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Decolonization, Internationalism & the Making of a New World Order after World War 2 - HIS00080C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Sanjoy Bhattacharya
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

This module will examine the important subject of decolonisation, which reshaped political maps from 1945 onwards. These processes also forged a new era of international relations, which was powerfully represented by the redefinition of the governance of multi-country health and development projects. The seminars will adopt a consciously non- Euro and US-centric perspective, which will allow students to study the many actors, voices, ideas and pressures that strengthened anti-colonial nationalisms, internationalist movements and new, territorial nationalisms. The module will provide a decolonised and cutting-edge study of the many drivers of the end of European empires after the Second World War, especially the roles played by actors from newly freed territories within international bodies like the United Nations (and its specialist agencies). Seminars will draw on examples from around the world, giving students the opportunity to develop expertise on particular countries or, if they prefer, take a wider international, multi-sited approach to understanding the making of a new world order.


Different concepts of post-war anti-colonialism, internationalism and non-alignment will be problematized throughout the seminars, so that students can critically consider the many components, meanings and effects of these political projects. The seminars will explain how cooperation and competition between newly independent countries created international spaces that excluded western European imperial powers. In this way, the module will draw out the roles played by a number of little known (but, not unimportant) political organisations, cultural movements and faith-based associations in promoting new medical, scientific and developmental exchanges. The study of such joint diplomatic action, and its roles in forcing changes within United Nations governance at different administrative levels, is a relatively unexplored field of historical enquiry. This module will encourage discussions about the new research approaches that made such work possible, explain assumptions and subjectivities in older historiography, describe the many kinds and sources of research materials, and help students develop original topics for study.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into historical study of an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have practiced core skills identified in the Autumn Term Making Histories module, including historical analysis, note-taking, essay writing, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars: and,
  • Have delivered advanced level historical work in essays, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the module topics.

Module content

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over eight weeks. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  1. General briefing

  2. Concepts of planned exit, disorderly retreat and much more

  3. World War 2 - The trigger for decolonisation?

  4. United Nations, anti-imperialism and decolonisation

  5. The Cold War: Manifestations and variations

  6. Allies at war: Strategic aftershocks post-World War 2

  7. The many guises of non-alignment

  8. New nationalisms and the remaking of empires

  9. The hidden voices of imperialism, internationalism and decolonisation


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7.

Students will then submit 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10.


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 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 term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

Dora Vargha, Polio Across the Iron Curtain: Hungary’s Cold War with an Epidemic, Cambridge University Press, 2018 (open access book here).


Paul Wenzel Geissler (ed.), Para-States and Medical Science: Making African Global Health, Duke University Press, 2015 (open access chapters here).

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students