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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: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

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 theorists, 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. Moments 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 will be taught as a seminar in the history of political thought, with an emphasis on the understanding of, and critical engagement with the ideas of the figure, figures, and texts under examination, and on the intellectual and political contexts that stimulated their works.

Module learning outcomes

To acquire a thorough grounding in the history of political thought, and knowledge of decisive figures and moments within it. To develop critical and argumentative skills through seminar discussion and the 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 tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Christopher Brooke, Philosophic Pride: Stoicism and Political Thought from Lipsius to Rousseau (Princeton UP, 2012)

Eric Nelson, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (Harvard UP, 2010)

Quentin Skinner, Hobbes and Republican Liberty (Cambridge UP, 2008)

Jeremy Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of John Locke’s Political Thought (Cambridge UP, 2002)

John Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton UP, 1975)

Istvan Hont, Jealousy of Trade: International Competition and the Nation-State in Historical Perspective (Harvard UP, 2005)

Peter Gordon, Continental Divide: Heidegger, Cassirer, Davis (Harvard UP, 2010)

Liisi Keedus, The Crisis of German Historicism: The Early Political Thought of Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss (Cambridge UP, 2015)

Ellen Kennedy, Constitutional Failure: Carl Schmitt in Weimar (Duke UP, 2004)

Benjamin Lazier, God Interrupted: Heresy and the European Imagination between the World Wars (Princeton UP, 2008)

Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation (University of California Press, 1972)

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.