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The University of Southampton

HIST2218 Sex, Death and Money: the United Kingdom in the 1960s

Module Overview

The 1960s were a time of rapid social, political and cultural change in Britain. The decade saw Britain – and especially London – finally steal the crown of cool from the United States. British pop culture exploded and was exported around the world. With National Service abolished in 1960, the first teenagers free from conscription drove this rapid social change: whether by turning on, tuning in or dropping out. Social reforms led by the pioneering Home Secretary Roy Jenkins made British society more tolerant, diverse and modern. The 1950s, a drab and grey decade still struggling to rebuild after the Second World War, had been replaced by the brilliant technicolour of the “swinging sixties”. But the history of the 1960s in Britain isn’t all tie-dye, mini-skirts and mop-topped pop stars. Many people were deeply uncomfortable with the rapid social change that they felt was being imposed upon them. Although many individuals experienced the decade as one of comfortable prosperity, this masked a decline in the relative competitiveness of the British economy against its European rivals. Strikes were increasingly common as workers tried to fight for better conditions. The end of the British empire led to anxiety about Britain’s place in the world, and increasing levels of immigration led to a rise in racist politics and bitterly divided communities. Women enjoyed more freedoms than before, but still felt ignored and oppressed by male-dominated politics and society. In Northern Ireland, the divided sectarian politics erupted into the Troubles by the end of the decade. And British young people were anxious about the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and their future in a turbulent and uncertain world. This course will explore some of the themes, tensions and contradictions in the history of Britain in the 1960s. We will work with an interesting and varied historiography, as well as a rich collection of archival material including pamphlets, speeches, audio/visual materials, memoirs and autobiographies, and legal and government documents.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • • Key cultural, social and political developments in the history of Britain in the 1960s
  • • A variety of historiographical debates around Britain in the 1960s
  • • An eclectic range of primary sources that provide historical evidence for the history of 1960s Britain
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • • Evaluate different scholarly approaches to the history of Britain in the 1960s
  • • Show a critical understanding of the nature of British society, politics and culture in the 1960s
  • • Make analytical connections between different events, people, ideas and moments in 1960s Britain and beyond
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • • Develop orally and in writing sound and well supported arguments
  • • Elaborate and express your ideas and critical reflections in essays, using primary and secondary sources.
  • • Gather and digest relevant primary and secondary source materials including via electronic and web resources
  • • Put forward your ideas and arguments in group discussions, and consider the arguments put forward by your fellow students
  • • Engage in independent study and research.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • • Evaluate and compare different genres of source text
  • • Work confidently with library, archival and virtual sources as appropriate


This course will cover topics including: - The ‘Swinging sixties’: Representing a Decade - Pop: the Beatles, the Stones, the mini-skirt and the Mini - Politics: Labour and the Tories in the 1960s - Money: Consumption, poverty, work and strikes. - Sex: Social Reforms or Social Revolution? - Youth: Mods, Rockers, Hippies, Students, Squares - Crime: Censorship, Violence, Moral Panics and Punishment - Race: Immigration, Multiculturalism and Racism - War: British Foreign Policy in the 1960s - Empire: British Decolonisation and its Aftermath - Troubles: Northern Ireland’s place in British history

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: • weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar • directed individual and group activities around primary sources • short presentations given by students on the module • group discussions including feedback from the tutor Lectures are designed to introduce you to key themes, historical debates and historians' approaches. Further reading and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material are designed to consolidate your knowledge and understanding. In seminar discussions you will be expected to engage in critical analysis of primary sources and to formulate and articulate arguments. And you will be encouraged to express your own ideas about a topic. Learning activities will include: • independent study, reading and research in preparation for each seminar • putting together and delivering short presentations as directed by the lecturer • in-depth study of textual and visual primary sources • participation in small group and whole seminar discussions. This module, like all of the 15 credit History modules offered to second year students, will be research led and it will focus heavily on primary sources. You will study an individual source in depth each week. As such, this module will provide you with a sound preparation for the source-based work undertaken in year 3 during the Special Subject and the dissertation.

Completion of assessment task54
Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Wider reading or practice12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Richard Weight (2002). Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000. 

Elizabeth Buettner (2016). Europe after Empire: Decolonization, Society and Culture. 

Jonathon Green (1999). All Dressed Up: The Sixties and Counter-Culture. 

Jodi Burkett (2013). Constructing post-imperial Britain: Britishness, ‘race’ and the radical left in the 1960s. 

Wendy Webster (1997). Imagining Home: gender, ‘race’ and national identity, 1945-1964. 

Brian Harrison (2009). Seeking a Role: The United Kingdom, 1951-1970. 

Mark Donnelly (2005). Sixties Britain: Culture, Society and Politics. 

Kathleen Paul (1997). Whitewashing Britain: race and citizenship in the post-war era. 

Linda McDowell (2013). Working Lives: Gender, Migration and Employment in Britain, 1945-2007. 

Dominic Sandbrook (2005). Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain From Suez to the Beatles. 

Selina Todd (2015). The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010. 

Tim Newburn (1992). Permission and Regulation: Law and Morals in Post-War Britain. 

Arthur Marwick (1998). The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c. 1958-c.1974. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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