British politics has been taught at Birkbeck for nearly two centuries. The College was founded by George Birkbeck, a social reformer, in close collaboration with Francis Place, an archivist of British politics and important influence on the Chartist movement.
Notable students in Birkbeck’s foundational period include Karl Marx, who attended Thomas Hodgskin’s lectures on workers in the capitalist system, Sidney Webb, co-founder of the London School of Economics and Ramsey MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister.
Birkbeck’s School of Sociology and Politics was founded in 1972 by Bernard Crick, the British political theorist, and Paul Hirst, an internationally renowned social theorist. From the very beginning, the School became a hub for engagement in British politics. Crick served as advisor to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention and was a leading figure in the Hansard Society. Paul Hirst was a founder member, and later chair, of Charter 88, an influential campaign group for constitutional reform.
Over the years, Birkbeck has made major contributions to the study of British politics. Ben Pimlott, who joined the School in the 1980s, wrote path breaking political biographies of Hugh Dalton, Harold Wilson and Queen Elizabeth II. In 2013, Joni Lovenduski was awarded the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies for her work on women’s representation at Westminster and British politics and gender.
Current faculty working in the field of British politics include Rosie Campbell, Jason Edwards, Dermot Hodson, Eric Kaufmann, Joni Lovenduski, Deborah Mabbett, David Styan and Ben Worthy. The Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life also runs regular events with leading scholars and practitioners of British politics.
Birkbeck offers a range of modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate level that deal with the study of British politics.