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This module explores the political, social and economic history of London in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and how politicians at both a local and national level have sought to navigate the capital’s challenges throughout. The module is divided into historical periods, chosen to correlate with the different forms that London-wide government has taken over time, with some key stand-alone thematic sessions in the final weeks. Whilst the layout of the module will provide an historical framework, essay questions and presentations will encourage students to look at a chosen key theme that runs throughout London’s history (e.g. social housing, transport, culture, politics etc.). The module is designed to provide historical context, but also to aid thinking about contemporary issues faced by London, and how the city’s future can best be shaped.


The course will make great use of practitioner-based teaching, taking advantage of King’s unique ties to former and current figures from the worlds of London and national government, journalism and business, providing students with unprecedented access to primary source material. This will provide students with an unparalleled experience unavailable elsewhere in the country, with an opportunity to develop soft skills by questioning and debating with practitioners, as well as providing King’s with an opportunity to further develop its London-wide networks and become ‘a civic university at the heart of London’. The module will also help to boost DPE’s British politics offering.



Course Details


Department and staff member: DPE and Dr Jack Brown

Duration: 10 weeks

Which programmes will offer the modules?:

Will the modules be compulsory for any programme, or just optional?: Optional

Module level: Level 7 (PGT)

How many credits is each module worth?: 15

Contact hours: 2 hours a week

Assessment: 1000-word extended essay plan, 4000-word essay.

Which semester(s) will it run?: Autumn



Proposed course structure by week


  1. London: A Pre-History (up to 1900)
  2. The London County Council (1900-65)
  3. The Greater London Council (1965-86)
  4. The GLC abolished (1986-2000)
  5. Mayor of London/GLA I (Ken Livingstone, 2000-2008)
  6. Mayor of London/GLA II (Boris Johnson, 2008-2016)
  7. The City of London
  8. London and the Rest of the UK
  9. London and the World
  10. Managing Constant Change



Educational aims


The educational aims of this module are to provide students with:


  • A detailed understanding of London’s political, economic and social history throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries;
  • Historical knowledge of the differing models of London government, why they have changed, and their relative merits and demerits;
  • Understanding not only of the policies and processes that have driven change in London, but also of the role that key personalities have played in its development;
  • Context for deeper understanding of contemporary issues faced by today’s London, as well as other major cities and the rest of the UK;
  • A specialism in the historical context of their own chosen area of London-related policy.



Learning outcomes of the module


At the end of the module, students will have:


  • Acquired a detailed understanding of the main issues and events that shaped London’s political, social and economic history from 1900 to the present day;
  • Acquired a detailed knowledge of the academic debates around London’s governance that persist throughout the period studied to the present day;
  • Gained experience of using primary and contemporary sources as a means of analysing the history and the machinery of London government;
  • Gained a specialism in the historical context of a specific, self-chosen policy area relating to London, through the researching and writing of an essay on their chosen topic. This in turn will inform their understanding of the current challenges faced in this area as well as explaining its history;
  • Gained experience and developed skills in interviewing and debating with practitioners;
  • Gained experience and developed key skills in researching and presenting on a chosen topic related to London.