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Making of the Modern World - 20 credits (HS1105)

Module Tutor: 


Course Description

This course is designed to serve as an introduction to the modern and contemporary periods of world history.  By applying a global perspective, the module aims to impart historical knowledge and understanding of the main political, economic, social and cultural factors that shaped the modern world.  Individual countries will be studied but many lectures and seminars will explore a single theme such as rebellion, nationalism and revolution in the context of several countries or regions of the world.  This comparative approach will deepen your understanding of why things happened as they did and highlight the interconnected nature of the development of societies and peoples in different locations.  The geographical range – a distinctive feature of this course – encompasses many countries of Western and Eastern Europe and Asia including China and India.  The module is arranged topically and thematically with particular emphasis on: the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the world’s first modern society; rise of democratic movements and the role of the state; civil society and citizenship; war and consequences of war; expansion and retraction of empire; elite and popular culture; race, sex and class; empire and sexuality.  

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues. The syllabus is divided into a series of major course themes, then sub-divided into principal topics for the study of each theme.

The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.

The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 2,000 word assessed essay [50%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:
The Assessed Essay will contribute 50% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

The Industrial Revolution
Consequences of Industrialization (1)

Revolt, Rebellion, Revolution
Nationalism: Constitutional Nationalism
Nationalism: Ethnic Nationalism
Heyday of Empire: British Imperialism 1850-1914
Nationalism and Gender in India
Imperialism in China
Nationalism in China

Painting: the Impressionists and the aftermath of civil war in France
Film and Memory: Representing the Holocaust

Peacekeeping: The Congress of Vienna and The Paris Settlement
Revolution and Civil War
The impact of the Great War on gender roles
Capitalism in Crisis, 1919-39
Capitalism since 1945

Learning outcomes

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge and an understanding of the historical processes that contributed to the making of the modern world;
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of historical approaches used to analyse the making of the modern world;
  • demonstrate a critical ability to gather, assimilate and interpret historical knowledge;
  • demonstrate, as a necessary foundation for more detailed analysis in the second and final years of the degree, an understanding of concepts such as “modernization”;
  • use a range of techniques to initiate and undertake analysis of information.
  • identify strengths, weaknesses, problems, and/or peculiarities of alternative historiographies;
  • develop causal explanations of historical processes;
  • demonstrate skills in comparative historical analysis;
  • deepen understanding of broad themes and developments considered in the course through case studies of particular historical phenomena.

Skills that will be practised and developed

  • communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
  • formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence.
  • an ability to modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • an  ability to think critically and challenge assumptions.
  • an ability to use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • time management skills and an ability to independently organise their own study methods and workload.
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.   

Suggested preparatory reading

C.A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World (2004)
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 (London, 1973)
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848-1875 (London, 1977)
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 (London, 1987)
Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The short twentieth century, 1914-1991 (London, 1994)
Pat Hudson, The Industrial Revolution (1992)