Time and Place: 1968: Rivers of Blood (V1404)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

On 20 April 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell delivered one of the most controversial speeches in modern political history. In his address, Powell warned that the unrestricted migration of racial and ethnic minorities threatened to destroy the social and economic fabric of British society. His speech stoked the flames of racist reaction first ignited by the arrival of thousands of Caribbean migrants immediately following the end of the Second World War. Britain's emerging racial problems shattered the self-delusion of a nation that projected an image of liberal tolerance towards minorities.

This module assesses the contested development of multiracialism in postwar Britain. It assesses the factors that precipitated large-scale migration to Britain, contrasting the expectations of those who left their home countries in search of new opportunities with the social and economic realities they encountered on their arrival in the 'motherland'.

The late 1950s and early 1960s witnessed a series of race riots that exposed Britain to international criticism. Although dismissed as an aberration by many indigenous political commentators, racism proved a potent cultural and political force. Political parties pandered to the prejudices of the electorate by supporting legislation to restrict migration. Neofascist organisations took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to racial reform. Black and white liberal activists attempted to mobilise a civil rights movement inspired by the struggle of African-Americans to secure racial equality on the other side of the Atlantic but their efforts ultimately ended in failure.

In analysing the rise of institutionalised racism and the countervailing actions of liberal reformers, the module places postwar Britain in a broader international context by assessing the impact on this country of such forces as decolonisation, the Cold War and the movements against American segregation and South African apartheid. This is also an interdisciplinary module which draws on sources including novels, music, documentary films and motion pictures.


48%: Lecture
52%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 23 hours of contact time and 127 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.