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

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module explores the relationship between cinema and society in Britain from the inter-war depression, through to the onset of 'affluence' and mass-consumerism after World War Two. More specifically, cinematic representations of classes and cultures will be examined in relation to the lived social and economic history of the period, in order to find out what they both reveal and conceal about the historical processes which transformed Britain during this vital period.

The main sources will be feature films but other primary sources will be employed when appropriate to enable us to situate the texts more firmly in their contexts. These will be read in conjunction with a wide range of secondary sources taken from the fields of film history and social history. A variety of genres and styles will be considered including comedy and musical comedy, social documentary, melodrama and social realism.

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

Films studied will be chosen from the following: 'Sing As We Go' (Basil Dean, 1934); 'Advance Democracy' (Ralph Bond, 1938); 'The Stars Look Down' (Carol Reed, 1939); 'Spare Time'/'Fires were Started' (Humphrey Jennings, 1939/1942); 'Turned Out Nice Again' (Marcel Varnel, 1941); 'In Which We Serve' (Noel Coward/David Lean, 1942); 'The Wicked Lady' (Leslie Arliss, 1945); 'Hue and Cry' (Charles Crichton, 1947); 'Passport to Pimlico' (Henry Cornelius, 1949); 'Room at the Top' (Jack Clayton, 1959); 'I'm Alright Jack' (John Boulting, 1959); 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' (Karel Reisz, 1960); 'A Taste of Honey' (Tony Richardson, 1961); 'A Kind of Loving' (John Schlesinger, 1962); 'This Sporting Life' (Lindsay Anderson, 1963).

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

General reading list:

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

Learning and teaching methods

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


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Film analysis (1500 words) 26/02/2020 30%
Coursework Essay (3000 words) 22/04/2020 70%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Peter Gurney
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Rachel Rich
Leeds Beckett University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 38 hours, 20 (52.6%) hours available to students:
18 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.