Bader International Study Centre


at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

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IDIS 304/3.0 - British Studies I

Instructor: Kate Turner

Course Description

IDIS 304 is an interdisciplinary course that offers a critical overview of British history, culture and politics. Looking at themes such as POP CULTURE, LONDON, BRITISH HEROES, STEREOTYPES, BRITAIN AND THE WORLD, NATIONAL DISHES, THE ROYAL FAMILY and THE SECOND WORLD WAR it tackles the most famous of British myths, analysing the ingredients of our postcard images of Britishness. At the same time it invites students to think how their own national identities are formed and how their personal experience of Britain develops along the way. 

Different theories on identity-making will frame the course, while its material will be derived from history, politics, current affairs, literature, art and popular culture. Particular effort is made to ensure that the course requirements are accessible to those who don’t have background in one or more of the course’s disciplines. 

Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students will have knowledge of: 

  • British modern history, culture, politics and ideologies
  • All contemporary debates on the future of 21st century Britain 
  • What makes a nation, and how national identities are formed and constantly re-imagined

Students will also have developed their skills in: 

  • thinking critically about their own identities
  • engaging critically with all different types of primary sources 
  • comparative analysis across national cultures
  • imaginative approaches to presenting their research findings  
Field Studies

There are two field trips in the course:

  • Central London. We take a walking tour of the heart of the British nation, from the river Thames and the Houses of Parliament to Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, exploring how identities are projected and how they are experienced by the public.
  • Mass Observation - the most important archive on modern British popular opinion and everyday life. We will look at diaries of ‘ordinary’ British people from the 1930s to today on a range of topics, from food and music, to foreign affairs and race relations.
Primary Research Expectations

IDIS304 students will be in constant engagement with different types of primary research, through:

  • the field trips: students are instructed on how to transform from passive observers to critical thinkers, evaluating and analysing, reflecting on how their identities affect their experiences and vice versa.
  • archives: we will visit the Mass Observation archive, while among the suggested material for the students’ projects there is a wealth of first hand information, like the ‘Observing the 1980s’ project by the University of Sussex, which hosts diaries and interviews on a wide range of themes.
  • documentary sources: all seminar sessions use primary sources (newspapers, songs, TV programmes) that students are asked to engage critically with.
  • interviews: students will be asked to interview their peer group on the question of national identities and to analyse their findings.

Attendance and Participation counts for at least 20% of the final mark. 
The rest of the assessment will take place through a combination of the below tasks:

  • one essay
  • group research projects and presentations, 
  • short reports (max 500 words) on primary research (eg archives and interviews) and other research tasks (eg terminologies and definitions, reflections on class discussions) 

There are no exams at the end.