PIR-30152 - Britain and war since 1945: War, Cold War and society
Coordinator: Helen Parr Room: CBB2.005 Tel: TBC
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

This course offers an in-depth look at Britain's policies towards war and Cold War since 1945, and the multiple relationships between Britain's external policies and domestic politics, society and culture. Broadly speaking, it uses primarily a historical perspective to ask what was Britain's role in the Cold War, why and how did Britain fight wars, both during and after the Cold War, and how did the Cold War affect British people?
The module begins with an examination of how we can frame Britain's international power in the Cold War period, and then considers Britain's external world role, the wars of Cold War and decolonisation, and its transition from global to European power. It entertains in detail the reasons for and implications of Britain's civil and home defence policies, and considers the plans government drew up to cope (or not) with nuclear apocalypse.
It then contemplates how and why Britain fought wars during this period, and how Britain's external policy affected the lives of British people, particularly people called up into the military, or people who chose to join it. It considers the changing Cold War in the 1980s, and how Britain's international role was reconfigured as the Cold War ended, and how the legacy of Britain's history as a leading international power lingers, and why and how, and with what consequences, Britain used military force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Students also have the opportunity to examine primary documents about the period, to imagine what it would have been like to be a conscript in Korea, a paratrooper in the Falklands, an anti-nuclear protester or what would have happened if nuclear war had come to Cold War Britain....
Suggested reading:
Peter Hennessy, The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War (Penguin, 2003)
Richard Vinen, National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-63 (Penguin, 2014)
Helen Parr, Our Boys: The Parachute Regiment, the Falklands War and 1980s Britain (Penguin, 2018)
Sean Greenwood, Britain in the Cold War (1994)
David Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970 (2005)

The module aims firstly to enhance the students' knowledge of Britain's post-1945 foreign and defence policies; secondly to enhance the students' knowledge of relationships between Britain's external relations, domestic politics, society and culture in the context of the Cold War and after; and thirdly to provide skills in historical data retrieval (documentary and other sources) and analysis.

This module examines the reasons for, and implications of, Britain's stance during the Cold War. It explores Britain's international power after the Second World War, examining the rationales underpinning Britain's nuclear policies and also why and how Britain fought wars of Cold War and the end of Empire. It considers the connections between Britain's external and domestic politics, society and culture, specifically by examining how Britain's overseas policies were contested domestically, and how Britain's global role affected people's lives, particularly the lives of those compelled or choosing to join the military. It considers how the end of the Cold War affected Britain's global position, and examines why, and with what consequences, Britain has used its military power in the contemporary era.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Explain the reasons for, and implications of, Britain's policies towards nuclear weapons; and the reasons for, and implications of, the use of military force at various times during the Cold War and after: 1,2
Appraise the rationales underpinning the motivations and activities of dissident groups, individuals and political actors in the Cold War: 1,2
Analyse the relationships between Britain¿s role in the Cold War, Britain's military roles and Britain's society and culture: 2
Evaluate the status and availability of different categories of primary data, especially official sources of different kinds, oral histories, literature and film.: 1,2
Evaluate how and why Britain's position in world politics has changed at particular historical periods since 1945: 1,2
Demonstrate understanding of the rationales underpinning civil defence planning in Cold War Britain: 1,2
Evaluate the significance to Britain of its international military power, and the ways in which that power has changed and evolved since 1945: 1,2

Study hours

10 2 hour tutorials (20 hours), 20 hours preparation for tutorials,
45 hours preparation of essay 1, 65 hours preparation of essay 2

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Essay weighted 40%
2,000 word essay
Students will be asked to write an essay in response to a question about Britain's foreign and defence policy, nuclear weapons policy, or political and cultural contestations of Britain's Cold War role. Students will be expected to analyse primary source material in their essay OR Students will be required to write either a critical assessment of Britain's home and civil defence policies in the event of nuclear war from a particular perspective; or write an imagined scenario, based upon the knowledge and evidence of Britain's home and civil defence policies, of what would have happened had a nuclear war occurred.

2: Essay weighted 60%
3,000 word essay
Students will be required to write an essay on a given question, from a choice of questions in the fighting wars of Cold War and end of Empire and use of force after the Cold War; or relations between war, Cold War, society and culture. OR: students will be expected to write a creative writing piece that explores the relations between Cold War, Britain's military power, society and culture. But they can only choose to do this if they have not already done the creative writing piece for Assessment 1.