PO2GPH-Global Politics and History

Module Provider: School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Kerry Goettlich

Email: k.goettlich@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Brexit, and from the rise of China to the ‘Clash of Civilizations’, contemporary debates in world politics, and often the practice of world politics itself, depend on particular understandings of history. Indeed, it is impossible to study politics without relying on knowledge about the past. But how accurate or convincing are the historical narratives and assumptions that underlie contemporary debates? Is it ‘natural’ for politics to be organised into nation-states? Is empire a thing of the past? Where did democracy come from? When did globalisation start? Was decolonization a success or failure? Students will come away from this module with both the historical knowledge and the analytical skills to be able to answer such questions.


This module aims to give students a basic understanding of the uses of history in the study and practice of world politics, as well as to enable students to bring greater historical awareness to contemporary debates in world politics.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Outline the historical origins and trajectories of the major actors and phenomena in world politics

  • Evaluate prominent political narratives from a historian's perspective 

  • Explain what history is and discuss arguments concerning its use and purpose

  • Evaluate the role and relative importance of different actors, events and processes of the 20th and 21st ce nturies

Additional outcomes:

The module promotes independent study, critical and analytical skills, and the ability to communicate orally in a group context.

Outline content:

The following content is indicative only and may be subject to minor changes:

This course looks at the intersection of world politics and global history. It begins with debates on the philosophy of history, aiming to prepare students to form and defend ideas about the nature and purpose of history. It then progresses through some of the main events and processes in global history which impact on world politics, covering the history of each topic with an eye to contemporary relevance. The focus is on the 20th and 21st centuries, although attention will also be paid to longue duree trajectories where necessary.

Topics likely to be covered:

  • State-building and ‘Westphalian’ Sovereignty

  • Globalisation (archaic and modern)

  • Imperialism and legacies of empire

  • Nationalism, from the 19th century to Brexit

  • Democracy and democracy promotion

Global context:

While taking its cue from political debates ongoing in the UK, this module is a course on global politics and considers the uses of history in general. Whether looking at the UK or any other country, students will be encouraged to see politics within a global historical context.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The course is taught through both lectures and seminars. Lectures introduce students to the relevance and key concepts of a topic as well as prominent debates in academic scholarship. Seminars then allow students to deepen their understanding and apply their knowledge of the topic through various tasks such as a presentation, group exercises, and case studies. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 15
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 15
    Exam revision/preparation 25
    Advance preparation for classes 35
    Preparation for tutorials 15
    Revision and preparation 25
    Essay preparation 40
    Reflection 20
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 40
Report 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:

One two-hour exam in the summer term.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One 3,000-word essay and one short report (1,000 words).

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

University-wide rules apply.

Reassessment arrangements:

If a student fails to pass the year at the first attempt there is an opportunity to be re-assessed on one further occasion at the next opportunity in those modules achieving a mark of less than 40%. Students who are eligible for re-assessment have the right to re-assessment in all elements even if they have previously passed one of those elements. It is expected, however, that the majority of students would probably elect not to repeat an element in which they had already passed, in which case the confirmed marks would be carried forward.

Coursework: Failed or missing coursework should be re-submitted in line with published guidelines.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):


Last updated: 4 April 2020


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