Skip to main content

Study information

Britain and the Age of Revolution, 1775-1832 (Context)

Module titleBritain and the Age of Revolution, 1775-1832 (Context)
Module codeHIH3043
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr James Davey ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The ‘Age of Revolution’ was a transformative period that made a deep and lasting impact on Britain’s politics, people and culture. Confronted by political radicalism, social upheaval and a series of global conflicts for national survival, Britain was forced to question long-held beliefs and uproot established traditions. This module explores this tumultuous period of British history through a series of interlinked themes, including the impact of revolutionary ideas, popular politics, lived experience, conflict, empire, and the shaping of identity and nationhood. From the American Revolution through to the Peterloo Massacre and its aftermath, we will consider the various ways the ‘Age of Revolution’ touched the lives of women and men from across the British Isles. No prior knowledge of the period or subject is required, but a familiarity with Blackadder III and Alexander Hamilton: The Musical will stand you in good stead.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module encourages you to consider the ‘Age of Revolution’ from multiple historical perspectives. Rather than focusing purely on the political and military dimensions of the period, it requires a deep and critical engagement with the broader social, cultural, and economic contexts in which women and men acted. It engages with contemporary scholarly debates about the impact of revolutionary ideas on Britain, radical politics, the emergence of a proto-feminism, the significance of impressment, and the impact of war on British society and culture. A key question central to the module is: why was there no ‘British’ revolution in this period?

You will also align the history of this era with other prominent historiographies, such as the growth of the periodical press and satirical art, the creation of ‘military masculinities’, the emergence of celebrity culture and the forging of British national identity.

Finally, you will also be encouraged to think about other revolutions that align with this period – for example the consumer revolution, or the early phases of the industrial revolution – and thus consider the manifold ways in which this period can be considered ‘revolutionary’.

By engaging with these complex historiographies and controversies, the module aims to develop research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Evaluate the different complex themes in British history during the ‘Age of Revolution’, 1775-1832
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within political, social, cultural and military approaches to history
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 6. Follow the changing causes of and responses to revolution and war across the period

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Undertake independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

While the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or most of the following topics:

  • The American Revolution
  • Popular protest and the mob
  • The impact of the French Revolution
  • Revolution or revolutions?
  • Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Women
  • Romanticism
  • Political radicalism and the reform movement
  • Pitt’s Terror
  • Heroes and celebrity
  • Military masculinities
  • National defence and the volunteer movement
  • The naval mutinies of 1797
  • Rebellion and union with Ireland, 1796-1801
  • Slavery and abolition
  • The ‘Second British Empire’
  • Impressment
  • Napoleon in the British imagination
  • Trafalgar and the Napoleonic Wars
  • War and popular culture
  • The Peterloo Massacre
  • The road to reform

Some of you will already have studied aspects of this period, but not in great detail. The introductory sessions will therefore be important in offering a broad overview within which framework all students can place their subsequent work. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating the respective sources in advance, and will discuss the issues raised by them in the seminars.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing throughout course1-7,9Oral from tutor and peers

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio 702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-8Oral and written
Written Assignment302500 words1-8Oral and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio (2 assignments totalling 4000 words)Portfolio (2 assignments totalling 4000 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period
Written Assignment (2500 words)Written Assignment (2500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic Reading

  • David Andress, The Savage Storm: Britain on the Brink in the Age of Napoleon (London: Little Brown, 2012)
  • S Andrews, The British Periodical Press and the French Revolution, 1789-99 (Palgrave, 2000)
  • David Bell, The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Modern Warfare (London, 2007)
  • Roger Chickering and Stig Förster, eds. War in an Age of Revolution, 1775-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (Yale University Press, 2005)
  • Stephen Conway, The British Isles and the War of American Independence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • John Cookson, The British Armed Nation: 1793-1815 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997)
  • James Davey, In Nelson’s Wake: The Navy and the Napoleonic Wars (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015)
  • J.R. Dinwiddy, Radicalism & Reform in Britain, 1780-1850 (London: Continuum, 1992)
  • Diana Donald, The Age of Caricature: Satirical Prints in the Reign of George III (Yale, 1996)
  • Boyd Hilton, A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People? England, 1783-1846 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Roger Knight, Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory (London: Allen Lane, 2013)
  • Jennifer Mori, Britain in the Age of the French Revolution (Routledge, 2000)
  • Mark Philp, The French Revolution and British Popular Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
  • Mark Philip, The British Response to the Threat of Invasion, 1797-1815 (Ashgate, 2006)
  • Edward Royle, Revolutionary Britannia?: Reflections on the Threat of Revolution in Britain, 1789-1848 (Manchester University Press, 2001)
  • Jenny Uglow, In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 (London: Faber and Faber, 2014)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE:
  • Exeter Electronic Library resources include: ProQuest Theses and Dissertations
  • Key journals for the module are available via JSTOR, Project Muse, Taylor & Francis, Cambridge Journals Online, Oxford Journals

Key words search

Revolution, society, culture, politics, people, conflict, Britain

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

At least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.

Module co-requisites

HIH3042: Britain and the Age of Revolution, 1775-1832 (Sources)

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date