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The University of Southampton

HIST2229 Aristocracy to Democracy

Module Overview

In this module we will examine a critical period of political change which saw Britain become more ‘democratic’. But what does ‘democratic’ mean? How are people’s views and interests to be identified and represented? How does a state ensure it is accountable and fair? Who should be included in the decision making process, and where should the state intervene rather than let people decide for themselves? These are crucial questions about freedom and representation which were central to politics in the 19th century when they framed much political debate and underpinned change, but they remain critical today as modern societies continue to wrestle with questions about how people’s interests can be best represented and political power exercised justly.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The nature of political change in modern Britain.
  • The meaning of democracy and its value as a measure of political representation.
  • The main issues of historical debate in modern British history and comparisons over time.
  • Modern British history in a European context.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage with a range of approaches to understanding an historical problem.
  • Interpret, analyse and evaluate historical arguments and source materials.
  • Explain historical controversies and disagreement and evaluate competing interpretations.
  • Assess critically notions of progress and improvement in a historical perspective.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage in a programme of independent reading guided by the module tutor.
  • Think analytically about the material you have located and read.
  • Communicate your thoughts about your reading in writing, constructing arguments based on evidence.
  • Manage your own learning and your time effectively, meeting deadlines.
  • Demonstrate command of a body of knowledge and being able to control and understand this information.


Indicative topics covered by this module include: - The changing face of British politics during the long nineteenth century (c.1815-1918) - Popular radical protest - The response of the state to social change - Imperial expansion - Ireland - The rise of Labour - Warfare.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. Learning activities will include independent study of the course material, oral presentations and small group work as appropriate.

Guided independent study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

R. Blake (1998). The Conservative Party from Peel to Major . 

K. Gleadle (2009). Borderline Citizens: Women, Gender and Political Culture in Britain 1815-1867. 

M. Bentley (1999). Politics without Democracy: England 1815-1914. 

B. Hilton  (2006). A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? England 1783-1846. 

J. Parry (1993). The Rise and Fall of the Liberal Government in Victorian Britain . 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 25%
Essay  (2000 words) 25%
Exam  (2 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment tasks 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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