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From King Coal to Cool Cymru: Society and Culture in Wales, 1939-2000 - 30 credits (HS1756)

Module Tutor: Dr Stephanie Ward

Course Description

This module explores the nature of the disorienting social, economic and political changes which affected Welsh society between 1939 and 2000. It examines the impact of the sexual revolution, the Americanization of popular culture, the rebirth of political nationalism and the foundation of the welfare state against the backdrop of a rapidly-changing economy. Through photographs, films, oral testimonies, literature and newspapers, the module questions the historical reality behind popular perceptions of a period that continues to be fiercely debated. Was Welsh society swinging in the sixties? Was Thatcherism ultimately beneficial for Wales? What was the impact of post-war immigration? Did women gain equality? Were ‘family values’ undermined? Did devolution reflect a growth in nationalist feelings? This module will address such questions through key themes including identity, class and gender, and will place the experience of Wales within a broader British and international context.

Credits: 30

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Teaching methods

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 1000 word assessed essay [15%], one 2000 word assessed essay [35%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:

Assessed Essay 1 will contribute 15% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 1,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

Assessed Essay 2 will contribute 35% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

  • Post-War Wales: Overview and Historical Perspectives
  • Wales and the Second World War
  • Building a New Jerusalem/Swansea: Post-War Reconstruction and Population
  • Wales at War
  • Wales at Work: Mines, Farms and Factories 1940s-1960s
  • Homes and Health: Post-War Reconstruction
  • Rural Wales and Country Living
  • People’s Politics and the Labour Party (1940s-1960s)
  • Nationalism and the Welsh Language Movement: 1950s-1970s
  • Freedom Fighters: The Fight for Wales
  • The Welsh Question: Referendum, Results and Nation
  • Swinging Wales?
  • Wales in the 1960s
  • People of Wales: Immigration and Class
  • Immigration in Post-War Wales
  • Politics and Nation
  • One-partyism? Labour and Wales
  • The mother tongue: The Welsh Language and Identity
  • The fortunes of the Welsh Language
  • Thatcherism: Economy, Industry and Community
  • Coal not Dole: The Miners’ Strike 1984-5
  • Cool Cymru? Culture, Class, Gender and Identity
  • Cool Cymru? Popular Culture in Wales 1970s-1990s
  • Women and Gender in Post-War Wales
  • Vote Yes For Wales! Devolution and Nationhood
  • Devolution, Politics and Identity
  • Wales at the turn of the twenty-first century

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a broad and systematic knowledge of the history of modern Wales, 1939-2000.
  • Critically identify different trends in the social and economic history of Wales throughout the period.
  • Assess the wider social, economic, cultural and political impact of the decline of the staple industries within modern Wales.
  • Evaluate the transformation of social attitudes within Welsh society in the period 1939-2000.
  • Summarise and critically evaluate the relative merits and demerits of alternative views and interpretations of the post-1939 history of Wales and evaluate their significance.
  • Demonstrate an in-depth and critical understanding of concepts of gender, class, protest, nationalism and identity and how these concepts have been deployed in historical and historiographical writing on post-Second World War Welsh society
  • Evaluate the potentialities and problems of researching and writing contemporary history.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Students will extend their ability to:

  • communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
  • formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence
  • modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • think critically and challenge assumptions
  • use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • manage their time and organise their own study methods and workload.
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions. 

Suggested preparatory reading

Jane Aaron, Teresa Rees, Sandra Betts and Moira Vincentelli (eds), Our Sisters’ Land: The Changing Identities of Women in Wales (1994)
Deirdre Beddoe, Out of the Shadows: A History of Women in Twentieth Century Wales (2000)
John Davies, A History of Wales (2007)
David Dunkerley and Andrew Thompson (eds), Wales Today (1999)
Martin Johnes, Wales Since 1939 (2012)
Trevor Herbert and Gareth Elwyn Jones (eds), Post-War Wales (1995)
Kenneth O. Morgan, Rebirth of a Nation 1880-1980 (1981)
Duncan Tanner, Chris Williams and Deian Hopkin (eds), The Labour Party in Wales (2000)
Charlotte Williams, Paul O’Leary and Neil Evans (eds), A Tolerant Nation?: Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Wales (2003)