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Thatcher's Britain: Politics, Society, Culture


Admission requirements

BSA norm and a pass for both first year Themacolleges


Few democratic nations have been (re-)shaped as much by an individual politician as Britain was during Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Elected against a background of pervasive malaise in 1979 and removed from power to widespread relief in 1990, Britain's first female Prime Minister pursued an agenda that came to be known as "Thatcherism." Combining political and cultural conservatism with radical economic liberalism, her political initiatives met with responses ranging from devoted support to violent resistance. We will assess how Thatcherism gained legitimacy and how it was challenged not just in the arenas of high and popular politics but in social and cultural contexts including the music scene, feminist circles, ethnic minorities, and gay culture.
Classes will be conducted in English and Dutch and written assignments can be handed in in Dutch and English too.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

  • 1) carry out a common assignment

  • 2) devise and conduct research of limited scope, including
    a. searching, selecting and ordering relevant literature:
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information:
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate:
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.

  • 3) reflect on the primary sources on which the scholarly literature is based;

  • 4) write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the first year Themacolleges, including
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.

  • 5) participate in discussions during class.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialization

  • 6) The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically:
    -in the specialisation General History : the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions;
    -in the track American History: American exceptionalism; the US as a multicultural society and the consequences of that for historiography; the intellectual interaction between the US and Europe;
    -in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation: the development of global networks which facilitate ann ever growing circulation of people, animals, plants, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500;

  • 7) Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically of
    -in the specialisation General History: the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    -in the track American History: exceptionalism; analysis of historiografical and intellectual debates;
    -in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation: the combining of historiographical debates with empirical research of primary sources and/or the combining of various historiographical traditions through the use of innovative research questions.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

  • 8) Knowledge of Britain in the 1980s

  • 9) Knowledge of the changes as well as the political conflicts elicited by Thatcher's governments

  • 10) Knowledge of the interrelatedness of political, social and cultural issues

  • 11) Knowledge of key methodologies of British contemporary history


The timetable is available on the BA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (attendance required)
    This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Seminars: 13x2= 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 65 hours

  • Assignment(s):

  • Group presentation: 15

  • Written summary of one session: 15

  • Writing the paper: 159

Assessment method


  • Written paper (5000-6000 words, based on historiography, excluding title page, table of contents,footnotes and bibliography)
    measured learning objectives: 2-4, 6-11

  • Oral presentation
    measured learning objectives: 1, 3-4, 6-11

  • Participation
    measured learning objectives: 5

  • Assignment 1 written summary of one session:
    measured learning objectives: 1, 5, 8-11


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation: 10 %

  • Particiation: 20 %

  • Written summary of one session: 10 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline, as published in the corresponding Blackboard course.


The written paper can be revised, when marked insufficient. Revision should be carried out within the given deadline, as published in the corresponding Blackboard course.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • communication of deadlines for assignments and papers

  • Readings will be posted on Blackboard

Reading list

  • Ben Jackson and Robert Saunders, Making Thatcher's Britain (2012)

  • Andy McSmith, No Such Thing As Society (2010)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Prof.dr. B. Rieger


Classes will be conducted in English and Dutch and written assignments can be handed in in Dutch and English too.