Sex, War and Class at the Movies: 1930-1960

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
10 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module explores the relationship between cinema and society in Britain from the interwar depression, through the Second World War and the onset of affluence and mass-consumerism in the 1950s and 60s.

More specifically, cinematic representations of classes and cultures will be examined in relation to the lived history of the period, in order to track what they both reveal and conceal about the historical processes which transformed Britain during the mid-twentieth century.

The main sources will be feature films but other primary sources will be employed when appropriate in order to situate the texts more firmly in their contexts.

The module is interdisciplinary in design and content: texts will be read in conjunction with a wide range of secondary sources taken from the fields of film studies, social, economic and political history and sociology. A variety of genres and styles will be considered including comedy and musical comedy, historical melodrama, the crime thriller, social documentary and social realism.

Major themes to be studied include images of class, race, community and nation; gender division and gender identity; ideology and hegemony; social mobility and alienation; citizenship and race relations; affluence and class-consciousness.

Module aims

This module aims to familiarise students with the major developments in British cinema from the 1930s to the end of the twentieth century. It will introduce students to the methods and approaches involved in the study of film history. Students will gain a critical understanding of the history of the cinema as an economic and cultural form, constitutive and not merely reflective of wider social processes. They will also refine the key skills necessary for critically reading films and develop an awareness of both the uses and limitations of cinematic representation as a major source for historians of modern British society.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students will have gained an understanding of some of the key themes in British history during the period 1930-60. Students will also have developed a better understanding of the potential of film as a historical source.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

Murphy, Robert (ed.), The British Cinema Book (2009).

Learning and teaching methods

Two-hour screening, one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar per week.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Film analysis (1000 words)    35% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    65% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Peter Gurney, email:
Dr Peter Gurney
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

Dr Miriam Dobson
University of Sheffield
Dr Ingeborg Dornan
Brunel University London
Reader in History
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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