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The University of Southampton

HIST2233 Blitzed Brits: Politics, Society and Culture in the Second World War

Module Overview

The Second World War ended more than seventy years ago, but the echoes and memories of the war still permeate modern British society, culture and politics. This course will explore the history of the Second World War in Britain, from appeasement to the election of the 1945 Attlee government, to think about how and why the war holds such an important place in Britain’s national psyche.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the history of the Second World War in Britain
  • the broad range of scholarship produced on the topic of the Second World War
  • the key debates about British identity and the Second World War
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather, assimilate, synthesise and interpret a range of primary and secondary material
  • fluently comment upon complex debates, citing relevant evidence in support
  • demonstrate significant depth of knowledge and insight into the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of strategic approaches
  • draw upon your acquired knowledge in discussion, essays and under timed conditions
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • work independently and unsupervised for extended periods of time on complex tasks
  • display effective time management
  • write speedily yet fluently for extended periods, clearly articulating your ideas
  • skim, select and précis complex material
  • write in a mature and sophisticated style, with graduate-level prose and presentation


The module will use a variety of primary sources – government documents, films and documentaries, newspapers, novels and poems, TV shows and radio programmes, songs and plays, advertisements and historical objects – to create a detailed history of the Second World War and answer a number of important questions. Why did the British government appease Hitler? How did the country slide into war? Was there really a Dunkirk Spirit, or a Blitz Spirit? How did women, people of colour, the working classes, refugees and other groups experience the war? Did people really Keep Calm and Carry On? Why did the British voters kick Churchill out in 1945? And how has the war become part of modern collective memory? List of indicative topics: The Second World War in Popular Culture Appeasement: The Guilty Men? Rearmament and The Road to War Mass Observation Diaries The Phony War The Ministry of Information: Wartime Propaganda Evacuation and Conscription Life and Leisure on the Home Front Alien Panics, Internment and Refugees The 'Miracle' of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain The Myth of the Blitz The War and the Empire Make Do and Mend – Mobilising the Home Front Defending Britain: The Home Guard Overpaid Oversexed and Over Here – the GIs in Britain Sex and the Home Front The Beveridge Report and Social Reform Victory! VE Day, VJ Day and Returning Home The 1945 Election The Second World War in Modern Memory

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures which build a narrative of the Second World War and focus on specific case studies to build understanding of key themes - Seminars which focus on historiographical debates and the analysis of primary material - Essays, gobbet analysis and timed examination Learning activities include: • Analysis of selected key readings in the historiography • Preparatory reading and individual study • Individual participation in seminars and group work on seminar themes • Analysis of primary material, including using the Mass Observation database to select a key primary source and present it in the assessed gobbet exercise

Independent Study264
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Sonya Rose (2003). Which People’s War? National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain, 1939-45. 

David Edgerton (2005). Warfare State Britain, 1920-1970 . 

Peter Clarke (2004). Hope and Glory Britain 1900‑2000 . 

Ugolini, Wendy and Pattinson, Juliet . Fighting for Britain: negotiating identities in Britain during the Second World War. 

Nicholas Timmins (2001). The Five Giants: A Biography of the Welfare State . 

Noakes, Lucy and Pattinson, Juliet  (2013). British Cultural Memory and the Second World War . 

Dorothy Sheridan (2000). Wartime Women A Mass-Observation Anthology . 

Brivati, Brian and Jones, Helen  (1996).  What Difference Did the War Make? . 

Morgan, David and Evans, Mary (1993). The Battle for Britain: Citizenship and Ideology in the Second World War. 

Braybon, Gill and Summerfield, Penny  (1987). Out of the Cage: Women’s Experiences in Two World Wars. 

Mark Donnelly  (1999). Britain in the Second World War . 

Angus Calder (1969). The People’s War Britain 1939-45 . 

Hayes, Nick and Hill, Jeff  (1999). ‘Millions Like Us’? British Culture in the Second World War. 

Juliet Gardiner (2004). Wartime Britain 1939-1945 . 


Assessment Strategy

Students will complete three types of assessment. In the first, a gobbet exercise, students will use the Mass Observation database to select any relevant primary source relating to the Second World War: they will then write a gobbet response analysing the primary source and explaining why they chose to foreground this source. The second, an assessed essay, will be chosen from a list of topics that relate to specific case studies on the course. The final piece of assessment, a timed exam, will analyse some of the broader themes of the course and invite students to make connections between the different topics covered on the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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