History 151C: The Peculiar Modernity of Britain, 1848-2000
History 151C: The Peculiar Modernity of Britain, 1848-2000 (Fall 2011, UC Berkeley). Instructor: Professor James Vernon. For many years, Britain was seen as the crucible of the modern world. This small, cold, and wet island was thought to have been the first to develop representative democracy, an industrial economy, rapid transport, mass cities, mass communication and mass culture, and, of course, an empire upon which the sun famously never set. And yet, despite this precocious modernity, imperial Britain remained a deeply traditional society unable to rid itself of ancient institutions like the monarchy, the aristocracy and the established church. In surveying the history of Britain over the past century and a half this course will examine this paradox. The focus of the course is on how this combination of the old and the new produced a supposedly unique liberal version of modernity which combined free markets with the rule of law and a developing democratic system.
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