Great Britain in the 20th Century (BA lecture, history survey)

Course information


Great Britain in the 20th Century (BA lecture, history survey)


Cora Zoltán

Course code



Kristó terem


Csütörtök, 10:00–12:00

Course description

Short description

This lecture provides a survey of the cultural, social, economic and political history of Great Britain from the First World War to the early 21st century with a view to the European context as well. The so-called “short twentieth century” (1914-1989) witnessed the dissolution of the British Empire and its transformation into a Commonwealth. The decolonization and losing the imperial role, however, meant new possibilities for Britain to reorient towards the European economic and political integration process after the Second World War. Within this historical process the course will focus on various topics, including the rise of democracy, nationalism, and socialism, both in Britain and Europe, or, for example, the post-Victorian cultural milieu in the interwar period (1919-1939). It pays attention to the daily life of people and the way they understood the world around them, as much as to the fundamental historical processes, events and shifts in mental attitudes. An emphasis is also laid on questions of social and economic changes in Britain before and after the Great Economic Depression (1929-1933). After the Second World War, Britain had to seek out a new role. The main themes to be considered in the second half of the 20th century include Britain’s participation in the ensuing post-war superpower enmity, the Cold War, as well as in the economic and political integration of Western European countries. In addition, the survey concentrates on the question of different forms of British cultural media, such as newspapers, or new broadcasting technologies and institutions (cinema, radio, and the BBC). During the lecture, participants of the course have a chance to closely examine the ideas of such influential 20th century historical personae as, for instance, John Morley, David Lloyd George, George Orwell, John Maynard Keynes, Neville Chamberlain, Adolf Hitler, Winston S. Churchill, Charles De Gaulle, Enoch Powell, Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson, Neil Kinnock and Margaret Thatcher.


1. The “Great War” (1914-1918): Pacifism versus Imperialism?

2. Europe and Britain in the Interwar period (1919-1939) I: building–up

3. Europe and Britain in the Interwar period (1919-1939) II: “The economy dwindles, the society thrives?” The Role of Cultural Media (cinema, radio, BBC)

4. Answers to Challenges: Political Ideas in Interwar Europe and Britain

5. Thought and Culture in an Era of World of Wars: Disorientation, Doubt and Commitment

6. Going to War Again: British Political and Cultural Milieu in World War II

7. World War II: counting the Costs

8. A New Europe, a New Britain? (1945-1950)

9. Illusions of Power: Politics and Foreign Relations 1945-1970

10. The “Celtic Fringe” (1945-1990): development or stagnation?

11. Welfare, Affluence, Consensus: Towards Europe?

12. Thatcher’s Britain 1970-1990: A Change of Style or a Change in Substance?

13. Globalisation and Britain – From the 1990s to the 21st century


Requirements to get the grade

Oral exam lectures and literature on the basis of the topics and materials listed above (colloquium with A (source recognition and analysis) and B (exam topic) parts – both parts have to be successfully completed for the final grade)

Readig list

Primary sources:

Arnstein, Walter L.: The Past Speaks. Sources and Problems in British History. Vol. II: since 1688. Toronto: D. C. Heath and Co. 1993, 307-444. (RP)*

Blakeley, Brian – Collins, Jacquelin: Documents in British History. Vol. II: 1688 to Present. London: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1993, 203-283. (RP)

*RP=reading pack

  1. Wilfred Owens: Poems (1917-1918)
  2. Sir Edward Grey, Statement to the House of Commons (August 3, 1914)
  3. John Morley, Memorandum on Resignation (1914)
  4. Herbert Henry Asquith, Justification for War (1914); Siegfried Sassoon, War Poems (1915-1917)
  5. Betrand Russell, Reflections on Pacifism in Wartime (1914-1918)
  6. Mary Augusta Ward, England’s Effort (1916)
  7. The Labour Party, Labour and the New Social Order (1918)
  8. The Balfour Report (1926), From Empire to Commonwealth
  9. Edward VIII, Radio Speech (1936). The Abdication Crisis
  10. The British Gazette (1926). The General Strike
  11. Lord Birkenhead, Speech in Lords (1928). Equal Voting Rights for Women
  12. John Maynard Keynes, “Can Lloyd George Do It?” (1929)
  13. Winston Spencer Churchill, My Early Life (1930). The English Public School
  14. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). The Great Depression
  15. Neville Chamberlain, Program of Legislation (1924)
  16. John Strachey, The Case for Communism (1932)
  17. Sir Oswald Mosley, The Case for Fascism (1932)
  18. Sir Ernest Barker, The Movement of National Life, 1910-1935 (1935)
  19. Adolf Hitler, Hossbach Memorandum (November, 1937)
  20. Neville Chamberlain, Letter to His Sister (March 1938)
  21. Neville Chamberlain, Statement to the House of Commons (March 1938)
  22. Adolf Hitler, Plans for “Operation Green” (April 1938)
  23. Neville Chamberlain, Mediation in Czechoslovakia (July 1938)
  24. Neville Chamberlain, Diary Entries (September 1938)
  25. Adolf Hitler, My Last Territorial Demand (September 1938)
  26. Neville Chamberlain, Radio Speech to the British People (September 1938)
  27. The Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration (September 1938)
  28. Neville Chamberlain, In Defense of the Munich Agreement (October 1938)
  29. Winston S. Churchill, In Criticism of the Munich Agreement (October 1938)
  30. Winston S. Churchill, Britain Stands Alone (June 1940)
  31. Winston Churchill, Speeches in Commons (1940): The Battle of Britain
  32. The Atlantic Charter (1941). Churchill and the United States
  33. The Beveridge Report (1942) Program for the Welfare State
  34. Letters to The Times (1946). The National Health Service
  35. The Clement Attlee, The End of British Rule in India (1947)
  36. Winston S. Churchill, A Protest Against Britain’s “Shameful Flight” from India (1947)
  37. Anthony Eden, Speech on BBC (1956). The Suez Crisis
  38. Harold Macmillan, The Wind of Change (1960)
  39. Time Magazine, A Salute to “Swinging London” (1966)
  40. Bernard Levin, Run It Down the Flagpole (1970)
  41. Viscount Eccles, The Menace of Pornography (1971)
  42. Edward Heath, Speech in Commons (1971). From Commonwealth to Common Market
  43. Bernadette Devlin, Interview in Playboy (1972). Northern Ireland
  44. Peter Shore, Enoch Powell, and Edward Heath, Debate on Whether Britain Should Join the European Economic Community (1972)
  45. Robert Moss, Anglo-Communism? (1977)
  46. Bernard D. Nossiter, Britain: A Future That Works (1978)
  47. Margaret Thatcher. Speech to the Conservative Party Conference at Brighton (1980)
  48. The British Press, The Falkland Islands War (1982)
  49. Sir Garnet Wolseley, “Memo” (1981)
  50. John Moore, Speech in Commons (1986). The Channel Tunnel
  51. Neil Kinnock and Margaret Thatcher, Debate on the Thatcher Government: Its Record and Promise (1987)
  52. Peter Riddell, The Thatcher Legacy: A Provisional Assessment (1991)


Secondary sources:


Morgan, Kenneth O.: The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. (relevant parts – 20th century). (library) (Earlier editions of the book are accepted as well.)

Heyck, T. W.: A history of the British Isles from 1688 to 1914. Vol. II. (From 1870), London: Lyceum Books, 2002, 109-322. (RP) (Respectively any earlier or later edition of the book is also accepted.)


Gowan, Peter: “Cooperation and Conflict in Transatlantic Relations after the Cold War”, in: Interventions. 5:2 (2003) 218-232.

Smith, Neil: “After the American Lebensraum: Empire, Empire and Globalisation”, in: Interventions. 5:2 (2003), 249-270.


Anderson, Benedict: Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London – New York: Verso, 2006. (library)

Anthony D. Smith: The Nation of History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000. (library)

Christopher, A. J.: The British Empire at its Zenith. London: Croom Helm, 1988. (library)

Cox, D. B – Dyson, A. E.: The twentieth-century mind: history, ideas, and literature in Britain. Vol. I-III. Oxford: OUP, 1972. (library)

Egedy Gergely: Nagy-Britannia története. Budapest: Aula Kiadó, 1998. (library – strongly suggested)

Floud, Roderick – McCloskey, Donald (eds.): The economic history of Britain since 1700. Vol I-III. Cambridge: CUP, 1994. (library)

Ford, Boris: The Cambridge Cultural History of Britain. Vol. VIII-IX. (twentieth-century). Cambridge: CUP, 1992. (library)

Kántor Zoltán: Nacionalizmus elméletek: szöveggyűjtemény. Budapest: Rejtjel, 2006. (library)

Leventhal, F. M. (ed.): Twentieth-century Britain. An encyclopedia. London: Garland, 1995. (library)

McIntyre, W. David: British Decolonization, 1946-1997. When, Why and How did the British Empire Fall? London: MacMillan, 1998. (library)

Young, Robert J. C: Postcolonialism. An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001. (library)


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Március 15-e alkalmából a Szegedi Tudományegyetem Bölcsészettudományi Karának két professzora (Barna Gábor és Felföldi László) is Magyar Érdemrend Tisztikereszt polgári tagozat kitüntetést vett át.