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Topics in the History of Political Thought - POL00079M

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Tim Stanton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2017-18

Module aims

This module provides an opportunity to study in depth topics of central interest in the history of political thought. It may focus on one or a few of the major works of a particular figure and the main lines of criticism of that thinker, from other contemporary figures, later political theorist, and modern scholars and critics; or it may focus on a historical moment or controversy which elicited a number of works by different thinkers; or it may focus on the interconnections between a given group of thinkers. It will also consider issues of interpretation and historiography, particularly when there are differing, controversial readings of the theorist, or moment, or group in question. Political thinkers who might be studied would include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Smith, Kant, Hegel, Tocqueville, Marx, Mill, Weber, Schmitt, Arendt, and Strauss. â Momentsâ might include the birth of the modern state, the English civil war, the French and Russian Revolutions, the rise of totalitarianism and the collapse of the Weimar Republic. Groups might include the Social Contract theorists, Theorists of representation, Historicists and anti-historicists, The New Left and the Neoliberals. The course would be taught as a seminar in the history of political thought, with an emphasis both on understanding and critical engagement with the ideas of the figure, figures, and texts under examination, and on the intellectual and political contexts of their works.

Module learning outcomes

To acquire a thorough grounding in the history of political thought. To acquire knowledge of decisive figures and moments in the history of political thought. To develop critical and argumentative skills through seminar discussion and analysis of philosophical texts. To develop skills of careful reading, concentration, and clear exposition through the reconstruction and criticism of textual arguments.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutorâ feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than six weeks after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutorâ regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Christopher Brooke, Philosophic Pride

Peter Gordon, Continental Divide

Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade

Liisi Keedus, The Crisis of German Historicism

Ellen Kennedy, Constitutional Failure

Benjamin Lazier, God Interrupted

Quentin Skinner, Hobbes and Republican Liberty

Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation

John Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment

Jeremy Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality

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