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Political Communities in World History - HIS00084C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jasper Heinzen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

The Political Communities in World History core module challenges students to understand political history through its most important concepts, such as states, power, identity, and conflict. Taught by means of two lectures and one discussion group a week, the module proceeds on a broad chronological basis, introducing students to some crucial structures in the history of political formations – from the complex early states of medieval Europe to the persistence of monarchy across the modern world – and to moments of decisive change in the form of rebellions, revolutions, and wars.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To help students understand a broad sweep of political history over the past 1500 years;
  • To encourage students to explore a wide range of chronologies and approaches to political history, both Western and non-Western, across time and place;
  • To familiarize students with the ways in which historians understand political developments in past societies;
  • To introduce students to many of the different areas of study available to them in Stages 2 and 3.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will have:

  • Acquired a broad knowledge of, and some of the scholarship relating to, political history in Western and non-Western societies;
  • Demonstrated an ability to analyse critically, and make connections between, focussed studies from across time and place;
  • Practised core skills necessary to a history degree, notably note-taking, critical analysis, and the ability to form arguments orally and in writing, through effective contributions to discussion group activities, essay-writing, and group work
  • Demonstrated understanding of, and the ability to construct arguments about, political changes and continuities.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1, then two lectures and a 1-hour discussion group in each of weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in sixteen lectures and eight discussion groups in all.

Lecture and discussion group topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

Block 1. Cities, kingdoms, and empires

Political Organization in the Medieval World
Political Organization in the Early Modern World
The Age of Revolutions?
Power in the Modern City

Discussion groups:
What made the state different from other forms of political organisation?
How has “the political” been defined?

Block 2. Power and legitimacy

Political Ideals in the Medieval World
Kingship and Government in the Early-Modern World
Encountering the Nation State
Democracy and Authoritarianism

Discussion groups:
How has power been legitimized?
How should states interact with each other?

Block 3. Nations, communities and identities

Political Identities in the medieval world
Political identities in the early modern world
The birth of mass nationalism
Community beyond the nation

Discussion groups;
How have race, ethnicity, and religion become political identities?
How useful is "nationality" as a category of historical analysis?

Block 4. Conflict and change

Lecture 1: Conflict and change in the medieval world
Lecture 2: Rebellion and revolution in the early modern world
Lecture 3: Revolutions and turning-points
Lecture 4: War and the modern public

Discussion groups:
What counts as a war?
Revolutions and continuities


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Political Communities in World History
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment work, students will produce a 1500-word essay in week 9.

For summative assessment, students will complete an Open Exam in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam -less than 24hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Political Communities in World History
5 hours 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their Discussion groups 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 procedural work during their lecturers’ student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For summative assessment tasks, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The lecturer 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:

  • Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
  • Azar Gat, War in Human in Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).

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.