discuss topics arising from prepared work, allowing students the opportunity to reflect upon their personal learning with the tutor.
  • 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 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;
  • Assessment of Primary Source Handling Students are assessed on their understanding of original primary sources, usually in print, their character varying according to the nature of the subject, and the students' ability to bring that knowledge to bear on research-based monographs and articles. Students are given the opportunity to discuss and articulate an understanding of changing interpretations and approaches to historical problems, drawing evidence from a body of primary source materials. Students are required to demonstrate skills associated with the evaluation of a variety of primary source materials, using documentary analysis for a critical assessment of existing historical interpretations.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 Termly in Terms 1 & 2 30 mins 1
Seminars 19 Weekly in Terms 1 & 2 3 hours 57
Revision Sessions 1 Revision 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 540
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Essay 2 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 34%
Source Analyses 3000 words, not including scholarly apparatus 32%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 3 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay of not more than 2500 words (not including footnotes and bibliography); preparation to participate in seminar and tutorials; at least one oral presentation, and practice source/gobbet work.

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