Class Struggle and the Industrial Revolution

Module code: HS2358

This module will introduce you to one of the key ideas in human history, the idea that, in Karl Marx’s words, “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”.  Marx’s words went on to influence historians all over the world.  In the British case, ‘class struggle’ emerged in the late 19th century as the dominant view of the Industrial Revolution.

But the idea of class division prevailed in Britain long before Marx and Engels took it up in the 1840s.  It was there in the banners at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester (‘Peterloo’) in 1819 when the Yeomanry cut down cotton operatives and weavers, and it was there again in 1837 when the Chartist movement was formed in opposition to a political constitution that excluded a whole class from the franchise on grounds of their lack of property.  In the second half of the 19th century Marxism and various other forms of radical and socialist thinking flourished beyond intellectual elites, to take the notion of class struggle to the people in trade unionism and other associations of the working class.

Industrial changes affected working-class experiences of work and leisure, and new political ideologies influenced the way industrial and social changes were understood and interpreted. You'll be studying different interpretations of the rise of new class-based political movements, and the changing nature of political activism.


  • 10 hours of lectures
  • 20 hours of seminars
  • 5 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 115 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 4,000 words (100%)