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BA (Hons) Politics and Criminology course preparation

To help you feel prepared for your university studies, we’ve gathered together a range of course related activities including suggested reading, useful websites and some great things to do right now. Open the links below to find out more:

Suggested reading

During Induction Week, you will be provided with a comprehensive reading list of key texts, and guidance from your tutors on how to make the most of them. In the meantime, you may wish to make a start with some reading.

Politics textbooks have a habit of becoming out of date rather quickly. So we don’t recommend you buy any until you are on the course and have a clearer idea of what you need. However you can prepare by looking for the following in large public libraries.

  • Besly et al (2018) How Parliament Works (might be listed under Rogers) London. Routledge
  • Ferdinand et al (2018) Politics. Oxford. OUP.
  • Westen (2008) The Political Brain. New York. Public Affairs.

Also look for political biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and diaries. Material by or about any current or recent politician or political operator will be useful. We particularly recommend:

  • Balls, Ed (2016) Speaking Out. London. Biteback
  • Clarke, Kenneth (2016) Kind of Blue. London. Macmillan
  • Seldon, Anthony (2019) May at 10. London. Biteback
  • Campbell, Alastair (2011 and later) Diaries

You will be studying Political Theories in your first year and you can often find some of the key texts on line. They should also be available in cheap paperback form and are guaranteed not to go out of date. If you can, have a look at one or more of these:

  • Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty
  • Marx and Engels. The Communist Manifesto

Finally, it is worth getting to know some of the political commentators with blogs or twitter feeds. We recommend:

  • Conservative Home
  • Labour List
  • Lib Dem Voice
  • Britain Elects

Useful websites

  • Law in Action – As BBC Radio 4’s long running legal podcast, this show features reports and discussion on all matters relating to law, from questioning whether new technologies affect human rights, to interviews with guest such as Lord Chief Justice, Sir Ian Burnett. As an easy to follow podcast, this is an interesting listen, whether you are considering a direct career in Law on not.
  • Serial (Series 1) – This investigative podcast follows the murder of 18 year old Hae Min Lee in 1999. Involving interviews with convicted ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who maintains his innocence, the series questions whether the justice system failed Hae and Adnan, and explores how complex cases such as this can be.
  • If you’d like to organise your tasks and create a to-do list try Trello.
  • If you’d like to explore careers within the Legal sector or law enforcement visit the Prospects website.

Recommended watching

Especially, but not only documentaries. Some are more easily available than others and some you would have to pay for. Please be clear that these are just suggestions and you aren’t required to watch these.

  • 13th is an excellent Netflix film about how the mass incarceration of Black people in the United States has come about historically and how it mirrors the slavery of the nineteenth century. The Dirty Money series on Netflix is also very good on aspects of crimes of the powerful.
  • The house I live in is a powerful documentary by Eugene Jarecki about the failure of the ‘war on drugs’. It argues that the war on drugs has led to massive harm in the United States and globally.
  • Before the Flood, an Inconvenient Truth, Our Planet and A Plastic Ocean are all really interesting and powerful films about environmental crisis. Of course there is also a wealth of documentary material now emerging about the pandemic. It has been argued for some time now that disruption of natural environments and closer proximity of humans and non-human species has elevated the potential for these pandemics. It is how Ebola, Sars and coronavirus pandemics each originated. This is not new, human diseases have long emerged from such inter-species interaction (the smallpox that nearly wiped out indigenous Americans for example was originally transferred from animals to humans in Europe – by the time Europeans invaded the Americas they had developed immunity, but the native population hadn’t). But the ever greater pressure that humans put on the environment for land, the greater the danger.
  • Capitalism a Love Story, Inside Job and Too Big to Fail are all worth watching to develop an understanding of the financial crisis of 2008 – the response to which included tripling your tuition fees. Again, most of what happened was attributable to legal practices and values. A number of criminologists / zemiologists would argue that such destruction should not have been permitted to happen. It is interesting that many of the top people who pursued policies that led to the crisis have seen their careers rise, rather than fall.
  • Auschwitz, Nazis and the Final Solution and Nazis: A Warning from History are both very good documentary series you should be able to find online.
  • The Corporation is an online documentary that was released alongside a very good book of the same name by Joel Bakan. They both examine how the normal structure and legal status of corporations have led to massive harms.
  • The War You Don’t See by John Pilger. This is available free on his website. It is a searing indictment of lying and deceit by government and media that manufactured public consent for the Iraq war.
  • Fourteen Days in May is a harrowing fly on the wall documentary about an American prisoner on Death Row. Brilliant and agonising. Don’t watch it alone.

Gain an understanding of current events

As a Politics and Criminology student, you will need to have a good knowledge and understanding of current events (at home and abroad) so getting into the habit of paying attention to news and political events will certainly help you with your studies.

  • Get into the habit of reading a good quality, broadsheet newspaper on a daily basis; The Guardian is a good choice. The ‘i’ newspaper is a cheap and effective way of getting across current events.
  • Listen to or watch extended news programmes and programmes specifically about politics. Radio 4 has a lot of these. The BBC Parliament Channel is also an excellent source. The Politics course includes a focus on International Relations, so an awareness of what is going on internationally will help.

Extra materials

It might be worth seeing if you can borrow or get access to some zemiological or related material. Lookup the titles below online and see which of them interests you. Don’t spend much money – try and get them through your library if you can. If not, borrow them once you get here.

Textbooks are not included here – you can read those when you arrive. Don’t spoil your summer!

  • Crimes of the Powerful: A Reader by Vicky Cooper and Dave Whyte
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Ignorance, Power and Harm: Agnotology and the Criminological Imagination by Alana Barton and Howard Davis
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein
  • Criminal Records: The Use and Abuse of Music by Eleanor Peters
  • Inequality and the 1% or Peak Inequality by Danny Dorling
  • Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth.

As you watch or read, ask yourselves these three questions:

  1. What are the harms that are being described – how are people or planet adversely effected?
  2. Can I identify anything that might be considered to be causal factors in creating this harm?
  3. Do these harms arise because of deviance? Or conformity and obedience?
What is criminology about?

Additional ways to prepare

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