Class and the Making of Modern Britain SOCIO4105

  • 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

In Forging Democracy, Geoff Eley (2002: 10) draws our attention to the important part played by the working class in democratizing European societies:


.democracy is not 'given' or 'granted'. It requires conflict, namely, courageous challenges to authority, risk-taking and reckless exemplary acts, ethical witnessing, violent confrontations, and general crises in which the given sociopolitical order breaks down. Democracy did not arise from natural evolution or economic prosperity. It certainly did not emerge as an inevitable by-product of individualism or the market. It developed because masses of people organised collectively to demand it.


Class and the Making of Modern Britain will examine working class efforts to secure economic and social justice and democratize British society over the longue duree. In particular, the course will investigate formative episodes in the making, unmaking and remaking of the working class in Britain including Chartism in the 1830s and 1840s, the new unionism of the 1880s and 1890s and the resultant formation of the Labour Party, the events on 'Red Clydeside' which contributed in part to the establishment of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in the early twentieth century, and the development, and eventual breakdown of the welfare settlement in the second half of the twentieth century. Unlike much of conventional historical sociology and social history, this course will investigate these social and political struggles through the inter-related prisms of race and gender. By insisting that race and gender are central, not peripheral, to the way class has worked, my intention will be to contribute further to unsettling the academic consensus which equates the history and making of the working class in Britain with the white male worker. We will see not only that the working class in Britain was a multi-ethnic formation from the moment of its inception but that such 'racialized outsiders' and women often played a catalytic role in the formative episodes that made the working class and modern Britain. 


20 contact hours over the course of a single semester. This will normally consist of 2 hours per week and may be a combination of lectures and seminars/workshops.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Sociology requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Sociology 2A and Sociology 2B as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses





A 4000 word essay chosen from a selection of topics.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No


Course Aims

■ to introduce students to debates on class and its articulation with gender, race and nation;  

■ to help students make a critical assessment of different perspectives on class, gender and race;

■ to encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the subject;

■ to equip students to make their own analysis of historical working class struggles for social and economic justice.  

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ an informed working knowledge of the main perspectives of class, gender and race and the capacity to demonstrate this in writing;

■ an understanding of the connections between class, gender, race and nation. 

■ The development of analytical and oral skills through attendance and active participation in lectures and seminars.

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.