Dissertation: MA Politics and Contemporary History
This module covers the research and writing of a substantive dissertation of 16,000 words, combining aspects of both politics and contemporary history.
The research programme will have been designed in the second semester. In this module you implement the agreed research programme and write the dissertation.
You will choose a minimum of 60 credits from within the School of Politics and International Relations; the remaining 60 credits can be taken from a list of modules offered by the Department of History, or other schools and departments (subject to approval).
Comparative Democratic Development
At the dawn of the 21st century, the status of democracy across the world is uncertain. In Central and Eastern Europe, it has become the only game in town, but in other regions like Russia or the Arab World it has suffered reversals.
To make sense of these events, this module examines and is structured around some of the big, important questions that have long interested political scientists around the questions of democracy:
- What is democracy?
- Why are some countries democratic and others not?
- How did democracy emerge in different countries?
- What difference does democracy make for people's lives?
The module adopts a global and comparative perspective, by focusing on countries in specific regions and by studying different data-sets on the design, functioning and influence of democratic institutions.
This module aims to explore the dynamics of conflict in the modern world. It will primarily address the increased role that non-state actors play in global security. It will introduce you to empirical analyses of numerous terrorist and insurgent groups, as well as to theoretical understandings of sub-state violence in the post-9/11 world.
This module will enable you to engage with the concepts of resistance and rebellion in international relations and widen understanding of the multiple levels of global security.
The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent American declaration of a 'War on Terror' have recast the focus of global security. The attack upon a hegemonic superpower by violent non-state actors placed terrorism at the centre of Western concepts of contemporary security and enabled President Bush to redraw international relations along the fault-line of those either 'with us or against us' in a global effort to eradicate terrorist threats. The US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have provided evidence of just how significant non-state actors now are to conceptions of global security as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and numerous militias have demonstrated the difficulties with which states conceptualise and fight irregular wars. All of these developments will come under student scrutiny during this module.
Designing Political Enquiry
The module is designed to allow you to develop a critical understanding of the methodological issues involved in designing and undertaking political science research and to strengthen their ability to read and evaluate political science literature more generally.
The first part of the module focuses on issues of research design in political science, in particular, the use of the comparative method in political science research. It exposes you to a broad range of methodological issues involved in designing, conducting and writing up research based on a relative small number of cases in areas of comparative politics, international relations, and public policy. Topics that are addressed in the module include issues involved in developing a research question, problems of conceptualisation, measurement, and strategies and approaches to causal theorising in small N research.
The second part of the module addresses various methods of generating and processing data for political science research. Methods that are covered include the use of documentary sources, observation, and various forms of interviewing.
Europe and the Developing World
This module analyses the decision-making process and current policy issues in both economic (first pillar) and political and security (CFSP: Common Foreign and Security Policies, and ESDP: European Security and Defence Policies) policies within the European Union.
We will examine theories, concepts and case studies to explain the nature of contemporary EU policies towards Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
- theorising EU security policies
- instruments of security policies
- issues such as post-colonialism
- ethics of intervention
- just war theory
- asylum policies
- migration policies
- the fight against terrorism and WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)
European Union Politics
This course analyses how the growing competencies of the European Union and changing nature of the integration process affect politics at both the national and European levels.
We look at how the EU affects the role of political institutions in the traditional chain of representation in the member states and the wider challenges it poses to democracy. The main themes include:
- the current problems of political representation
- the impact of the EU on the traditional role of parties as representatives of civil society interests
- the preferences of public opinion with respect to the EU
- the impact of the EU in national and European elections, the sources and expression of Euroscepticism
- the democratic deficit in the EU
- referendums and EU democracy
- the future of the European Union
Gender and Development
This module examines major themes, debates and issues in the field of gender and development. We will focus on the relationship between ideas and concerns of gender (in)equality and processes, policies, and practices of economic, social and political development.
The module will explore the key literature and major debates in the field of feminist political economy, linking academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates. It will also explore how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South.
This module examines major themes, debates and issues related to the study of politics and international relations in the specific regional context of Asia. It will explore key features and themes in Asian politics including political systems, political economy and development, political values and ideas, as well as pan-Asian themes and international relations/global politics including intra-regional, trans-regional and international issues. It combines theoretical perspectives with historical developments and contemporary issues in Asian politics.
Topics will include:
- democracy and democratisation
- authoritarianism and hybrid regimes
- "Asian values" and humanitarianism, nationalism, political economy of development
- gender relations
- affirmative action
- terrorism, non-traditional security and human security
- resource politics
- nuclear Asia
- environmental challenges
- Asia on the global stage
This module examines how nations have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. It analyses a variety of national strategies in order to understand how geography, history, culture, and finance influence decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace.
The module draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide students with a more nuanced understanding of great power politics.
International Political Economy
The study of international political economy is essentially interdisciplinary, based on the premise that the political and economic domains are inextricably intertwined in the international system.
The module will introduce you to the main approaches to international political economy, provide a brief overview of the post-war international political economy, before the main focus is turned towards globalisation and the related structural changes in the global economy. This will include a theoretical engagement with the concepts of globalisation, regionalisation and regionalism as well as an analysis of empirical changes in the areas of international trade, finance, production and development with a particular emphasis on the current global economic crisis.
The module will further address the question of the relationship between globalisation and the individual instances of regional integration including the EU, NAFTA and APEC, before it looks at recent formations of resistance to globalisation expressed in demonstrations against G8 meetings (eg Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.
The Politics of South Asia
This module introduces you to the politics of modern South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The region is growing in international importance both strategically, economically and politically. The module evaluates alternative explanations for the different democratic trajectories of these states, despite their shared colonial past, and the interaction between 'tradition' and 'modernity' in developing political institutions.
In so doing it examines the different strategies of nation building adopted by the elites of these very diverse states, and how and why the considerable ethnic and religious diversity of the region has impacted on the 'quality' of democracy. It concludes with an examination of the international politics of South Asia, and considers future scenarios for the region.
The Road to Guantanamo: The Treatment and Experience of Prisoners, Civilian Internees and Detainees since 1860
This module explores the way in which state authorities have treated prisoners of war, civilian internees and detainees from circa 1860 - the dawn of the modern era of international humanitarian law - to the present day. It examines developments in state practice and international law relating to the detention of 'enemy' individuals, and explores different national, ideological and cultural approaches to the issue of captivity.
The module is explicitly historical in character and methodology but will draw on international and political theory where appropriate to explain state and individual behaviour.
Special Project A
This module will consist of special essay work, arising from the work completed on another module offered.
Special Project B
This module will consist of special essay work, arising from the work completed on another module offered.
Terrorism and Insurgencies
This module is designed to acquaint you with two of the most important aspects of contemporary international security: terrorism and insurgencies.
Both threats have become more acute in recent years and much intellectual, military and economic capital has been used up in efforts to contain them. In taking this module, you will begin to understand the nature of the threats posed by terrorists and insurgents. You will understand how such threats come about and why individuals are drawn towards exercising the use of force against certain governments, their representatives, and the citizens of those governments.
You will also understand the nature and scope of counter-insurgency practices. You will discuss what works and what does not and the controversies encountered in implementing certain measures. By the end of the module, you will be conversant with, and have an appreciation of, factors which affect the security of many people in today's world.
Theories and Concepts in International Relations
The War on Iraq and the US and British invasion of the country in 2003 has led to huge tensions in geopolitics. At the same time, the supposed 'threat' of international terrorism and continuing financial turmoil in the world economy have both brought to the fore the global politics of co-operation and confrontation.
Whilst it might be possible to agree on the signifcance of these events, the explanation and/or understanding of them is dependent on prior theoretical choices. The purpose of this module is to make you aware of the diversity of approaches to international theory.
Within International Relations (IR) theory there exist highly divergent interpretations and applications of key concepts (eg power, the state, agency, structure, and world order) as well as contested views about the practical purpose underpinning theories of world politics. The overall aim of the module is to provide you with a solid theoretical and conceptual grounding of this diversity. As a result, it will be possible to recognise not only how international theory informs policy-making and practice but also, perhaps, how truly contested the underlying assumptions of world politics are.
The Theory and Practice of Diplomacy
This module focuses on the changing nature of diplomatic practice, together with the range of conceptual tools that seek to explain this international activity. Its focus is contemporary.
It provides a political analysis of new developments such as the public diplomacy, the decline of resident embassies and foreign ministries, and the role of regional/multinational organisations and summitry. It also encourages you to consider future theoretical and practical developments in this field.
War, Peace and Terror
This module explores the blurring boundaries between war and peace, and the implications for understanding security.
The first section assesses the changing nature of warfare, including theories of asymmetric warfare and terrorism; the second section examines the 'dark arts' of international relations, from assassination to psychological warfare, operating in the grey area between war and peace.
With large scale conventional warfare increasingly unlikely, the third section considers 'new' security issues in peacetime such as poverty and disease.
When Does Russia Expand and Why?
Russia's annexation of the Crimea will strike many Westerners as merely the latest chapter in a long history of Russian imperialism. Does Russia always expand when it has the opportunity? Or is its expansion, when it occurs, explained by contingent factors?
This module will examine Russia's expansion and contraction from the 17th century to the present, and the causes underlying it.
Watch our lecturers talking about some of the modules on offer in our virtual module fair.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.