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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

HIST5310M Britain in the World: 'A Force for Good'?

30 creditsClass Size: 10

Module manager: Dr Rachel Utley

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Module replaces

Although not a like-for-like replacement, this module proposal will replace HIST 5848M.

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

By history and habit, Britain has long been considered a world power. But British foreign policy at least since the end of the Second World War is also associated with arguments of decline: of forced adaptation to diminished status on the world stage; of reluctant withdrawal from empire; of a limited role between the superpowers during the Cold War, and of an uneasy relationship with European Community partners from the 1970s. At the same time however, and increasingly since the end of the Cold War, new narratives have been sought to advance Britain’s standing in the world. New Labour’s declaration for an ethical foreign policy was noteworthy; more recent reiterations of ‘Global Britain leading by example as a force for good in the world’ sit in a similar vein.Using a variety of case studies, predominantly from outside the familiar ‘special relationship’ and European spheres, this module will pose searching questions about British aspirations and interests on the world stage; about capabilities and constraints; and about identity and values in portrayals and perceptions of foreign policy.


The module seeks:

To establish and evaluate key themes, periods and developments in British foreign policy from 1945 to the present.
To examine a wide range of historiographical debates which are pertinent to this topic.
To identify and evaluate a wide range of primary sources relating to British foreign policy across this period.
To engage with this scholarship and source base, enabling students to reflect on the nature, scope and prevailing narratives of British engagements beyond national borders.

Learning outcomes
On completing this module students will have:

1. Acquired knowledge of key themes, periods and developments in British foreign policy from 1945 to the present.
2. Developed understanding of the political, diplomatic, military, economic and cultural contexts in which British foreign policy has been conducted over this period.
3. Identified and investigated core narratives within successive governments’ portrayals of Britain’s role(s) in the world for domestic and external purposes.
4. Developed their skills in the examination and assessment of historiographical perspectives on issues at hand.
5. Identified and critically engaged with a wide range of primary sources pertinent to the study of this topic.
6. Demonstrated heightened capacity to reflect on the past, and to communicate those reflections appropriately, through formulation of nuanced and informed arguments both orally and in writing.
7. Applied fundamental standards and practices of historical study for research, discussion and assessed work.


Key elements of the module content may include formulation of British foreign policy; Britain’s international standing at the end of the Second World War; principles and preferences underlying Britain’s world role(s) during the Cold War; changing priorities and context in the post-Cold War world; and the nature of British engagements – and their justifications – on the world stage.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Preparatory reading for seminars to include own bibliographical searches to supplement tutor recommendations (77 hours), further self-directed reading (44 hours), independent research and writing of essays (120 hours) and the presentation/handout (30 hours), reflection on feedback (7 hours).
Among their preparations, students are expected to engage extensively in the study of primary as well as secondary sources.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Opportunities for formative feedback include informal feedback on arguments and interpretations advanced during seminars; availability of office hours; and additional one-to-one meetings by request. In addition, students will be offered an individual meeting around the mid-module point, to discuss progress and queries arising. For the second assessed essay (the research essay), consultations will be scheduled to assist students with the definition of titles, preliminary reading, and identification of relevant primary sources.

Formal opportunities for feedback include detailed formative feedback on assessed work, and opportunities to discuss feedback on assessed work in one-to-one meetings.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 word Historiographical Essay due on Monday of week 830.00
Essay4,000 word Research Essay due on Monday of exam week 160.00
Presentation10 minute Presentation with Supporting Handout10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

In the case of the verbal presentation, any resit will entail the submission of a written equivalent (1000 words) on a title to be determined by the tutor.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 04/10/2021 13:00:42


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