Unquiet pasts: controversies of twentieth-century Britain

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
19 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The history of twentieth-century Britain is far from over. From 'appeasement' in the 1930s to the first referendum on Britain in Europe, this is a past that does not lie quietly; people have continued to remember and remake it, to claim ownership, to challenge official accounts and to demand re-examination of the evidence in the name of justice. Historians, politicians, the media and the public have all been involved in debating not only 'what actually happened' but also how particular events should be interpreted, where they fit in longer views of British history and what they mean for present-day British society.

This course looks at moments in the history of twentieth-century Britain that were not only controversial in their own time but have continued to trouble us. In each two-week case study, we will look closely in the first week at the event itself through primary sources.. The idea is to involve students actively in researching the material evidence, so that, in the second week, we can bring this understanding to discussing specific moments in which an unquiet past returns. We will explore longer-run social and political legacies – many of which are still felt today. Public enquiries and tribunals, apologies for historical injustice, anniversaries and commemoration and moments of great political change can all allow the past to intrude on the present.

Module aims

This module aims:

1.To use wide range of sources, including audio and visual and newly available material, to understand historical events in their contemporary contexts and to gain insights into their longer-term legacies. 2. To analyse the often problematic ways in which historical events can re-emerge as significant in later periods. 3. To develop a critically sharpened ability to present arguments emerging from this analysis for different audiences. 4. To gain an appreciation ofhow historians can contribute towards wider understanding and reinterpretation of these events and why this matters.

Module learning outcomes

On completing the module, students will:

1.Have an awareness of debates in twentieth-century British history, in terms of contemporary significance, later legacies and changing historiographical interpretations. 2. Have developed confidence using and combining a wide range of sources, including visual sources, crowd sourced material, journalism, social media and other very recently-produced material. 3. Be able to explain and debate the longer view on present-day social and political issues in ways that meet the needs of different audiences. 4. Be able formulate a reasoned argument about the value of doing so.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

Carnevali, Francesca & Julie-Marie Strange (eds.), Twentieth-century Britain: economic, cultural and social change (London: Routledge, 2007) 2nd edn.

Hughes, R. Gerald, The postwar legacy of appeasement: British foreign policy since 1945. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).

Macmillan, Margaret, The uses and abuses of history.

Murray, Douglas, Bloody Sunday: truth, lies and the Saville Inquiry (Biteback, 2011).

Solomos, John, Race and Racism in Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   A presentation document and handling of online Q&A    20% 
Coursework   Engagement with online discussion    20% 
Coursework   Essay (2500 words)    60% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Alix Green, email:
Dr Alix Green
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

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

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