Families, society and the state in Britain, c. 1750 - 1914 ESH4048

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course is concerned with the history of families in Britain from the mid-eighteenth century until the First World War. It traces changes and continuities in family formation (ideas of love and courtship practices), family function, and relationships within families and extended families. The course explores the impact of industrialisation on family life, the role of the state, religion and the law. The course also looks at the development of philanthropic organisations and their involvement in provision of welfare, particularly child welfare. A key focus throughout the course is class differences, and we also look at the changing expectations of men and women in relation to the family. There is some consideration of the impact of imperial discourses on British families, particularly in relation to education and childhood. Family is understood in an inclusive way to consider also unmarried mothers, the experiences of parents after marital breakdown, and stepfamilies.


Lecture: one hour per week for ten weeks

Seminar: one hour per week for ten weeks


Please note this course does not run every session. For further information please check the ESH Moodle page.

Requirements of Entry

Enrolment in an MA (SocSci) or MA (Arts) Honours Programme


35%: Essay based on one question from a selection relating to topics 2 - 5, 1800 words +/- 10%.

35%: Essay based on one question from a selection relating to topics 6, 7,8, or 10, 1800 words +/- 10%.

30%: Primary source report based on topic 9, 1500 words +/- 10%.

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses


Course Aims

To foster greater understanding of the diversity of family forms and experiences by using a historical lens.

To develop critical awareness of the interrelationship between families, the state, philanthropic and religious organisations and the development and role of the law relating to families.

To encourage critical engagement with the ways in which socio-economic position, gendered expectations, and imperial discourses shaped experiences and discourses of family between c.1750 and 1914.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the principle methodological approaches, concepts and theories relating to the history of the family.

• Critically assess the experiences of both women and men, and the impact of life stage and social class on expectations and experiences of family life and relationships across the period, and the changing forms and functions of the family in relation to economy, society, the state, and the Churches over time.

Produce critically aware written work and contributions to class discussion using a range of historical and theoretical writings and contemporary sources in relation to the history of the family and relationships.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.