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Module HTH-3150:
Britain in the Jazz Age

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Mari Wiliam

Overall aims and purpose

The period from 1900 to 1939 is often defined by the negative in terms of economic depression, crisis and decline. Whilst these elements are at the core of any study of the first half of the 20th century, this module will seek to challenge this traditional interpretation by utilising more recent historiographical trends to examine the modernisation of society and popular culture in Britain, from the Edwardian era up to the outbreak of the Second World War. It goes beyond the world of politics, and will provide students with an understanding of social change and its impact on identity, culture and lifestyle. Jazz was not only a musical genre, but a concept which incorporated debates about sexualisation and morality, and a factor in the emergence of social phenomena such as the ‘flappers’. A special emphasis will be placed on regional case studies, particularly in Wales, in order to contextualise the British experience. l students will be guided to explore primary sources, including memoirs, articles, literature, popular music, art and film. However, third year students will be expected to make extensive use of primary sources in their assessments. Secondary sources recommended in this module will range from being aademic histories to more popular accounts, and all students should make comprehensive use of journal articles.

Course content

  1. War, Empire and Modernisation: The Boer War, WWI and an overview of the period.
  2. Royalty and national identity: the Edwardian era; 1911 Investiture of the Prince of Wales; the Abdication Crisis.
  3. Technological modernisation: Electricity, the wireless and motors. Case study of the Wembley Exhibition
  4. Britain on the Breadline: health, living conditions and depression
  5. Whippets, fish & chips and gambling: Workers, socialism and leisure
  6. Nationalism and identity: Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
  7. Ideology and the prelude to 1939 in Britain. A case study of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists.
  8. Women in Love: Gender roles and fashion. A case study of the Mitford sisters
  9. Bright Young People: Sexuality, aristocracy and decadence
  10. Popular music: music halls, Jazz and Americanisation.
  11. From bodyline bowling to mountaineering: Sport and society 1900-1939.
  12. Workshop: Film and Jazz Age Britain
  13. 1 day field trip to Manchester: Museum of Science and Industry and the People’s History Museum (including access to the Labour Party Archive)

Assessment Criteria

C- to C+

Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.


Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. Standards of presentation will also be high.


Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.

Learning outcomes

  1. Comprehend and validate how the period has been portrayed in specified secondary sources.

  2. Demonstrate an extensive familiarity with a wide range of primary sources and understand their historiographical significance. Level 6 students should be able to engage in close analysis of these sources.

  3. To develop and sustain historical arguments and academic debate on particular aspects of the period

  4. Command comparative perspectives of the historical arguments relating to developments in Britain during this period.

  5. Address the complexity of reconstructing the past, and the problematic and varied nature of studying both national and regional history.

  6. Engage, in depth, with specific concepts and events covered in the period.

  7. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of Britain 1900-1939.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Takeaway exam

Section A: Essay-style questions based on module themes. Answer one from a selection. Section B: Gobbet-style section, where you interpret two extracts from a selection incorporating primary and secondary materials. This is an exam you do at home and you complete it via Blackboard/Turnitin

ESSAY Primary source analysis essay

This essay will be founded on a primary source analysis of your choice. You should discuss your choice in advance with the module convenor who can also assist you in finding a suitable source.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Seminar 11

11x1 hour lectures

External visit

Museum/archival visit c. 8 hours.

Private study 170

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
  • engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity


Talis Reading list

Reading list

Juliet Gardiner, The Thirties: An Intimate History (2010). Andrew Marr, The Making of Modern Britain (2009). Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951, (2000). Ross McKibbin, Parties and People : England 1914-1951 (2010). Susan Kent, Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918-1931 (2008). Martin Pugh, We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars (2009).n Paul Thompson, The Edwardians (2nd edition 1992). Andrew Thorpe, Britain in the 1930s: the deceptive decade (1992). Chris Wrigley (ed.), A Companion to Early Twentieth Century Britain (2008).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: