Working Lives

Ref: C2224268

From working the land, to navigation, to spinning, to mining, this course will explore a range of occupations, their conditions and achievements. Five hundred years ago, most people farmed in one way or another, but over time, industry and commerce became the dominant employers. Later still, the service industries expanded to rival and overtake manufacturing. We'll use original sources to find descriptions of work by both workers and outside observers. Some people wrote letters or diaries describing their daily activity, but for the many who could not write, we depend on the accounts and reports of others. We'll examine these to assess how reliable they may be, or where biases colour and even distort the evidence. As the British economy expanded, there was increasing scope for tensions over working conditions and remuneration, which influence the evidence. Pictorial evidence is no more objective, and we'll also examine the images, from formal art to cartoons, that illustrate our theme.

Course aim

To examine the ways in which people made a living in England over the last 500 years, and through this to look at the broader economy and social issues in English history.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify key changes in the occupation structure in the UK over the last 500 years.
  • Identify and use a variety of original sources for researching this topic.
  • Analyse critically the value of sources for this aspect of history.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full Course information sheet

Working Lives


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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