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Unit information: The Modern World in 2020/21

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Unit name The Modern World
Unit code HIST10048
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Adrian Howkins
Open unit status Not open




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


What does it mean to be ‘modern’ and how did this differ across the world? How did political, economic, social, cultural and technological change impact on people’s lives and identities? This unit explores the emergence of the modern and contemporary world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and will be structured thematically to explore: revolutions and democracy; capitalism and institutions; modern ideas and ideologies; modern people; and technology and the environment. In weekly seminars, students will engage with key texts and material objects relating to the themes of the course, developing the kind of analytical and writing skills that will underpin the entire degree.

Intended learning outcomes

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

1.Identify and analyse key themes and concepts in the history of the modern and contemporary world in the 19th and 20th centuries

2.Discuss and evaluate these themes within appropriate 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.

5.Demonstrate a global and comparative perspective on the political, economic, social, cultural, and technological changes associated with the emergence of the modern world

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

1 x 3000-word Essay Portfolio (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World 1780 –1914. Global Connections and Comparisons (2004)

Frank Trentmann, Empire of Things: How we Became a World of Consumers, from the 15th century to the 21st (2016)

David Priestland, The Red Flag: A History of Communism (2010)

Dagmar Herzog, Sexuality in Europe. A Twentieth Century History (2011)

Alys Eve Weinbaum et al, The Modern Girl Around the World (2008)

David Edgerton, The Shock of The Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 (2006)