Section Information for Spring 2017
This course examines Britain from the later 18th Century to the Interwar period in the 20th Century. We will explore how Britain’s “uniqueness” in fact laid the foundations for many fundamental aspects of Western modernity. Britain is often considered the home of many modern firsts: political upheavals that ushered in a continuous parliamentary system; the first nation to industrialize; the birthplace of bourgeois Victorian culture; the place where the modern city first shocked the world and transformed the land; the hub of an Empire that stretched round the globe. Not all firsts could be presented as triumphal: Britain also, arguably, first experienced the modern strains of an aging industrial infrastructure; competition and the loss of its status as the major global superpower; disruptive divisions rooted in class, gender, regional and ethnic differences; and disillusion with the fruits of progress. All of these processes were both specifically British and at the same time quintessentially modern.
This course will examine the issues listed above while always approaching history from a range of perspectives—Britain’s geo-political role will inform our work, but so will the social histories of the family, leisure and sexuality; we will examine changing economic structures and conditions as well as the intellectual and political currents that sought to give meaning to a changing world; social conflict and political movements and the powerful forces resisting change. Readings will include documents and texts from the period alongside more recent historical interpretations. Assignments will require you to synthesize, analyze and interpret information through both short papers and a take-home midterm and final.