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Year 3 modules – University of Reading

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Year 3 modules

This page contains summary descriptions for all our third-year modules.

Core Modules


The purpose of the dissertation is to:

  • develop your capacity for independent research and critical analysis
  • to deepen your knowledge of a specialised topic within your programme of study
  • to develop your ability to write an extended piece of analysis
  • to develop your ability to generate and complete an extended piece of research.

Optional modules

British Foreign and Defence Policy Since 1945

Through this module you will critically evaluate Britain's foreign and security policy record in the post-war era. It begins by examining how competing groups influence foreign policy formation and public opinion.

It then moves on to examine the end of the British Empire, the development of the Commonwealth, the nature of Britain's relationship with the US and Britain's sometimes "awkward" relationship with other European states.

You will critically examine a series of major post-war challenges: the Suez crisis, British involvement in Indonesia and East Timor, the Falklands War, British involvement in the arms trade, its retention of nuclear weapons, the impact of New Labour on British foreign policy including the conflict in Iraq.

The module concludes with an exercise assessing the UK's place in the world today and strategy for the future. You will watch documentaries in seminars and frequently examine declassified government files. There will also be the opportunity to visit Westminster during the spring term for an "expert witness" session on making foreign policy.

Crime and Punishment: Theoretical Approaches

In this module we examine our criminal justice institutions from the perspective of normative theory. We ask questions like: what, if anything, justifies punishment?; what should and should not be criminal, and on what basis?; can capital punishment be justified?; should attempted murderers be punished less than murderers?

Democracy and Democracy Promotion

The world is increasingly populated by democratic states. If democratic peace theory is correct, then this should reduce the incidence of inter-state war. It also provides an obvious incentive to promote democracy. Yet many of the world's democracies are best understood as partial or hybrid democracies, raising problems both for democratic peace theory and for the practices of democracy promotion and assistance.

This module explores the spread of democracy, especially the rise of partial or hybrid democracies, the relationship between democracy, violence and world order, and the motives and means of democracy promotion and assistance.

You will explore the following topics:

  • the nature of democracy and the rise of partial or hybrid democracies
  • the relationship between democracy (in both its consolidated and hybrid forms) and violence
  • the ideology, means and record of democracy promotion and assistance.

Feminism and Political Theory

This module studies a variety of issues and topics within feminist political theory. It introduces you to a variety of kinds of feminism and the different analyses that they offer of society, gender, and any disparity of power and advantage between genders. It also considers a range of topics that have been of special interest to feminists but also have broader concern, such as abortion, commercial surrogacy, prostitution, pornography, and affirmative action.

Intelligence, War and International Relations

This module aims to familiarise you with the diversity and importance of the intelligence function in both war and international politics.You will be encouraged to think about the factors that contribute to the inception and development of an intelligence community in a particular state. Using case studies drawn from the twentieth century, you will identify the various strategies and problems are associated with intelligence activities. An assessment will also be made of the diversity of the intelligence function in the post Cold War era.

International Organisations in Global Politics

This module introduces students in the study of international organisations. International organisations are key players in global politics. They help states coordinate policies, solve cooperation problems and advance national interests. At the same time, scholars argue that international organizations have become actors in their own right in that they have gained autonomy from their member states and exercise authority across important policy functions, ranging from agenda setting to monitoring and enforcement. To the extent that international organisations regulate ever more issue areas and intervene deeply into the domestic realm of states, this has given rise to controversies in academic and policy communities not only over why international organisations exist and whether they matter in international politics, but also over whether they can effectively alleviate global problems and how legitimate they are.

International Political Economy

This module focuses on the interaction between power and wealth in the international system. It covers the major theoretical approaches to international political economy and applies them to study the politics of international trade, finance, production, development, as well as the effects of globalisation on the state.

International Terrorism

This module examines key issues in the study of contemporary international terrorism. It starts by examining what terrorism is and what distinguishes it from other forms of conflict and warfare in the international system before tracing the causes and consequences of terrorism throughout history, from the 19th-century anarchists to religious terrorism across a range of faiths. From here, the focus shifts to the question of whether there is a particular terrorist type, and the nexus between terrorism and the media. We examine what factors influence terrorist target selection and the modus operandi as well as the options available to counterterrorism, specifically focusing on the effectiveness of political, economic, military and judicial instruments. Terrorism and counterterrorism are further examined with a view to just-war theory and within the context of the civil liberties debate. The module concludes with a look to the future, both in terms of terrorism itself as well as the contribution the social sciences can make to conceptual and theoretical progress in the area.

Introduction to Critical Security Studies

The module provides an introduction to the increasingly prominent field of critical security studies. It provides you with the conceptual and theoretical tools to critically examine recent developments within domestic as well as international security issues.

Justice and Injustice

The module in political philosophy aims to provide students with the tools and material to think critically about their responsibilities, as citizens of an unjust country in an unjust world, to resist, redress, and end injustice, as well as the victims of those injustices' entitlements to struggle against them. It considers questions about responsibility to prevent harm to others, about how understand individuals' responsibility for harms and wrongs inflicted by groups of they are members, and about whether and when boycotts, civil disobedience and violence are appropriate responses to injustice.


Nationalism is a potent force in the modern world. Its power can often be seen either in its violent, exclusive variety, for example the rise of an array of right-wing anti-immigrant parties, secessionist movements and ethnic conflicts throughout the world; or in its more inclusive version, for example in the form of a unifying patriotism, to which one can voluntarily belong.

How may we understand the persistence of nationalism? And how may we conceptualise the different forms it can take? This module provides a broad overview of the theories of and approaches to the study of nationalist thought and practice. It explores related phenomena including nations, national identities, and nationalist ideologies movements, and unpacks the relationship between nationalism and certain important contemporary phenomena such as right-wing extremism, euroscepticism, regional secessionist movements towards national independence, and an emphasis towards stricter immigration policies.

Parliamentary Studies

This highly innovative module is offered in partnership with the Houses of Parliament and is co-taught by parliamentary staff alongside staff from the Department of Politics. This module provides you with an understanding of the working of Parliament both in theory and in practice.

Politics and International Relations of the Middle East

This module seeks to provide you with a nuanced understanding of the politics and international relations of the Middle East. Divided into two sections, it links the domestic politics of Middle Eastern states with the international tensions and conflicts of the region.

The first part begins with a survey of the history of states and empires, followed by the emergence of nationalism and the establishment of the modern state system. We examine in detail the influence and overlapping roles of pan-Islam, pan-Arabism, state-nationalism, Zionism, Palestinian nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and gender throughout the region, and assess the extent to which they impact and define contemporary state politics.

The second part turns to the issue of state-civil society relations in the region and the special role of water and oil in national and international politics. Examination of the international politics of the region further includes inter-Arab relations, the Arab-Israeli dispute, the Gulf wars and the complexities of conflict in Lebanon as well as the roles of the superpowers and their interests in the region.

The module concludes with a role-play simulation involving negotiation and conflict resolution within the context of a politically sensitive issue for the Israelis and Arab/Palestinians.

Strategic Theory

This module explores the most important works of Western theory in strategic studies. The works covered range from the classical theories of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, modern times, through to those of the Information Age. Along the way, the module will analyse theory relating to nuclear strategy, terrorism, insurgency, and air power, to name just four. The module utilises these works of theory to uncover and understand key concepts in strategic studies. You will study major authors such as Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Jomini, Mahan, Corbett, Douhet, Brodie and C.S.Gray in this historical context.

The UN and International Order

This module examines the evolution of the UN and its key institutions (in particular the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Secretariat), assessing the ways in which their roles have developed. It also analyses key issues and practices, such as decolonisation, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peacebuilding, sanctions, and terrorism, and assesses the impact of the UN's involvement.

US Foreign and Defence Policy Since 1950

This module examines US foreign and defence policy from the end of the Second World War to the present, with a focus on understanding US foreign policy processes and institutions.

During this module you will address three broad questions:

  • Who makes (and influences) US foreign policy?
  • How has US foreign policy changed during this period?
  • What is the role of US foreign policy in the world today?

By exploring historical and contemporary cases, you will analyse how foreign policy decisions are made, who tries to influence them, and how this has evolved. Drawing on primary and secondary sources, you will gain an understanding of crucial events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the end of the Cold War, and the War on Terror. Finally, you will also explore salient challenges faced by US foreign policymakers today.

United Kingdom Politics Since 1960

This module aims to provide you with an understanding of the key developments in recent British political history and to enable you to analyse and evaluate the responses made by British politicians to the political, economic and social problems which governments have faced in the period since 1960. The module begins by examining the "consensus" which is said to have prevailed in British politics from the 1940s and then considers the attempts of successive Conservative and Labour governments to respond to the economic, social and political challenges of the 1960s. The years of crisis and failure in the 1970s are examined before the module moves on to consider the emergence of Thatcherism, the achievements of John Major, the record of the "New Labour" government and the "rarity" of the coalition government. The module then examines a number of policy themes including Britain's approach to the EU, the impact of the 'special relationship' with the US, strategies to deal with British economic decline, the role of trade unions and recent constitutional reform. This module makes frequent use of documentaries in seminars as well as declassified government files.

War, Peace and International Ethics

This module is about the ethical dimension of international relations in peace and war. While it focuses on issues within moral thought and theory, it does so with an eye to real-world conflicts. Among the issues discussed are war crimes and moral responsibility, strategic bombing, revolutionary war, terrorism, and peacemaking.


Our optional modules are arranged on an annual basis and are subject to change. It is possible that a module may be modified in its content, suspended for a session, or discontinued. New modules may become available in any given year.

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