Past and Present: Childhood and History (V1418)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

How have the experiences of British children changed over the past two centuries and what can a study of childhood tell us about society?

This module explores the experience of childhood in Britain from circa 1800 onwards and examines the historical contexts for some of our most pressing contemporary issues. Discussions over the importance of children’s schooling, for example, belatedly prioritised by politicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, find parallels in:

  • historical debates about the purpose of education
  • controversy over ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ floors in toy shops reflect long-standing discussions about the gendering of children’s play
  • contemporary angst over the state’s responsibility for children such as Baby P and Victoria Climbié echoes similar outrage over the deprivation portrayed in Dickens’ workhouse.

Over the course of the module, we look at the changing experiences of children in the home, in the classroom, at work and at play, of vulnerable children and those deemed ‘problem’ children. In relating contemporary problems to their historical roots, this module fosters a deeper understanding of the relationship between history and the present.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: