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Study information

Them and Us: Imagining the Social "Other" in Britain since the 1880s: Sources

Module titleThem and Us: Imagining the Social "Other" in Britain since the 1880s: Sources
Module codeHIH3056
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Jon Lawrence (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This Special Subject explores changing perceptions of social identity in Britain since the 1880s. In 1880 Britain was a profoundly hierarchical society where people were expected to ‘know their place’. Intersecting hierarchies of class, gender and ethnicity structured life chances and shaped social interactions. We trace the unwinding of that system across the twentieth century, and explore how class, gender and ethnicity continue to shape social interactions and the social imagination. The course encourages students to engage with a wide range of sources to interrogate an issue that remains central to the dynamics of everyday life today.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Interrogate social and cultural change in modern Britain through the lens of social encounters – real and imagined – between people from radically different social backgrounds.
  • Explore the changing interaction of class, gender, ethnicity and age as lines of social division and as sources of personal and group self-realisation
  • While engaging with the complex historiographies of social change since the 1880s, we will consider concepts that remain relevant for understanding social interaction today, including debates about selfhood, social bonding and social exclusion
  • Develop research, analytical, interpretative and communication skills that can be applied in further academic studies or in graduate careers

Sources include film, music, fiction, social commentary, political speech, contemporary sociology, social-science field-notes and memoirs. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on perspectives from sociology, anthropology, social psychology, literary criticism and film studies as well as history. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the different sources through which people have imagined social difference in Britain since the 1880s, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 5. Understand broad patterns of social and cultural change in modern Britain

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

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

Syllabus plan

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

  • Imagining in ‘the People’ in politics
  • ‘Knowing’ the Victorian poor
  • Edwardian social investigation and sexuality
  • Imperialism and racialised others
  • Democracy and ‘the worker’
  • Knowing and Being ‘The Unemployed’
  • Mass-Observation’s Anthropology of Ourselves
  • Constructing the post-war ‘Immigrant’
  • Women, work and motherhood
  • Literature, Music and the ‘working-class hero’
  • Social-science encounters and the decline of deference
  • Memory and social identity
  • Neoliberalism and the demonising of disadvantage
  • Brexit and the Nativist/Cosmopolitan divide.

The introductory sessions for this module will provide an overview of the subject and also expose you to the sources themselves. The seminars will focus on sources drawn from published and digitised resources, allowing you to develop knowledge of the subject in conjunction with the close analysis of historiography provided in the co-requisite module, and to develop skills in source analysis and acquisition. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating the relevant 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 teaching 4422 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 through course1-6, 8Oral from tutor and fellow students

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
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-7Oral and written
Individual Presentation3025 minutes1-8Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 25 minute presentation1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

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

  • Andrew Mearns, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London (1883)
  • Charles Booth, ‘The condition of the people of East London and Hackney’ Transactions of the Royal Statistical Society (1888)
  • M.E. Loane, The Queen’s Poor: life as they find it in town and country (1905)
  • Maud Pember Reeves, Round about a pound a week (1913)
  • D.H. Lawrence, ‘A collier’s Friday night’ (1909) and Sons & Lovers (1913)
  • Stephen Reynolds & Bob and Tom Woolley, Seems So! A working-class view of politics (1911)
  • Labour Party, Labour and the New Social Order (1918)
  • E.W. Bakke, The Unemployed Man: a social study (1933)
  • Elton & Anstey (dirs.), ‘Housing Problems’ (1935)
  • Walter Brierley, Means-Test Man (1935)
  • Walter Greenwood, How the Other Man Lives (1939)
  • Mass-Observation Online – selected Diaries and Responses
  • Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (1957)
  • Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum (1971)
  • Michael Young and Peter Willmott, Family and Kinship in East London (1957)
  • Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958)
  • Richard Lester (dir.), A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
  • Michael Apted (dir.) ‘Seven Up’ [TV series]
  • Sheila Patterson, Dark Strangers: a Sociological Study of […] Brixton (1963)
  • Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein, Women’s Two Roles: Home and Work (1956)
  • UKDA, ‘Affluent Worker Study’ interview transcripts
  • UKDA, Pahl Papers Sheppey Study, ‘Linda and Jim’ interview transcripts
  • Bev Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable
  • Lynsey Hanley, Estates: an Intimate History
  • Owen Jones, Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class (2011)
  • Seth Koven, Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London (2004)
  • Seth Koven, The Match Girl and the Heiress (2014)
  • Mark Peel, Miss Cutler and the Case of the Resurrected Horse (2012)
  • James Hinton, Nine Wartime Lives (Oxford, 2010)
  • James Hinton, The Mass Observers : A History, 1937-1949 (Oxford, 2013)
  • Daniel Miller, The Comfort of Things (2008)
  • Jon Lawrence, ‘Social-Science Encounters and the negotiation of difference’ History Workshop (2014)
  • Mike Savage, Identities and Social Change in Britain since 1940: the Politics of Method (Oxford, 2010)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

British history, social identity, social and cultural change

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

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

Module co-requisites

HIH3057 Them and Us: Imagining the Social “Other” in Britain since the 1880s: Context

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date