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Study information

Understanding Modern History

Module titleUnderstanding Modern History
Module codeHIH1422
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Richard Jobson ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This is a module that introduces you to the key processes, ideas, and connections in modern history from the eighteenth century to the present. It covers themes such as colonialism and postcolonialism; states, ideologies and nationalism; gender, sexuality and the body; science and technology; race, class, religion, and disability; violence and conflict; and development and humanitarianism. The module traces these themes across multiple countries and regions around the world, highlighting connections and differences between them, and exploring the multiplicity of experiences and ideas that have produced numerous, and at times competing, conceptualisations of ‘modernity’.  This is an introductory module and no prior knowledge is required.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module explores some of the most important historical developments from around the world from the eighteenth century to the present. It provides a taster of topics you can explore in greater detail in future years of study. The module is global in its scope, focusing on exploring a range of regions and nations whose histories have been foundational to the formation of the ‘modern’ world as we know it today. While introducing you to the key features that have led to the development of ‘modern’ states, societies, and cultures, it simultaneously challenges Eurocentric ideas of ‘modernity’, accepted historical chronologies, and dominant historical narratives. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify and understand the main themes in the histories of the modern world
  • 2. Analyse and engage critically with key debates in modern history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Explain large themes over a relatively long span of history
  • 4. Evaluate critically the views of different historians on a topic
  • 5. Marshal a reasoned a historical argument, based on professional standards of evidence use

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in seminar discussions
  • 7. Identify a topic, and gather, organise, and deploy evidence, data, and information on that topic
  • 8. Produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument and analysis, developed through the mode of assessment

Syllabus plan

While the content may vary from year to year, it is expected that it will cover some or all of the following topics: 


  • What is the modern world? 
  • Revolutions
  • Slavery
  • Imperialism and colonialism
  • Nations and nationalism
  • Decolonisation and postcolonialism
  • Gender, sexuality and the body
  • Identities and ‘others’
  • Science, technology, and medicine
  • Violence
  • Modernities and development
  • How do historians view the modern world?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Seminars
Guided Independent Study260Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflection and feed-forward exercise1000 words or equivalent1-8Oral and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay402000 words1-8Written
Individual assignment552500 words or equivalent1-8Written
Seminar attendance5Attendance at all seminars1-8n/a

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period
Individual assignment (2500 words or equivalent)Individual assignment (2500 words or equivalent)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.


Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008) 
  • Adom Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019)
  • Priyamvada Gopal, Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent (London: Verso, 2019) 
  • Catherine Hall, Civilizing Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830-1867 (Oxford: Verso, 2002) 
  • Philip T. Hoffman, Why did Europe Conquer the World? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015) 
  • Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000) 
  • J. C. Sharman, Empires of the Weak: the Real Story of European Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019) 
  • Mark Shaw, War and Genocide: Organised Killing in Modern Society (London: Polity, 2003) (Cambridge: CUP, 2011)
  • Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: the 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) 

Key words search

Modern, History, decolonising, world

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date