Motherhood and Maternity in 20th-Century Britain ESH4091

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course will examine the changes and developments in understandings and experiences of motherhood and maternity in 20th-century Britain. It will examine the economic, social, political, and medical impacts on experiences of motherhood and maternity during this period, reflecting on the connections between medical and cultural understandings of motherhood. In particular, this course will consider what is meant by 'motherhood' during this period, examining who is included and excluded from this definition. Importantly, this course will also consider mothers without children and will include discussions of infant and child loss. 


Two contact hours per week for 10 weeks.

Lecture: one hour a week

Seminar: one hour a week

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme

Excluded Courses





Two 1,500-word essays = 70% (35% weighting each)

■ One essay on maternity topics

■ One essay on motherhood topics

One 1,000-word media/primary source analysis = 30%

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to introduce students to the economic and social history of motherhood and maternity in 20th-century Britain. In doing so, this course will introduce students to the scholarly debate on the changing definitions and understandings of motherhood, alongside medical developments, and advancements in maternity. 


This course aims to facilitate discussion around key concepts, developing students' critical thinking and analysis skills in seminar discussion and coursework. Throughout, the course will take a thematic approach that encourages students to critically engage with the impact of gender ideology, class, and racialisation and their role in the experiences of motherhood and maternity in the 20th century. Finally, although drawing on debates and developments within Britain, the course will facilitate a consideration of global connections and comparisons, recognising that many key concepts and debates cross national boundaries, encouraging students to apply ideas and learning from the course to wider academic contexts. 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Explain how understandings of motherhood changed and developed within Britain in the 20th century.

2. Explain key developments in maternal health over the course of the 20th century.

3. Evaluate the impact of gender, class, and racial and ethnic background on understandings and experiences of motherhood and maternity in 20th century Britain.

4. Assess the key debates in the scholarly literature on motherhood and maternity in the 20th century.

5. Demonstrate the ability to formulate clear and concise argument, utilising appropriate scholarly literature and primary source materials.

6. Apply analytical and critical skills to the discussion and interpretation of primary sources, including media sources.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.