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HIST3178 When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the 1970s, Part 1: 1970-1974

Module Overview

What was it like to live in Britain in the 1970s? When governments were nervous, rubbish went uncollected, the unity of the UK was questioned, but when Britons - in general - were better off than ever before? In this Special Subject you will consider this central question through examining key political, social, economic and cultural debates and developments of this decade. You will interrogate discussions about the erosion of post- war political consensus, evidence of popular protest and of shifting cultural norms. Contemporaries confronted the often conflicting pressures of the decade; historians are coming to understand the 1970s as a pivotal hinge in the history of post-1945 Britain. Through close readings of primary sources alongside historians' writings, you will have the opportunity to contribute to a developing field of enquiry about this turbulent decade in recent British history.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • major political events, economic, social and cultural developments in Britain 1970-1974, and recent historiographical debates surrounding their interpretation
  • the wider contexts of these events and developments, both immediate (late 1960s Britain) and longer- term (post-war trends)
  • a range of primary sources and evidence, pertaining to topics of study, that indicate different viewpoints and subjects of controversy in this period
  • key areas of debate in early 1970s Britain which shed light on developments in contemporary British history after 1979
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • contribute effectively to group discussion
  • further refine your skills in time-management
  • identify and utilise relevant textual, visual, oral history sources in the library and on-line
  • display your presentation skills
  • research historical questions and present your case persuasively in written reports
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • contribute effectively to small and large group discussions, presenting arguments that build upon your reading, knowledge and understanding
  • analyse critically a variety of textual, visual and oral history evidence from the period
  • marshall the arguments and evidence you find in your research into well-organised presentations and essays
  • critique and contextualise primary source material in a form appropriate for the ‘gobbet’ examination
  • engage critically with the burgeoning secondary literature on 1970s Britain, and contribute to recent historiographical debates about the significance of the decade in the history of post-war Britain

Syllabus

What was it like to live in Britain in the 1970s? When governments were nervous, rubbish went uncollected, the unity of the UK was questioned, but when Britons – in general – were better off than ever before? In this Special Subject you will consider this central question through examining key political, social, economic and cultural debates and developments of this decade. You will interrogate discussions about the erosion of post- war political consensus, evidence of popular protest and of shifting cultural norms. Contemporaries confronted the often conflicting pressures of the decade; historians are coming to understand the 1970s as a pivotal hinge in the history of post-1945 Britain. Through close readings of primary sources alongside historians’ writings, you will have the opportunity to contribute to a developing field of enquiry about this turbulent decade in recent British history. In the first semester you will examine the actions and aspirations of politicians and the population from 1970 to 1974. You will investigate political policy, the state of the economy, measures of morality, television and social reform, changing attitudes to sex and family life and race relations. In exploring these themes, you will study a range of written and visual primary sources and oral history evidence including election manifestos, political speeches, government reports, diaries, memoirs, books, newspapers, magazines, television programmes, films, opinion polls, sociological studies, and interview transcripts and recordings. Throughout, you will consider the many ways in which high politics were connected to men’s and women’s everyday lives and their attempts to negotiate rapidly changing social and cultural terrains. Topics to be explored in the first semester: 1. Introduction: from the 60s to the 70s 2. 1970 General Election: A Surprised Edward Heath 3. Crime and Culture: Get Carter (1971) 4. The Economy: Affluence or Decline? 5. Strikes, Trade Unions and the Government 6. Measuring Moral Attitudes 7. Television and Social Intervention 8. Family Life and Sex 9. Immigration, Race and Racism 10. 1974 General Election: ‘Who Governs Britain’?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include:  presentations by students on secondary reading and primary sources  small and large group discussions  structured in-depth reading and analysis of the module texts  active film viewings Learning activities include:  preparatory reading, individual research and study prior to each class  preparing and delivering short presentations relating to aspects of the module, as directed by the tutor  close study of textual, visual and oral history primary sources  participation in small and large group discussion

TypeHours
Independent Study260
Teaching40
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

D. Sandbrook (2011). State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain 1970-1974. 

J. Bowyer Bell (1993). The Irish Troubles: A Generation of Violence, 1967-1992. 

F. Wheen (2009). Strange Days Indeed: The Golden Age of Paranoia. 

J. Campbell (2001). Margaret Thatcher, Vol. 1: The Grocer’s Daughter. 

M. Phillips and T. Phillips (1998). Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain. 

J. Callaghan (2004). Industrial Militancy, 1945-79: The Failure of the British Road to Socialism?. Twentieth Century British History. ,15 , pp. 388-409.

P. Whitehead (1985). The Writing On The Wall: Britain in the Seventies. 

A. Beckett (2009). When The Lights Went Out: What Really Happened to Britain in the Seventies. 

B. Moore-Gilbert (ed.) (1994). The Arts in the 1970’s: Cultural Closure?. 

G. Owen (1999). From Empire to Europe: The Decline and Revival of British Industry Since the Second Word War. 

J. McIlroy, N. Fishman and A. Campbell (eds.) (2007). The High Tide of British Trade Unionism: Trade Unions and Industrial Politics, 1964-1979. 

J Diski (2009). The Sixties. 

R. Coopey and N. W. C. Woodward (eds) (1996). Britain in the 1970s: The Troubled Economy. 

M. Tracey and D. Morrison (1979). Whitehouse. 

K O. Morgan (1997). Callaghan: A Life. 

C. Hay (1996). Narrating the Crisis: The Discursive Construction of the “Winter of Discontent”. Sociology. ,30 , pp. 253-277.

H. Young (1998). This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair. 

D. Butler and U. Kitzinger (1976). The 1975 Referendum. 

J Moran (2010). ‘“Stand Up and Be Counted”: Hughie Green, the 1970s and Popular Memory’. History Workshop Journal. ,70 , pp. 172-198.

H. Sounes, Seventies (2006). The Sights, Sounds and Ideas of a Brilliant Decade. 

L. Black (2012). 'An Enlightening Decade? New Histories of 1970s Britain'. International Labor and Working-class History. ,82 .

A. Oakley (1974). Housewife. 

D. Sandbrook (2012). Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979. 

K Dunnell (1979). Family Formation, 1976: A Survey Carried Out on Behalf of Population Statistics Division 1 of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys of a Sample of Women (Both Single and Ever Married) Aged 16-49 in Great Britain. 

S. Ball and A. Seldon (eds) (1996). The Heath Government, 1970-1974: A Reappraisal. 

L Forster and S. Harper (eds) (2010). British Culture and Society in the 1970s: The Lost Decade. 

A. W. Turner (2008). Crisis? What Crisis? Britain in the 1970s. 

S. Bruce (1995). Religion in Modern Britain. 

R. Clutterbuck (1978). Britain in Agony: The Growth of Political Violence. 

D. Butler and D. Kavanagh (1974). The British General Election of February 1974. 

P. Thane (ed.) (2010). Unequal Britain: Equalities in Britain Since 1945. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback:  individual and group oral presentations (non-assessed)  tutorial consultations on assessed essays  guidance and advice in class on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments  regular work with primary sources to prepare for the essay and examination exercises

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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