HI5042 - The Making and Breaking of Industrial Britain, 1770-1990

What will I learn on this module?

By the 1880s, Britain was a major coal exporter and the largest centre of ship building and repair globally. Its manufacturing productivity dubbed it, ‘the workshop of the world’, and its import and export tonnage was colossal. Yet, a century later, by 1980, Britain rapidly entered post-industrialisation and the collapse of the vast infrastructural networks, mines and machinery which had facilitated its rapid nineteenth-century industrialisation. This module makes sense of this historical discontinuity, contextualising the dramatic and fast-paced making and breaking of Britain’s industries from the viewpoint of the environments which underpinned these rapid changes. You will analyse how Britain utilised its fortunate natural resources, notably navigable rivers and voluminous coal deposits, to become a powerful, influential driver of wider industrialisation internationally. You will analyse environmental drivers of industrialisation in comparison to other key drivers such as Empire, demography, urbanisation, social change, technology and politics. You will evaluate in depth how a closer engagement with key elements of the natural environment enabled the British and its wider empire to develop trade and industry successfully and to invent globally game-changing scientific and engineering innovations, notably George Stephenson’s locomotive (1814). Organised thematically, and introducing you to environmental history, the module focuses on one natural resource each week (rivers; coal; precious metals; steam; salt; animals; wood; chemicals; stone; and oil). Consequently, you will understand in depth how Britain’s industrialisation was underpinned by a closer, rather than a remoter, relationship between humans and the environment, thus reconnecting Britain’s industrial might to its natural environments.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module by attending lectures that present core concepts in British modern history, a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to studying environmental history and the historiographical debates in the field. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading, and will build on your independent reading by discussing your ideas in seminars with your peers. Through research-led teaching, seminars will provide you with expertise in the analysis of a variety of primary sources, including video footage, port books, minute books, diaries and journals, visual sources, legal records and online databases. All learning materials, tasks and readings will be posted on the eLearning Portal (Blackboard) to enable participation within the seminar programme. You will participate in formative assessment activities and receive feedback, and will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning. Summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module. Over the first four weeks of the module, you will formulate your own essay question, for approval by the module leader, tailored to a specialism of your particular interest which you will research independently. While the exam will cover the main themes of the module, the essay is an opportunity to pursue your intellectual curiosity more independently, incorporating primary as well as secondary sources.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through engagement with your peers, academic tutors, and programme leaders. Academic support is provided through group/individual tutorials which allow specific issues to be addressed and to promote progress in academic development. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised office hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLearning Portal. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate critical engagement with key debates around environmental history and its innovative impact on traditional narratives of British industrial history
2. Establish an understanding of the role of socio-environmental relationships industrialisation and deindustrialisation

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Engage with research-informed questions, drawing on relevant theory and/or methods
4. Synthesise and communicate a coherent historical argument in writing, making effective use of primary and secondary material

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Demonstrate an awareness of the ethical and social consequences of industrialisation and environmental degeneration, applying these to contemporary environmental attitudes and values.

How will I be assessed?

Your knowledge and understanding of environmental history methodology and Britain’s regional history, your ability to develop and critically answer historical questions by drawing upon historical theory and secondary sources, and your ability to analyse and present primary sources will be assessed in two 2,500-word essays.
MLOs 1-5

You will have the opportunity to present your ideas in the seminars and will receive formative feedback from your lecturer in classroom discussions, debates, and tutorial sessions. Formative assessment through your lecturer will be written and verbal. Feedback on your first summative assessment will allow you to improve on later ones.





Module abstract


Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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