Welfare Histories, Welfare Futures: Social Policy in Historical Context - SOCI5450

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module examines the changes and continuities in the provision of social welfare in Britain from the early nineteenth century to the present day, with an emphasis on the period after 1945. It considers the context of policy and policy reform, as well as the processes. The module will proceed chronologically, using specific major developments as a framework, e.g. the New Poor Law, the Liberal Reforms, the Second World War and reconstruction, the rise of free market ideologies from the 1970s. Within these milestones, students will engage with changes in claims to citizenship and the economy over this period, and how these have impacted on the direction of policy. Students will also look at the mechanics of the policy process, examining such topics as the decline of the Royal Commission, the rise of single-issue campaigning groups etc. Through the historical case studies to be examined, students will also engage with micro, meso and macro policy analysis and its application


Contact hours

Contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150


Optional module on BA Criminal Justice and Criminology, BSc Social Sciences general, Sociology & Criminology, Criminology & Psychology, Sociology & Psychology, Sociology and Social Policy pathways.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Coursework – policy analysis assignment (2000 words) – 30%
Coursework – essay (3000 words) – 70% *

Students must pass the essay to pass the module overall.

Reassessment methods
100% coursework

Indicative reading

Beresford, P., All our Welfare: Towards Participatory Social Policy. Bristol: Policy Press, 2016.
Bradley, K., Poverty, Philanthropy and the State: Charities and the Working Classes in London, 1918-1979, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009
Dorey, P. Policy Making in Britain. 2nd edition, London: Sage, 2014.
Finlayson, G., Citizen, State, and Social Welfare in Britain 1830-1990, Oxford: Clarendon, 1994
Hudson, J., Understanding the Policy Process: Analysing Welfare Policy and Practice, 2nd edition, Bristol: Policy Press, 2009
Szreter, S. and A. Ishkanian, The Big Society Debate: A New Agenda for Social Welfare, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2012

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to
8.1 demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the processes of economic and social change in British society since the 1800s, and how these have in turn created new social problems
8.2 demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the ways in which the policy process and the actors driving it have developed since the nineteenth century, including supranational bodies as well as national ones
8.3 demonstrate knowledge of the key theoretical and conceptual approaches to understanding the development of social policy in modern Britain, and the ability to critically evaluate these approaches.
8.4 demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge and understanding of change and continuity in British social policy to emerging policy issues
8.5 demonstrate the ability to analyse policy documents in a critical fashion

The intended generic learning outcomes
On successfully completing the module, students will be able to:
9.1 Understand the different types of primary data
9.2 Demonstrate effective communication skills
9.3 Critically evaluate different types of policy sources
9.4 Demonstrate effective skills in finding and using library and internet resources
9.5 Demonstrate effective skills in synthesizing theories and arguments in a coherent manner.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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