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Unit information: ‘Fight the Power’: Democracy and Protest in 2022/23

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name ‘Fight the Power’: Democracy and Protest
Unit code HIST10068
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Saima Nasar
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Where there is power, there is resistance. From the women’s suffrage movement, the fight for civil rights, anti-colonial nationalism and student protests, to union and labour unrest, anti-austerity demonstrations, and the Arab Springs, protests have been a consistent feature of the modern world. Protests have served to challenge the legitimacy of political authority, expose the failure of representation and express dissatisfaction with received hierarchies. In other words, they have been used to negotiate democracy. Accordingly, this unit explores the historical relationship between democracy and popular protest. It will analyse a range of relevant case studies in order to reflect on how protests have shaped the modern world.

This unit is designed to introduce students to the major themes and debates relating to popular protests, social movements and democratisation. Through lectures, seminars, required readings and independent study, students will acquire a fuller understanding of the history of democracy and protest. By the end of the unit, students will be able to research and discuss key concepts. Students will produce essays, under exam conditions, that demonstrate critical judgement in argument and use of historical evidence.

The key aims of this unit, therefore, are to:

  • encourage students to critically reflect on the origins, features and significance of popular protests through history;
  • provide students with the knowledge to understand and evaluate how protest movements emerge and what role they play;
  • evaluate critically the way that protest movements impact democracy;
  • consider the role of new technologies in aiding democracies and protests.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyse key themes in the history of democracy and protest in various contexts
  2. Discuss and evaluate the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  3. Interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  4. Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level C.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

Summative assessments:

1 x 2500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

  • British Social Movements Since 1945: Sex, Colour, Peace and Power by Adam Lent.
  • Social Unrest and Popular Protest in England, 1780-1840 by John E. Archer
  • Social Movements, 1768 – 2018 by Charles Tilly, Ernesto Castaneda and Lesley Wood.
  • World Histories from Below: Disruption and Dissent, 1750 to the Present by Antoinette Burton and Tony Ballantyne
  • Insurgent Empire: Anticolonialism and the Making of British Descent by Priyamvada Gopal
  • Feminisms: A Global History by Lucy Delap