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Making the Contemporary World: History, Politics & Ideas since 1945 - HIS00053M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The MA Core module Making the Contemporary World provides an interdisciplinary grounding for the MA in Contemporary History and International Politics. A sweeping examination of the post-1945 origins of contemporary society, we look at the ways in which general trends and patterns of history have been reflected in the politics of states and societies across the globe, focusing in particular on the origins and growth of international norms and institutions, the changing nature of the world system and the impact of transnational ideas and movements on world history.

We will analyse and contextualise concepts such as liberalism, democracy, nation and race; and processes such as imperialism, decolonization, globalization and revolution. We will also look at the evolution of human rights, the emergence of new ideas about how to manage the economy and the turn to humanitarian intervention. Each week we will discuss key developments of a specific period combined with close examination of one or two texts by an influential thinker of the time.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • Enable students to explore ideas and institutions which have shaped international and transnational politics since the end of the Second World War.
  • Acquaint students with influential works of contemporary thought and a wide range of historical scholarship, to evaluate the emergence, evolution and effects of recent and current political trends of global significance.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Appreciate and evaluate the diverse range of historical contexts in which such political ideas emerged and were used - examples will be drawn from across the globe. Particular focus will be on the processes by which political ideas have been transferred across national boundaries.
  • Explain and illustrate the theoretical principles behind new forms of global politics - these will include examining international organisations (such as the United Nations); international law; social networks; and non-government organisations operating at a transnational level.
  • Evaluate how particular transnational institutions have worked at international, national and local levels.
  • Select, assess and apply primary and secondary material effectively and critically to their discussion and analysis of contemporary political ideas and institutions.
  • Formulate coherent arguments, securely based in the primary and secondary literature.
  • Present their ideas lucidly and coherently both orally and on paper.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Global Government, Human Rights and the Post War Order
  2. Decolonization and the Coming Global Cold War
  3. Social Democracy, Labour and the Working Class in the Global North
  4. A New Society?
  5. Neoliberalism: Reaction or Revolution?
  6. Globalization and the “End of History”
  7. Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect
  8. The 2008 Financial Crisis and the Return of History


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay at the end of the first Reading and Writing week.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Bayly, Christopher A. Remaking the Modern World 1900-2015: Global Connections and Comparisons. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2018.)
  • Westad, Odd Arne. The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.)
  • Wu, Judy Tzu-Chun. Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013.)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.