Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Work & Labour in Britain Since 1940 ESH4053

  • Academic Session: 2020-21
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

The evolving character of work and labour organisation was a central component of more general social and economic change in Britain since 1940, which this course analyses. Debates about the character of trade unions and industrial relations are considered, along with the changing character of strikes, the social impact of structural industrial change on the workforce, chronological shifts across time and the particular experiences of coal miners, dock workers and car manufacturing workers.


One two-hour teaching session per week. A cooperative learning approach is used, with no formal lectures.


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


One essay = 40% (3,500 to 4,000 words, based on secondary literature and critical discussion of primary source material)

One two-hour examination = 60%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

1. To assess the impact of social, economic and industrial change on workers and their organisations.

1. To survey and explain the changing nature of work and employment since 1940.

1. To analyse different interpretations of the character of trade unionism and the role of unions since 1940.

1. To evaluate critically the interplay between government policy and economic and social change in the contexts of employment and industrial relations.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

On successful completion of this course, students should be able to understand and critically assess:

1. The impact of the Second World War on work, workers and labour organisations.

2. The comparative relationships between Labour and Conservative governments and trade unions.

3. The changing ideas about trade unions and industrial relations in post-war Britain.

4. The changing character of work and industrial relations in post-war Britain.

5. The importance of gender and racial differences in work and labour.

6. The economic and political explanations for the declining influence of trade unions after 1979.

7. The differences in working practices and conditions in selected occupations across time, and the factors which shaped those differences.

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.