Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information

Module HSH-3139:
Nationalism in the UK 1916-97

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

40 Credits or 20 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Mari Wiliam

Overall aims and purpose

The debate surrounding the 2014 Scottish independence referendum located nationalism as a highly topical issue in contemporary British politics. However, this was nothing new: during the 20th century various nationalist demands from the United Kingdom’s Celtic ‘fringe’ were subject to controversy, and often tinged with perceptions of extremist ‘nats and nutters’ (Denis Healey). But, 'nationalism', of course, was not limited to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but was also entwined with British and English identities: be that in the form of imperialism, racism or a patriotic 'Britishness'. In this special subject you will delve into the comparative histories of nationalism in Britain, from the 1916 Easter Rising to the ‘yes’ votes of the 1997 devolution referenda in Scotland and Wales. The module does this in three ways. Firstly, it explores the different constructs of ‘nationalism’ during this period: from concerns about cultural preservation to the politics of decolonization, Europe, race, devolution and independence. Secondly, it scrutinizes the often contradictory manifestations of nationalism: from the establishment of ‘nationalist’ political parties such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru, to the role of pressure groups, protest, terrorism and far-right groups such as the National Front. Thirdly, it examines the responses of the British state and mainstream political parties to 'nationalism'. The course reflects the recent historiographical focus on ‘four nations history’, and moves beyond providing a traditional political history by exploring the social, cultural and economic resonances of nationalism for British identities. The legacy and contested heritage of nationalism will be explored via a field trip (to Dublin), and the primary sources you will study in this course are wide-ranging: from official government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, to political party archives, political pamphlets, manifestos, film, music, literature, newspapers, memoirs and oral history interviews.

Course content

Topics may include, but will not be limited to:

Introduction: nationalism and its meanings The 1916 Easter Rising (including field trip to Dublin) + the division of Ireland and Civil War (1922-23). Interwar nationalism I: The British Empire: from Palestine to India. Interwar nationalism II: founding of the Welsh Nationalist Party (1925) and the Scottish National Party (1934) Interwar nationalism III: Cultural politics, with a case study of Penyberth (Burning of the Bombing School), 1936. The Second World War: fascism, pacifism and patriotism? 1940s and 1950s I: Decolonization with a case study of the Mau Mau uprising, Kenya. 1940s and 1950s II: the Parliament for Wales Campaign, the Scottish Covenant Association and a case study of the Tryweryn controversy. The Monarchy and Britishness. 'Rivers of Blood': Immigration, multiculturalism and race during the 1950s and 1960s, with a case study of Enoch Powell. ‘The Celtic extremists’? Scotland and Wales in the 1960s and 1970s. 1979: The devolution referenda in Scotland and Wales and their legacy The Troubles and 'Terrorism': from Bloody Sunday to the Hunger Strikes. 'There ain't no black in the Union Jack': race and the National Front during the 1970s and 1980s. From Thatcher to Blair: Scotland, Wales and the 1997 devolution referenda. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Assessment Criteria


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.


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.

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.

Learning outcomes

  1. Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments in both extended research for essays and under examination conditions.

  2. Critically appraise historiographical and inter-disciplinary debates and arguments by evaluating competing historical interpretations.

  3. Critically examine academic interpretations to evaluate (i) the similarities and differences in the nationalisms of the Celtic nations and (ii) the relationship between the Celtic Fringe and the British state.

  4. Demonstrate a detailed comparative knowledge of political and cultural nationalism in Wales, Scotland and Ireland between c. 1916 and 1979.

  5. Demonstrate a close engagement with a range of primary sources relating to nationalism and use them in historical argument.

  6. Analyse individual pieces of historical evidence very closely: setting them in context, judging their qualities as evidence, and explaining their significance.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay 25
EXAM Gobbet exam

Pre-seen gobbet exam.


3-hour essay based exam


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 310

40 x 2 hour seminars (two seminars a week will be held across Semesters 1 and 2).

External visit

External visit to Dublin


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
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • 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
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • 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

Vernon Bogdanor, Devolution in the United Kingdom (2001). John Breuilly (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism (2013). Andrew Collier, Higher Purpose: History of the SNP and nationalism in Scotland (1999). D. Hywel Davies, The Welsh Nationalist Party, 1925-1945: A call to nationhood (1983). Russell Deacon, The Governance of Wales: The Welsh Office and the Policy Process 1964-99 (2002). Tom Devine, The Scottish Nation: A Modern History (2012). Tom Devine and Jenny Wormald, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History (2014). Peter Dorey, The Labour Party and Constitutional Reform (2008). John Ellis, Investiture: Royal Ceremony and National Identity in Wales, 1911–1969 (2008). Richard English, Irish Freedom: the history of nationalism in Ireland (2006). Diarmaid Ferriter, Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s (2012). Peter Hart, The IRA at War 1916-1923 (2003). Christopher Harvie, Scotland and Nationalism (2004). Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (1990). Richard Wyn Jones, Rhoi Cymru’n Gyntaf. Syniadaeth Plaid Cymru (2007). Michael Keating, The independence of Scotland: self-government and the shifting politics of union (2009). Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (2000). Peter Lynch, SNP: The History of the Scottish National Party (2013 edition). Laura McAllister, Plaid Cymru: The Emergence of a Political Party (2001). James Mitchell, Devolution in the UK (2009). Alan Butt Philip, The Welsh Question: Nationalism in Welsh Politics 1945-1970 (1975). Murray Pittock, Scottish Nationality (2001). Simon J. Potter (ed.), Newspapers and Empire: Ireland and Britain, c.1857–1921 (2004). Martin Pugh, State and society: A social and political history of Britain since 1870 (fourth edition, 2012). Keith Robbins, Great Britain: Identities, Institutions and the Idea of Britishness (1998). Camilla Schofield, Enoch Powell and the making of postcolonial Britain (2013). Duncan Tanner, Andrew Edwards et al (eds.), Debating nationhood and governance in Britain 1885-1939: Perspectives from the four nations (2006). Brian Taylor, The Scottish Parliament: the road to devolution (2002). Paul Ward, Britishness since 1870 (2004).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: