Module HPS-2007:
Raving in the 1990's

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

From a global perspective the 1990s rests in the hiatus between the end of the Cold War and 9/11: a period perceived both as marking ‘The End of History’ and as a harbinger of new beginnings. In Britain, this emphasis on rebirth and renewal was crystallized in Tony Blair’s ‘New’ Labour and its rhetoric about a ‘New’ Britain, with the party decisively ending 18 years of Conservative rule in the 1997 General Election. In Wales, 1997 makes history due to the ‘Yes’ vote in the devolution referendum, leading to the establishment of an elected Assembly in Cardiff by 1999. But, for a farmer in the Vale of Clwyd, the 1990s may well have been defined by the BSE/ ‘Mad Cow Disease’ scandal. For a twenty-something in Cardiff, they could primarily stand out as years of raves, acid house music and ecstasy. A teenager from Bangor may recall owning a Gameboy or the wonders of dial-up internet, a royalist from Caernarfon could invoke the mass grief when Diana, Princess of Wales, died (also in 1997), and a child from Llansannan would remember getting a puppy. The point is, going beyond traditional political signposts exposes the heterogeneity of life in the 1990s, particularly when individual and collective memories are deployed. However, due to its contemporary nature, this period has only been tentatively explored by historians, meaning that it offers a wealth of potential for original research, which we will be producing on this module! So, this course will cover both the better-trodden ground of the 1990s, such as New Labour, and also suggest fresh avenues for study utilising approaches such as environmental history, drug history and microhistory. It will explore the decade through the prism of Wales: sometimes via events that were particular to that nation but, often, via experiences that were more universal and transnational than specifically ‘Welsh’. The history of life in Wales, at the end of the day, is about more than definably ‘Welsh’ things. Whilst the module will encourage you to study a multi-disciplinary range of texts, it also places particular emphasis on the role of visual sources, objects and individual testimonies in writing the histories of the 1990s. Oral history will be particularly prevalent on the course – it is a prime time to gather living memories of the decade - and classes are designed to equip you to conduct interviews, verbally or on paper, and to interpret them like a professional historian. No prior knowledge of the history of Wales, the 1990s or oral history is required on this module, and if the idea of interviewing people makes you queasy, it will offer a supportive environment for you to add this skillset to your CV.

Course content

May include, but will not be limited to the following topics: • ‘Things can only get better’?: From John Major to Tony Blair, an introduction to Britain in the 1990s. • ‘King’ Coal: Deindustrialisation, heritage and Welsh identity. • ‘New’ Labour…In Wales?: Devolution, ‘Welsh’ socialism and did anybody care? • Diana’s Mourning: Death, ‘Welsh’ royalty and a history of emotions. • From The History of Wales to Clapham Common: Perceptions of homosexuality in 1990s Wales (with a focus on the historian John Davies and the Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies). • Spice Girls?: Third-wave feminism and body image in the 1990s. • History, memory and oral history workshop, with a case study of urban and rural microhistories: Rhyl v Llansannan and life in the 1990s. • Landscape: The ‘greening of the valleys’, the A55 and environmental history. • Half-Lives: Perceptions of ‘nuclear Wales’ by the 1990s. • Mad Cows: Agriculture, BSE and writing 1990s food history. • From foxes to Babe: Animal rights in the 1990s. • C’mon Midffîld: Football and society, from the Premier League to the League of Wales. • Cŵl Cymru?: Britpop, Welshness and Music in the 1990s. • Acid Wales: Raves and drug culture. • Mr Nice Guy: Howard Marks, a (Welsh) international drugs trafficker. • WWW: Technology and the 1990s. • Gameboys and Ninja Turtles: Play and childhood in the 1990s. • Cardiff: Multiculturalism and towards Millennium Stadium.

Assessment Criteria


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge, 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.


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.

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.

Learning outcomes

  1. To develop an in-depth understanding of key events and everyday life during the 1990s, with a particular focus on Wales.

  2. To demonstrate awareness of different perceptions of the 1990s by appraising historiography, contemporary evidence and memory.

  3. To receive training in gathering oral history and written testimonies and to deploy independently conducted research in the individual research project.

  4. To analyse the history of the 1990s by utilising a range of historical and multi-disciplinary approaches e.g. cultural, environmental, history of emotions, microhistory, transnational history etc.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
REPORT Research project

Since historiography on the 1990s is limited, this individual research project is an opportunity to make some original findings and to add to the body of historical work on the decade. The project will be based either on oral history interviews or written testimonies (such as those gathered by Mass Observation) or both. In either case, the project should be based on at least one interview/testimony, and on no more than three. Each project should have a particular theme, will you will need to discuss with the module convenor, who can also assist you with finding interviewees. The emphasis in the assessment will be on: o the depth of interpretation of the interviews/testimonies o how the project associates the interviews with existing historiography on the 1990s or with historiography based on a particular theme (e.g. if exploring somebody’s recollection of the internet in the 1990s, link with works on the history of technology from earlier periods) o The sophistication of analysis of the role of memory in the writing of history, and the awareness of oral history theory. This project should relate to life in Wales i.e. either (i) interviewees lived in Wales during the 1990s or (ii) lived elsewhere, but are being interviewed about a specifically Welsh topic e.g. the 1997 devolution referendum. You will need to follow Bangor University’s ethics procedures in completion of this project. Detailed guidelines will be provided in the module handbook, oral history training will be provided, individual tutorials are scheduled and equipment can be borrowed as required.


The exam paper will be divided into two sections: Section A: Primary Source Interpretation: a choice provided of responding to a text, a visual image or an object. Suggested time: 1 hour Section B: One essay-style question from a range of choices, based on key module topics. Suggested time: 1 hour


Teaching and Learning Strategy


12 x 1 hour lectures (front-loaded in the first 8 weeks of teaching): 12 hours


10 x 1 hour seminars (1 per week throughout the semester): 10 hours

Private study

Students must dedicate time to private study whilst enrolled on this module, to build on knowledge gleaned in class and work on their assignments.


2 x 1 hour oral history workshop: 2 hours


5 x 1 hour drop-in tutorials (scattered throughout the module, to guide students with the individual research project): 5 hours


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • 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

  • Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
  • Precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial problems.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • 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 an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • 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


Reading list

Graham Day, Making sense of Wales (2010). David Dunkerley and Andrew Thompson (eds), Wales Today (1999). Rebecca Edwards, 'Everyday, When I Wake Up, I Thank the Lord I'm Welsh': Reading the Markers of Welsh Identity in 1990s Pop Music’, Contemporary Wales, (2007). J. Harris, ‘Cool Cymru, rugby union and an imagined community’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy (2007). Martin Johnes, Wales since 1939 (2012). Martin Johnes, A History of Sport in Wales (2005). Richard Wyn Jones and Roger Scully, Wales says Yes: Devolution and the 2011 Welsh Referendum (2012). Daryl Leeworthy, ‘Hidden from View? Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Wales’, Llafur (2015). Hugh Mackay (ed.), Understanding Contemporary Wales (2010). Howard Marks, Mr Nice: An Autobiography (1997). Kevin Morgan and Geoff Mungham, Redesigning Democracy: The Making of the Welsh Assembly (2000). Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson, The Oral History Reader (2015). Andrew Rawnsley, Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour (2001). Richard Power Sayyed, 1997: The Future that Never Happened (2017). Maxime Schwarz, How the Cows Turned Mad: Unlocking the Mysteries of Mad Cow Disease (2004). James Thomas, Diana’s Mourning: A People’s History (2002). Michael Tullberg et al, The Raver Stories Project (2017). Joan Tumblety, Memory and History: Understanding Memory as Source and Subject (2013). Alwyn Turner, A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s (2013). Mari Elin Wiliam, ‘Labour, the Union and the re-birth of Welsh devolution’, in Chris Williams and Andrew Edwards (eds.), The Art of the Possible (2015). Kate Woodward, ‘Traditions and transformation : Film in Wales During the 1990s’, North American Journal of Welsh Studies, (2006).

Audio-visual resources British Library Sounds Archive (digital recordings of interviews relating to industry, food etc.). Cymru 2000 Oral History Collection, Bangor University Archive. Collections, National Museum Wales (range of searchable digital impressions of photographs and objects from the 1990s):
Films e.g. Human Traffic (1999) + Music Videos on You Tube depicting ‘Cŵl Cymru’ bands e.g. Stereophonics, Catatonia.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: