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Course Code SS1701
i. To provide the opportunity for students to develop an understanding and
appreciation of key aspects of contemporary British culture and society;
ii. To introduce students to key cultural and historical sites in England and to
encourage students to visit additional sites independently and to view such
places in an informed and critical way.
iii. To encourage students to make informed, critical comparisons between what
they observe and learn of British culture and their own home cultures
iv. To provide the inspiration to pursue an understanding of other cultures,
languages and ideas.
Learning outcomes
On completion of the course students should:
i. Know and understand some of the main historical antecedents of key aspects in
British culture and society;
ii. be familiar with some of the major social, political, economic and cultural issues
in contemporary Britain;
iii. be able to compare and contrast their home culture with British culture and
iv. Research cultural institutions independently and write findings clearly,
interestingly and critically, using basic academic referencing
Teaching and learning strategies
The course is delivered through a multidisciplinary programme consisting of:
i. Formal lectures/workshop sessions - sometimes integrated with field activities;
ii. Excursions/tours led by members of the Kingston Faculty or contracted
iii. Self-guided visits to other sites of historic and cultural interest in the London
Classes will start promptly at the times shown in the schedule.
For the fieldtrips to Houses of Parliament, Kew Gardens, Greenwich, independent
museum visits and returning from Hampton Court Palace you will travel on public
transport using your travelcards. Full details will be given to you in class.
On days where there are lectures, you will have a half-hour break from 1100-1130.
On days where there is a fieldtrip by coach, it will leave from the Penrhyn Road
campus at 0830 sharp!
N.B. The University reserves the right to vary or revise the content at its
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Class Schedule
29 June
What is Britain? British National
British System of Government
Philip Woods
30 June
Parr Boats
Fieldtrip (1)
The Magnificence of the British
Monarchy- Henry VIII and his Court
Alison Cooper
Irene Luna
1 July
Parr Boats
Fieldtrip (2)
The Magnificence of the British
Monarchy- Henry VIII and his Court
Irene Luna
3 July
The Monarchy- For and Against
The Media- a tabloid society?
5 July
Leisure and Sport
Independent London Visit (1)
10 July
Houses of
Houses of Parliament fieldtrip
12 July
Library Time
The English Theatre
Independent London Visit (2)
Patsy Trench
17 July
Coach leaves at 0800
19 July
Independent London. Visit (3)
Optional visit to Southall Gurdwara
(Sikh temple) Coach leaves 0930
Britain and the World: from Empire
to European Union
Multi-cultural Britain
24 July
OXFORD Fieldtrip
Coach leaves at 0900
26 July
Library Time
Final Test & Course Review
The University reserves the right to vary or revise the content at short notice.
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Kingston and Surbiton town centres: Walking tours to familiarise the students with
their local environment, amenities and transport system.
Houses of Parliament: A guided tour of the House of Lords and the House of
Commons at Westminster Palace, home of British politics.
Hampton Court Palace: One of Henry VIII’s favourite palaces, which clearly
demonstrates the magnificence of his reign.
Kew Gardens: A visit to The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, situated on the banks of
the River Thames. The gardens consist mainly of two estates, the Richmond Estate
and Kew Estate, which once belonged to the Royal Family. The present-day gardens,
which include several magnificent greenhouses, owe their origin to Augusta, Dowager
Princess of Wales and mother of George III. In 1759 she laid out about 3.5 hectares of
her estate as a botanic garden - an ordered collection of plants assembled primarily for
scientific and educational purposes.
Greenwich: Includes a visit to the Old Royal Observatory, the location of zero
longitude, and addresses the role of Britain in the development of accurate time
keeping and navigation in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Royal Naval College and
the Queen’s House designed by Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones respectively are
also visited.
Globe Theatre: A visit to watch a play performed in the round in the replica of
Shakespeare’s original theatre. You will be a “groundling”. http://shakespeares-
Stonehenge & Bath: A visit to Bath where the Roman Baths and outstanding
Georgian architecture will be seen.
Oxford: A visit to Stonehenge, a world heritage site, and then Oxford, with a walking
tour of the ancient heart of the city, giving an introduction to the architecture, history
and way of life in Britain’s oldest university. ;
Optional Trips subject to numbers wishing to make trip at additional cost:
Brighton Brighton is the most vibrant seaside resort in this country. Before the
eighteenth century it was just a sleepy fishing village but the fame of Dr Richard
Russell’s ‘sea cure’ brought visitors flocking to Brighton. One of the most famous to
do so was George, Prince of Wales, who built a small villa in Brighton and lived there
in the season with his mistress Maria Fitzherbert. George decided to turn the villa
into a magnificent oriental pleasure palace, which we can still visit today.
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Southall Gurdwara Southall is one of the most multi-cultural areas of London; it
has a large South Asian (Indian and Pakistani) population along with other smaller
communities such as Somali. The Sikhs are one of the largest of the religious groups
in Southall and their new gurdwara or temple is the largest outside of India. Sikhs are
known for their tradition of hospitality and we are always warmly welcomed there.
If attending, please respect the dress code. Cost: £15 to include coach, and donation
to the gurdwara of £5.
1. Field-trip essays (40%) - Four write-ups each of approximately 750 words
(two sides A4) each. Best Three will count.
You are encouraged to be creative in your approach to the essay and its presentation.
You should write about an aspect of the visit that impressed you and developed your
understanding of British life and culture. The article may be illustrated and laid out as
you wish, although illustration must take up no more than half the space.
You should write the article as if it were for a University magazine or equivalent:
therefore, readers will want to be informed about the visit and what you learnt about
British history and culture from the visit, not just how much you enjoyed it. The
best articles will blend some personal response with informed insight. You need to do
some research for the article, perhaps from guide books, the Library, or probably best
of all, the word wide web. Illustrations can come from postcards or publicity leaflets
etc. In any case you must acknowledge the written sources you have used.
Hopefully you should find the articles a good record of your trips and useful to send
back to the States to keep people informed of what you are doing.
Sources, including internet sources, should be listed in a bibliography at the end, and
any direct quotations should also be referenced.
Due date: Essays should be presented in class on the following dates:
Hampton Court Palace Thursday 5 July
Kew Gardens Tuesday 10 July
Houses of Parliament Tuesday 17 July
Greenwich Tuesday 17 July
Bath/Stonehenge Tuesday 24 July
Oxford Thursday 26 July
2. Independent visit write-ups. (20%) Two write-ups each of approximately 750
words (two sides of A4) each .
As for the field-trip essays you should write on two of the three Independent London
visits (to include Southall if you wish). You should write an account of how your visit
contributed to your understanding of British society culture and national culture. You
may focus on a museum or art gallery, a sports event, building, cultural event, social
institution etc. Further guidelines for writing on these will be provided.
You may not write on any topic which you are writing on for another course you are
taking in Summer School. If in doubt please ask Philip Woods.
Due date: Essays should be presented in class on the following dates:
Tuesday 17 July for visits 1 and 2
Tuesday 24 July for visit 3
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Paper 3 (40%) In-class Final Test. One and a half hours Thursday 26 July
This test will consist of two parts:
A) Multiple Choice test. (10%) This is to test how well you have followed the course
and understood topics we have covered.
The first section will be on aspects of the group field-trips we have undertaken and
you should prepare by re-reading the handouts we have given you for each field-trip.
The second section will be on the lecture topics we have covered in class and you
should look at any handouts and notes you have taken.
B) Seen essays. (30%) You are given a list of questions below which you can prepare
for whilst you are studying on the course. You are expected to write short essays on
three of the questions of your choice. You may not use any notes in the test.
1. Is there such a thing as a British national identity?
(a) Should the monarchy be abolished if Britain is to modernise itself?
(b) Can Britain be truly democratic without a written constitution?
(a) What are the legacies you see today of the fact that Britain had an empire?
(b) Is Britain truly multi-cultural?
4. 'Every nation gets the newspaper industry it deserves'. Is the success of the tabloid
press in Britain a reflection of the low standards of popular taste?
5. Is there any argument left for maintaining a public service system of television
funded by a licence fee?
(a) Is Britain really European or not?
(b) Is Britain too dependent on the United States in foreign policy?
C) Attendance
Up to a maximum of 20% will be deducted from the final overall grade for non-
attendance of lectures and fieldtrips.
Dr Philip Woods mobile tel: 07922046578
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Topics and Readings
General Texts:
There is no recommended up-to-date text for this course. However, any of the first
three books are suitable for those wanting a general text. The last two are better for
reference, using particular articles as needed.
You will be given handouts in class (where these are readings they are asterisked* for
each session below). The reading lists are designed to help you find supporting
material to follow up on sessions and to prepare for the final test.
McDowall, David Britain in Close-Up: An In-depth Study of Contemporary
Britain, Longman 1999
O’Driscoll, James Britain,
OUP 1995
Oakland, John
Civilization (Routledge, 4
edn, 1998)
Christopher, David P. British Culture: An Introduction (Routledge, 2
edn. 2006)
Johnson, Paul (ed.), 20
Century Britain, Economic, Social and Cultural Change,
Addison, Paul & A
Companion to Contemporary Britain (Blackwell, 2005)
Jones, Harriet
Friday 29 June
Introduction: An overview of the course format, lecture and fieldtrip schedule and an
explanation of how you will be assessed.
What is Britain? British National Identity: Does Britain, which comprises four
separate nations, have a united national identity? How has this identity been formed
historically, especially in the world wars of the twentieth century, and how has this
identity been fractured since 1945?
Discussion: What characteristics do you associate with Britain and Britons? Where
did your images come from? Do they match up to reality? Is there a united
national identity
James O’Driscoll Britain, ch. 1 ‘Country and People’
Kumar, Krishan The Making of English National Identity (2003) ch.1
‘English or British?’
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Richards, Jeffrey. Films and British National Identity: From Dickens to
Dad’s Army. (Manchester University Press, 1997)
ch. 1 ‘National Identity’
Colley, Linda Britons. Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (Yale, 1992)
Calder, Angus The Myth of the Blitz (1991) [on myth-making and
National identity as a result of the Second World War]
Introduction and Conclusion
British System of Government: Addresses the historical processes by which Britain
arrived at its current democratic system; questions how democratic the present system
is in practice, the nature of the main political parties, and pressures for reform.
Discussion: Britain is very proud of its democratic heritage, but does the system
need reforming now to make it more modern and more genuinely democratic? In
what way doe the two major political parties, New Labour and Conservative differ?
Jones, Bill, et al. ed., Politics UK (London: Prentice Hall, 5
. edn. 2004)
Coxall, Bill et al. Contemporary British Politics (Macmillan 4
Websites: is the site for Parliament and is excellent for proposals for a written constitution for Britain
Political parties:
Tuesday 3 July
The Monarchy for and against: An overview of the development of the institution of
constitutional monarchy and its reception by the British people
Discussion: What are the powers of the monarch? What are the arguments for
and against the British monarchy?
Norton, Philip* ‘The Crown' in Jones, Bill, et al. ed., Politics in the UK
(London: Prentice Hall, 3rd edn. 1998)
Coxall, Bill et al. Contemporary British Politics, Macmillan 4
edn. 2003
Websites: the monarchy’s site is excellent and gives lots of information
The Media- a tabloid society? - a look at Britain’s national press and television.
Particular attention will be paid to the tabloid press and the tradition of public service
Discussion: Is the popularity of tabloids like The Sun a sign of dumbing down of
British culture? Is British television ‘the least bad television in the world’?
Curran, J. and Power Without Responsibility. The Press and
Seaton, J. Broadcasting in Britain (Routledge, 1991)
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Williams, K. Get me a Murder a Day. A History of Mass
Communications in Britain (excellent for both press and
Sparks, C. ‘The Press’ in J. Stokes & A. Reading, The Media in
Britain (1999)
McNair, B. News and journalism in the UK (I 996)
Buscombe, E. British Television: A Reader (Oxford 2000) Part I
Barnet, S. 'Dumbing Down or Reaching Out: Is it Tabloidisation
Wot Done It?', in Seaton J. (ed.) Politics and the Media:
Harlots and Prerogatives at the Turn of the Millennium
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1998) pp. 75-90
Taylor, S.J. Shock! Horror! The Tabloids in Action
(London:Bantam, 1991)
broadsheet newspapers:
Thursday 5 July
Class, Arts, Leisure and Sport: class has traditionally been an obsession of the
British, but are we changing and becoming more egalitarian in our attitudes? We will
look at the changing roles of the aristocracy, middle and working classes. The themes
from this session will re-occur in several other topics, especially education, media and
leisure. Looks at Britain’s role in creating major sports, the development of
professionalism etc.
Discussion: Why is class so important to the British? What are the strengths and
weaknesses of its education system?
McDowall, D. Britain in Close-Up, (Longman 1999) ch. 11
‘Educating the Nation’
Adonis, A, & A Class Act. The Myth of Britain's Classless Society
Pollard, S. (London: Penguin, 1998) esp. Ch.2
Discussion: What are the arguments for and against public subsidy of the arts? Is
there a distinctive British approach to sport?
The Arts
A. Marwick Culture in Britain since 1945 (1991)
R. Hewison The Heritage Industry. Culture in a Climate of Decline
Carrington, Ben &
Andrew Sinclair Arts and Cultures: The History of the Fifty Years of
The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1995
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J. Minihan The Nationalisation of Culture: the development of state
subsidies to the arts in Great Britain (1997)
Holt, R. Sport and the British: A Modern History, OUP 1999
Holt, R & Mason, T. Sport in Britain, 1845-2000 , 2000
Thursday 12 July
The English Theatre: What makes theatre special as an art form? How has English
theatre and staging changed from medieval miracle plays to the current West End,
state-subsidised theatre and ‘fringe’ theatres? There will be a particular emphasis on
the expansion of theatre in the era of Shakespeare (sixteenth and seventeenth
Discussion: What makes theatre a special experience? What is special about
British theatre?
Simon Trussler, British Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 1994
Peter Brook, The Empty Space, Penguin, 1968
Michael Kustow, Theatre @ Risk, Methuen, 2001
Dominic Dromgoole, Will & Me, Allen Lane, 2006
David Edgar, State of Play, Faber, 1999
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Guidebook, Spinney Publications
Thursday 19 July
Multi-cultural Britain: The development of twentieth century Britain through a
consideration of the patterns of inward migration, economic change and government
policy in the years following the Second World War. Race relations: a comparison
with the USA.
Discussion: Is Britain truly multicultural? How do we compare with your own
Adonis. A & Pollard, S.* A Class Act: the Myth of Britain’s Classless Society,
Penguin, 1998
Commission Roots of the Future: Ethnic Diversity in the Making
for Racial Equality of Britain (CRE, 1997)
Johnson, P. (ed.) 20th Century Britain - Chapter 23
Phillips, Trevor Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Cultural
Britain (1999)
Solomos, John Race and Racism in Britain (3
. edn, 2003)
Spencer, I. British Immigration Policy Since 1939: The Making of
Multi-Cultural Britain (1997)
Britain and the World: Exploring Britain’s position at the centre of Empire,
Commonwealth and Europe.
Discussion: Do you agree with Dean Acheson that Britain has lost an empire and
not yet found a role [in the world?
Marshall, P.J. (ed.) Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire,
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CUP, 1996
Reynolds, David Britannia Overruled: British Policy and World Powers
in the 20th Century, Longman, 2000
Addison, Paul & A Companion to Contemporary Britain (2005)
Jones, Harriet (eds.) ch. 27 ‘The End of Empire’
ch. 28 ‘The Anglo-American Special Relationship’
ch.29 ‘Britain and Europe’

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