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HIST3233 For the Many, not the Few: the history of the British Labour Party (part 2)

Module Overview

In 1997, the Labour Party won a landslide victory with its largest ever number of MPs. In his victory speech, the new Prime Minister Tony Blair said ‘Above all, we have secured a mandate to bring this nation together, to unite us — one Britain, one nation’. But throughout its history, the Labour Party has been seen by its critics as not uniting the nation, but breaking it apart – by spreading class hatred by attacking inequality, by undermining the economy by taxation and nationalisation, and by diminishing the United Kingdom in the wider world. What’s more, even many supporters of the Labour Party concede that the party itself is rarely united – with voices on the left and right both clamouring to be heard. This module will explore the history of the Labour Party since its creation in 1900. We will explore the roots of the Labour Party in nineteenth century working class politics, its first electoral successes, its role in the two world wars, the 1945 victory what that meant for the country, the successes and failures of Labour in power in the 1940s, 1960s and 1970s, the moments in the wilderness in the 1950s and the 1980s, and the 1997 landslide victory and what this meant for ‘New’ Labour. We will think about how the party is represented in the press and popular culture, how the people working in and for the party think about their mission, and how ordinary people relate to the party that was created to represent them. As well as exploring the chronological development of the Labour Party, we will also focus on a number of key themes. These will include the role of political parties and trade unions in Britain, the development of left-wing political ideologies, the position of women in British politics, and changing ideas of Britishness across the twentieth century. On this course we will consider historiographical debates and conduct our own primary research. We will use a wide range of primary sources including election manifestos, speeches, government reports, diaries and memoirs, newspapers and magazines , television programmes and films, opinion polls, and popular culture representations. We will think about how history of the Labour Party can be understood as part of British political history, and how the party thinks about its own history today.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This module will explore the history of the Labour Party since its creation in 1900. We will explore the roots of the Labour Party in nineteenth century working class politics, its first electoral successes, its role in the two world wars, the 1945 victory what that meant for the country, the successes and failures of Labour in power in the 1940s, 1960s and 1970s, the moments in the wilderness in the 1950s and the 1980s, and the 1997 landslide victory and what this meant for ‘New’ Labour. We will think about how the party is represented in the press and popular culture, how the people working in and for the party think about their mission, and how ordinary people relate to the party that was created to represent them. As well as exploring the chronological development of the Labour Party, we will also focus on a number of key themes. These will include the role of political parties and trade unions in Britain, the development of left-wing political ideologies, the position of women in British politics, and changing ideas of Britishness across the twentieth century.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the history of the Labour Party across the twentieth century, and recent historiographical debates surrounding the interpretation of this history.
  • the wider contexts of these events and developments, both immediate and longer term.
  • 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 around the history of the Labour Party in Britain which sheds light on developments of British political history and contemporary British politics.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 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 essays.
  • understand the relationship between primary and secondary sources and marshall these effectively in both essays and closed exams.
  • engage critically with the burgeoning secondary literature on the history of the Labour Party, and contribute to recent historiographical debates about the significance of the party in British history and contemporary politics.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • further refine your skills in time-management.
  • identify and utilise relevant textual, visual, oral history sources in the library and on-line.
  • display your written presentation skills.
  • research historical questions and present your case persuasively in written reports.

Syllabus

The module typically covers: - The Attlee government: The Politics of Government - The Attlee government: Nationalisation - The Attlee government: Education, Housing and the NHS - The 1950s: the Wilderness Years - The Wilson governments: The Politics and Economics of the 1960s - The Wilson governments: Britain’s Place in the World - In Place of Strife: Labour and the trade unions - The 1970s: a decade of discontent? - The 1980s: the Return to the Wilderness - 1997: Things can only get better?

Learning and Teaching

TypeHours
Preparation for scheduled sessions80
Assessment tasks130
Revision42
Teaching48
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Patrick Diamond et al (2004). New Labour’s Old Roots: Revisionist Thinkers in Labour’s History, 1931-1997. 

Pamela Graves (1994). Labour Women: Women in British Working Class Politics, 1918-1939. 

Emily Robinson (2012). History, heritage and tradition in contemporary British politics: past politics and present histories. 

Donald Sassoon (2010). One Hundred Years of Socialism. 

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

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

Kenneth O. Morgan (1987). Labour People. 

Rhiannon Vickers (2004/2011). The Labour Party and the World (vols 1+2). 

Andrew Thorpe (2015). A History of the British Labour Party. 

Laura Beers (2010). Your Britain. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4400 words) 50%
Exam  (180 minutes) 50%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: HIST3232 For the Many, not the Few: the History of the British Labour Party (part 1)

Costs

Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Students are not required to purchase books but may choose to do so.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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