Britain, 1750 to the present

History 151C

Fall 2018
102 Wurster
Day & Time: 
Tue/Thu 9:30–11am
Class Number: 

For many years Britain was seen as the crucible of the modern world. This small, cold, and wet, island in northern Europe was credited with inventing representative politics, the idea of the individual, an industrial economy, sustaining the rapid growth of a predominantly urban population, mass culture, the nuclear family, and, of course, an empire upon which the sun famously never set. And yet, despite this precocious modernity, imperial Britain remained a deeply traditional society that failed to rid itself of ancient institutions like the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church.

The class seeks to explain this paradox through an account of the rise, fall and reinvention of a ‘liberal’ political economy that prescribed how markets, governments, empires, and even people, should work. Thus we explore everything from the creation of the Gold Standard and the creation of the monarchy as an imperial spectacle to the history the urinal and the mutual orgasm. In doing so the class tries to challenge the old imperial conceit that Britain made the modern world by showing how Britain was also the product of imperial and global processes she often claimed to have produced.

A brilliant and relatively cheap textbook, written by me, will support the lectures and discussion sections. Assessment will be based upon bi-weekly quizzes (30%), section participation (30%) and a final examination or short research paper of 10 pages (40%).