Power, Poverty and Pestilence: Exploring the Victorian Age


During the Victorian era, Britain experienced a dramatic and far-reaching transformation. As the twin forces of industrialisation and urbanisation altered the landscape, the nation became the 'workshop of the world', amassing the largest global empire ever seen, expanding democracy, introducing universal education and improving the lives for many of its citizens through technological innovation, social reform and new leisure pursuits. Yet, despite the considerable advances that were made, Britain was a divided country, as poverty, disease and crime all remained stubbornly persistent, at a time when the intellectual climate was influenced by new scientific ideas, as well as concerns about religion, class and gender.

This course will explore how the lives of millions of people were affected by the key political, religious, social and economic changes of the Victorian period. It will examine not only how prevalent attitudes evolved over time, but also the way in which the important developments paved the way for the modern society that we recognise today.  

Programme details

Term Starts: 23rd January

Week 1:   Setting the scene and meeting the Queen

Week 2:   Economy, labour and consumerism

Week 3:   Leisure, sport and the Great Exhibition

Week 4:   Party politics, class and social radicalism

Week 5:   Education, literature and the arts

Week 6:   Religion, morality and crime

Week 7:   Science, technology and transportation

Week 8:   Poverty, welfare and public health

Week 9:   Women, sex and the family

Week 10:  Empire, identity and restrospect


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course fee £215.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Simon Wenham

Dr Simon Wenham tutors weekly and online courses and his historical interests include Victorian Britain, Oxford, religion, leisure, businesses, the Thames and gender.

Course aims

To explore and evaluate key aspects of social history relating to the Victorian period

Course Objectives

1. Identify and describe the main features of Victorian Britain and understand how they changed over this period.

2. Analyse and evaluate a number of the key societal attitudes and values that were at the heart of Victorian society.

3. Develop a variety of historical skills by assessing primary sources and academic ideas.

Teaching methods

A range of teaching and learning methods will be used, including illustrated talks, class discussions and the reading and interpreting of documents in pairs or small groups. Students will be encouraged to do further research on any areas that are of particular interest to them.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. Have the ability to identify some of the major features of life in Victorian Britain and understand how the landscape changed over the course of the nineteenth century.

2. Have the ability to assess some of the key Victorian attitudes to different aspects of life.

3. Have the ability to evaluate primary sources and the views of historians.

Assessment methods

Students produce one short piece of work (1500 words) during the duration of the course. An alternative arrangement may be possible, if agreed with the tutor.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)