After the Golden Age: the Political Economy of Britain since the 1970s ESH4075

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

Short Description

From the 1950s until the 1970s Britain enjoyed a 'golden age' of low unemployment, low inflation and respectable growth rates. But from the 1970s the economy was much less stable and by some measures, such as unemployment, performance seriously deteriorated. This course analyses the forces at work in creating this instability, and the responses by successive governments to the economic problems they faced. It deals with the political and ideological underpinnings of policy, and also assesses the ways in which narratives about policy were constructed and deployed in order to sustain public support.


Weekly sessions will include analysis of the 1976 IMF 'crisis', the rise of neo-liberal economic thinking, the policies of the Thatcher government, the economics and politics of 'globalisation', and the distinctive approach of New Labour to economic issues. The final part of the course will deal with the 'great complacence', the ensuing financial crisis of 2007/8, and the responses to that crisis.


Lectures: one hour per week for ten weeks

Seminars: one hour per week for ten weeks


Please note this course does not run every session. For the current course list please see:

Requirements of Entry

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


One two-hour examination from which two questions must be answered = 60% (especially related to ILOs 1,2,3, 5)


One essay, selected from questions given at the end of each weekly

lecture/seminar reading list (2,000-2,500 words, excluding bibliography) = 25% (especially related to ILOs 1,2,3, 5)


One project report (1,000-1,500 words, excluding bibliography) = 15% (especially related to ILOs 1,2,3,4)


These assessments are in line with other taught courses in the ESH Honours programme.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

1. To introduce students to a series of topics and debates in the recent political economy of Britain. 

2. To encourage students to think about the variety of questions raised in the study of the history of economic policy, and situate them in a broad context of political and ideological change.

3. To promote the students' critical understanding of secondary literature and a selection of primary source material.

4. To encourage students to express their ideas and put forward arguments on complex subjects in the recent economic history of Britain. 

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the module students should be able to:

1. demonstrate a critical understanding and systematic knowledge of the conduct of economic policy in Britain since the 1970s.

2. demonstrate an awareness of  the significance of politics, ideology and economic doctrine in the formation of economic policy 

3. demonstrate an awareness of the relationships between shifting constraints and political decision-making in shaping economic policy

4. demonstrate an ability to evaluate and use primary historical material in a variety of forms

5. demonstrate the capacity to synthesize complex theories with appropriate evidence

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.