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Study information


Module titleRevolutions
Module codeHIH3633
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Matt Rendle (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Along with major wars, with which they are often associated, revolutionary struggles have been among the dramatic and significant turning points in the development of human societies and their government. At times the threat and promise of revolution has been an all-consuming preoccupation, epitomised by ‘classical’ revolutions such as those in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917 but also encompassing many other examples of both successful and failed attempts at revolutionary change right up to the present day. This module takes an inter-disciplinary and comparative approach to the global phenomenon of revolution in the period from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, drawing upon a series of different examples that will vary according to the availability of the team of tutors who are specialists in this area. Although principally concerned with the struggle to alter patterns of power and political authority, the module also focusses upon the wider cultural and social transformations associated with revolutionary challenges to existing orders.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to enhance your understanding of recurring themes in the history of revolutions in comparative contexts. It will be taught by at least two tutors, and exact chronological and thematic focus will depend on which tutors are teaching the module in any given year. The module will evaluate key topics such as the changing forms and nature of revolution, the dynamics of revolutionary transformations, cultural and social aspects of revolution, counterrevolutions and the commemoration of revolutions. It will predominantly focus on eighteenth to twenty-first century conflicts in settings ranging from the North America, Latin America, Russia and China to Europe, south Asia and Africa. The module will also introduce you to the approaches of military, political, economic, social and cultural history, as well as inter-disciplinary perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. In doing so, the module will introduce you to a wide variety of different historical source materials, ranging from biographies and epic poetry to painting, monuments and film. By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and lectures, student-led seminars and independent study, the module will enable you to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of taking a comparative approach to the study of revolution. In this way you will learn to draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources, show awareness of contrasting approaches to research, and demonstrate an enhanced understanding of some of the philosophical questions arising from research into large historical themes. You will also learn to present some of these complex issues to the rest of the class by leading a seminar in the second half of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Assess the relationship between key developments in the history of revolution and other phenomena such as gender, class, the state, and nationalism across a variety of historical time-periods and contexts.
  • 2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the history of revolution across different societies and periods.
  • 3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to the subject of revolution
  • 4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the history of revolution, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Analyse the key developments in complex and unfamiliar political, social, cultural or intellectual environments.
  • 6. Evaluate different and complex types of historical source and historiography.
  • 7. Present work in the format expected of historians, including footnoting and bibliographical references.
  • 8. Identify and deploy correct terminology in a comprehensible and sophisticated manner.
  • 9. Critically evaluate different approaches to history in a contested area.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 10. Work both in a team and independently to prepare and lead a seminar.
  • 11. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.

Syllabus plan

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

• What is Revolution?
• Revolutions Compared: 1750 to the Present
• Theories of Revolution
• Revolutionary Movements and Ideas
• Inventing Revolution: Forms of Revolution
• The Dynamics of Revolution
• The State and Revolution
• Revolutionary Leadership and Agency
• Revolutionary Propaganda
• Revolutionary Justice
• Revolution and Social Transformation
• Revolution and Cultural Change
• Revolutionary Violence
• Revolutionary Outcomes
• Counter-Revolution
• Commemorating Revolution

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 teaching 1111x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching 126 x 2 hour tutor led seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching 105x 2 hour seminars, each led by a group of 2 to 4 students. Topics should be chosen from a menu of subjects agreed in advance by tutors. While tutors give guidance and a basic reading list, you are responsible for designing seminar activities and identifying further reading materials.
Guided independent learning267Students prepare for seminars, essay, final report and exam through reading and research; they also work in groups to lead seminars based on projects that have been developed.

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
Essay303000 words1-9, 11Oral and written
Student-led seminar [comprising: leading a student led seminar (36%) and participation in student40Two hours1-10Oral and written
Written Assignment302000 words1-9, 11Oral and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (3000 words)1-9,11Referral/deferral period
Student-led seminar and participation2500 words (written by student individually) describing and reflecting on the proposed seminar activities and materials equating to one person’s contribution (c. 45 minutes), plus proposed handout or slides from seminar (not more than 2 sides of A4) and seminar reading list (not more than 1 side of A4)1-9,11Referral/deferral period
Written Assignment (2000 words)Written Assignment (2000 words)1-9,11Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 3000 word essay and 2000 word assignment, as in the original assessment, but replaces leading and participating in student-led seminars with a written seminar plan and reading list that corresponds to one student’s contribution to such a seminar. The plan should outline how the seminar is to be structured and organised as well as detailing the material to be used. This will enable a reader to gain a sense of what the student intended to do in the seminar, the rationale for this activity, and when this activity / discussion would take place.

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

• Keith Baker, Inventing the French Revolution (Stanford, 1990)
• Keith Baker and Dan Edelstein (eds.), Scripting Revolution: A Historical Approach to the Comparative Study of Revolutions (Stanford, 2015)
• Jack Goldstone, Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2014)
• Fred Halliday, Revolution and World Politics: the Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power (London, 1999)
• Mark Katz, Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves (London, 1997)
• George Lawson, Anatomies of Revolution (Cambridge, 2019)
• Ilan Rachum, “Revolution”: The Entrance of a New Word in Western Political Discourse (Lanham, 1999)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Revolution, Political Change, Violence, States, Nations

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date