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Study information

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

Module titleThem and Us: Imagining the Social "Other" in Britain since the 1880s: Context
Module codeHIH3057
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

Using sources that include film, music, fiction, social commentary, political speech, contemporary sociology, social-science field-notes and memoirs, 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
  • Take an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on perspectives from sociology, anthropology, social psychology, literary criticism and film studies as well as history
  • Engage 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

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Evaluate the different historical claims made about how people have imagined, experienced and contested social difference in Britain since the 1880s
  • 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 key developments in Britain’s social and cultural history since the 1880s
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex historical issues and questions of historical method
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 6. Critically to engage with and apply social-science concepts relevant to the substantive historical problems raised by the module

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Conduct 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

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.

Some of you will already have studied aspects Britain’s modern social history; others will not. The introductory sessions will therefore be important in offering a broad overview within which framework everyone can place their subsequent work. The co-requisite module will also provide close focus on the historical sources available for study. You will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading the set secondary sources alongside the primary sources they have been paired with. You will be asked to discuss the issues raised by these sources 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 activities4422 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 course1-7, 9Oral 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 x 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 assignment (4000 words)Portfolio assignment (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

  • Peter Bailey, ‘Will the real Bill Banks please stand up? Towards a role analysis of mid-Victorian working-class respectability,’ Journal of Social History , 12 (1979): 336-53 [e-journal]
  • Peter Keating, The working classes in Victorian fiction (1971)
  • John Welshman, Underclass: a History of the Excluded, 1880-2000 (2006)
  • Joanna Bourke, Working-class Cultures in Britain, 1890-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity (Routledge, London, 1994) [e-book]
  • Stephen Brooke, ‘Bodies, Sexuality and the “Modernization” of the British Working Classes, 1920s to 1960s’ International Labor and Working-Class History 69 (2006): 104-22 [e-journal]
  • Jon Lawrence, ‘Labour and the politics of class, 1900-1940’ in David Feldman and Jon Lawrence (eds), Structures and Transformations in Modern British History (Cambridge, 2011) [e-book]
  • Helen McCarthy, ‘Social Science and Married Women’s Employment in Post-war Britain,’ Past & Present , 233 (Nov. 2016): 269-305 [e-journal]
  • Ross McKibbin, The Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain, 1880-1950 (Oxford, 1990)
  • Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures in England, 1918-1951 (1998)
  • Mike Savage, ‘Working-class Identities in the 1960s: Revisiting the Affluent Worker Study’, Sociology, 39 (2005): 929-46 [e-journal]
  • Selina Todd, The People: the Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 (John Murray, London, 2014)
  • Selina Todd and Hilary Young, ‘Baby-boomers to “Beanstalkers”: making the modern teenager in post-war Britain,’ Cultural and Social History 9, 3 (2012)
  • Lucy Delap, Knowing their Place: Domestic Service in Twentieth-Century Britain (2011)
  • Chris Waters, ‘“Dark Strangers” in our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947-1963’ Journal of British Studies , 36, 2 (1997) [e-journal]
  • Kennetta Perry, London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race (2015)
  • Claire Langhamer, The English in Love the Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (2013)
  • Becky Conekin et al (eds), Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1964 (1999)
  • Deborah Cohen, Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day (2013)
  • Frank Mort, Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society (2010)
  • Lynn Abrams, Liberating the female self: epiphanies, conflict and coherence in the life stories of Post-war British women, Social History, 39, 1 (2014)
  • Ben Rogaly and Becky Taylor, Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England (2009)
  • Mike Savage, Gaynor Bagnall and Brian Longhurst, ‘Ordinary, Ambivalent and Defensive: Class Identities in the Northwest of England,’ Sociology , 35, 4 (2001)
  • Ben Jones, The Working-class in Mid Twentieth-century England: Community, Identity and Social Memory (2012)
  • Jon Lawrence, ‘Inventing the “traditional working class”: a re-analysis of interview notes from Young and Willmott’s Family and Kinship in East London ,’ Historical Journal , 59, 2 (2016)
  • Robert Colls, ‘When we lived in communities: working-class culture and its critics’ in Robert Colls & Richard Rodger (eds), Cities of Ideas: Civil Society and Urban Governance in Britain, 1800-2000 (2005)
  • Guy Standing, The Precariat: the New Dangerous Class (2011)
  • David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: the Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (2017)

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

HIH3056 Them and Us: Imagining the Social “Other” in Britain since the 1880s: Sources.

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date