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This module, in partnership with No. 10 Downing Street, examines how British Prime Ministers have governed in the period 1979-2015, and the role of the Prime Minister in the British system. The first half of the module will focus on key themes relating to the office of Prime Minister and the machinery of government, with the second half providing specific historical case studies, onto which the frameworks and theories discussed in the first half of the module can be applied and used for analysis and evaluation. Special attention will be given to the memoirs and diaries of the prime ministers, cabinet ministers and senior officials involved in managing the central machinery of government. The use of historical sources, and debate around the historiography of the subjects being discussed will be interwoven into each week’s teaching. The module will also make use of case study documents to aid discussion in seminars, on key related themes that will provide insights into the practicalities and realities of the premiership.


  • An intricate understanding of British central government between 1979 and 2015;
  • The theoretical framework to analyse how decisions were implemented at the top of government and the challenges to this;
  • A critical understanding of debates around how government action and key political events are interwoven;
  • Historical knowledge of the domestic, foreign, economic, defence and security issues faced by Prime Ministers between 1979 and 2015;
  • The ability to use primary and secondary historical sources to answer research questions.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify the key actors in the British policy process and the formal role of the prime minister;
  • Evaluate the role of the prime minister in a select number of high profile cases of policy-making;
  • Analyse the factors contributing to successful and unsuccessful policy management by the prime minister;
  • Engage with historiographical debates surrounding the role of British Prime Minister;
  • Use primary and secondary source materials to produce a finished piece of analysis in the form of an essay answering a specific question.

More information on Political Economy and Politics courses at King’s College London