Core politics modules
Introduction to Comparative Politics
This module seeks to compare and contrast the decision-making structures of modern democratic states. Topics to be covered will include:
- government and the state
- the comparative approach
- constitutions and the legal framework
- democratic and authoritarian rule
- political culture
- the political executive
- political parties and party systems
- electoral systems and voting behaviour
- the crisis of democracy
Modern Political Theory
This module introduces you to the ideas of some of the canonical thinkers in the history of political thought, such as Burke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Marx. The module considers the impact of these thinkers on modern political thought and practice, with reference to key political ideas and historical developments (such as liberty and equality, and the Enlightenment). The course will be text based.
Understanding Global Politics
This module introduces global politics through the major theoretical, historical and empirical ways of seeing international relations. We consider how different approaches understand global politics, the role of different actors in global politics and different approaches to organising international relations. In particular, the module highlights the major issues of war and peace, and global poverty.
Problems in Global Politics
This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. It introduces you to a wide range of challenges faced by states and non-state actors in the international system and engages with topics ranging from security concerns to economic issues.
The module draws on a wide range of ideas and examples from around the world to help you to better understand global politics.
British Political History Since 1945
This module will introduce and interrogate British political history since 1945. The module will take students through key issues and controversies in post-war British politics and as they relate to leaders and governments (in lectures) and key debates over controversies (in seminars).
The module will explore a range of issues relating to:
- economic policy
- social policy and the welfare state
- industrial relations
- foreign and defence policy
- local government and nuclear deterrence
Seminars will employ a range of activity-based scenarios to develop student understanding of key crises experienced by leaders and governments since 1945.
Core American studies modules
American History 1: 1607-1900
This module will provide a broad introduction to the history of the United States of America, from its colonial origins to the end of the 19th century. This is a core module for American studies students and provides a foundation for the further study of American History.
This module aims to:
- introduce you to the history of the United States from the colonial period to 1900
- develop your understanding of the processes of economic, political and social change in these years
- introduce you to the main debates among historians on some of the key issues and episodes
- broaden the base of your historical knowledge
- encourage you to develop an understanding of the broader international context in which American development took place
American History 2: 1900-Present Day
This module examines the history of the United States in the 20th century. It will assess changes and developments in the lives of the American people who have faced the challenges of prosperity, depression, war, liberal reform, political conservatism, minority protests, multicultural awareness, and international power.
Approaches to Contemporary American Culture 1 and 2
These modules introduce you to some of the key facets of American culture with a focus on the contemporary period since 1990. The emphasis will be on texts and cultural artefacts beyond those encountered in the core modules on American literature and history.
You will focus on a variety of forms, for example, music, painting, cinema, television and various genres of writing. The module will help you to move between different parts of the undergraduate programme, while encouraging you to think critically about some of the assumptions that you bring to the subject.
Core politics modules
Approaches to Politics and International Relations
The module introduces you to alternative theoretical approaches to the study of political phenomena.
We consider the different forms of analysing, explaining, and understanding politics associated with approaches such as:
- rational choice theory
- interpretive theory
The module shows that the different approaches are based upon contrasting 'ontological' suppositions about the nature of politics, and they invoke alternative 'epistemological' assumptions about how we acquire valid knowledge of politics and international relations.
How Voters Decide
Elections are the foundation of representative democracy. The act of voting creates a link between citizens' preferences and government policy. This means that the choices voters make have important consequences.
But, how do voters make these choices? Are they based on the policies that parties promise to enact in the future, or is it more about the policy successes (or failures) that parties have experienced in the past? Does the party's leader make a difference? Can campaigns or the media's coverage change how voters see their electoral choices? Finally, given the importance of elections, why do many citizens choose to abstain from the process altogether?
How Voters Decide will explore the choices that citizens make when they participate in elections and it will provide students with the skills necessary to evaluate arguments about electoral behaviour in Britain and beyond.
Core American studies modules
Key Texts in Social and Political Thought
From its colonial past to its present status as a global superpower, American history has been riven with debates about society and politics. This module will reconstruct these debates by analysing key texts in the history of American political and social thought, from the settlement period to the present.
You will be introduced to debates over such perennial issues as religion, race, class, capitalism, gender, sexuality, and war, as they arose in different periods. We will use primary sources to probe and interpret these debates, and show how they continue to shape American society and politics in the present.
Plus two additional modules from a list provided by the Department of American and Canadian Studies.
Optional politics modules
Civilisation and Barbarism
This module explores some of the major themes in the study of international relations. Power and order feature prominently, but so too do war and disaster, imperialism and race, totalitarianism and emancipation, law and human rights.
The course is distinctive in two respects. First, the study of these themes each week takes its bearings from a significant text, and that text in its entirety. Second, the emphasis is on the interplay between the form and style of these texts and the ideas they contain. This inquiry is interesting and important in itself, and should also help you appreciate texts encountered elsewhere during your studies.
Democracy and its Critics
Democracy is a contested concept and organising principle of politics both ancient and modern. Its appeal seems to be universal, yet it has always had its critics.
This module investigates the nature of democratic principles, the arguments of democracy's opponents and the claims of those who say that contemporary life is inadequately democratised. A particular feature of the module is the use of primary sources to investigate historic and contemporary debates.
This module explores issues in global security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in a broad sense, from issues relating to the use of force by states, through to violence by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and on to the concept of human security.
The module builds on the first year modules, Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in international security. It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules that require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.
Optional American studies modules
This module will examine American radicals since the American Revolution. 19th-century subjects will include the abolitionists, early feminism, utopian socialism, anarchism, and farmer populism. 20th-century subjects will include the Socialist Party in the 1910s, the Communist Party and the anti-Stalinist left in the 1930s, opponents of the Cold War, the 1960s New Left, Black Power militancy, and recent radicalisms, including the gay liberation movement, women's liberation, and resistance to corporate globalisation.
The US and the World in the American Century: US Foreign Policy 1898-2008
This module examines how America's involvement abroad has changed over time from the war of 1898 to the 21st century. It analyses how traditional political and diplomatic issues, the link between foreign and domestic policies, and the role of foreign actors and private organisations - from religious groups to NGOs - have shaped America's actions abroad. It also explores the significance of race, gender, emotions, and religion in shaping US foreign policy.
American Violence: A History
This module analyses the patterns and prevalence of violence in the USA. It will consider theories about its origins in frontier settler societies, the relationship between violence and the gun control debate and the related issue of American ideological antipathy to state power. It will consider the celebration of violence as a source of conflict resolution and examine the US government's use of violence as an instrument of foreign policy.
Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States
This course examines the history of immigration to the United States from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. It traces the development of immigrant communities, cultures and identities from the 19th century to the present day. The module draws on historical, literary and cultural texts, with sources ranging from political cartoons, fiction and testimony to photography, documentary film, digital art and video performance.
Dissertation in Politics and International Relations or American Studies
This module enables students to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politics and international relations, or American studies. In American and Canadian studies you will have the choice of writing a 5-7,000-word or 10-12,000-word dissertation.
Plus additional modules from a list provided by the Department of American and Canadian Studies.
Optional politics modules
Airpower and Modern Warfare
The invention of the aircraft fundamentally changed the ways in which wars are fought and won. Over the course of only a century airpower developed into an indispensable instrument of warfare. Today, war without airpower is an unlikely prospect and major military operations, as a rule, are launched with overwhelming air attacks. In recent years, however, the utility of 'strategic' airpower has increasingly come under question. Whilst technological innovation continues to strengthen airpower's capabilities, the relevance of these capabilities in contemporary conflicts cannot be taken for granted.
This module critically assesses the role of air power in modern conflict within the broader framework of strategic and security studies. It will assess the evolution of air power theory since the First World War and examine the limits of its practical application with reference to specific air campaigns. Particular emphasis will be placed on the role of air power in the post-Cold War security environment, for example, in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns.
This course will offer an overview of the main political institutions and the behaviour of political actors in the United States, applying a variety of analytic concepts and empirical tools to the study of American politics. It will in particular focus on rational choice theories of voters and politicians' behaviours addressing the incentives and constraints faced by politicians when choosing public policies.
By employing theoretical and empirical tools to study public decision making at the federal and state level, the course will highlight the impact of different institutional arrangements on electoral accountability and policies in the United States.
Brexit: British Foreign Policy and the Withdrawal from Europe
This module interprets Brexit as the latest manifestation of a prolonged, vexed national debate about Britain's role in the world. It will build on and develop your understanding of material taught at year one and year two.
You will cover a wide variety of topics, all unified by analysis of the question that motivated policy-makers facing these dilemmas at the time: 'in or out of Europe?'. The module content unfolds around the debates that surrounded major foreign policy-related events such as the Cold War, Suez, the end of Empire and decolonisation, the turn to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, the 1975 EEC membership referendum, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, EU enlargement and the Eurozone crisis.
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.
We will explore the key literature and major debates in the field of feminist political economy, linking academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates. We will cover theoretical and conceptual frameworks as well as key contemporary issues explored through thematic and sector/policy case studies. We will explore how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South.
Intervention in Africa
This module analyses political, economic, cultural and especially military intervention in Africa. It focuses on the role of external actors such as international organisations, regional organisations, and NGOs, with a special emphasis on the role of France, the UK and the European Union. We will examine theories, concepts and case studies to explain the nature of contemporary intervention.
- the types and evolution of intervention
- the growing connection betweensecurity and development
- ethics of intervention
- the new landscape of internal conflicts and insecurity
- the role of the International Criminal Court
- EU policies towards Africa
- the difficult relationship between European actors on African issues
Case studies include Rwanda, DRC, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Libya.
Politics and Drugs
This module studies the implications of the growing abuse of narcotics for the political system from both a national and international perspective. It will examine the production, consumption and trade in drugs as an international problem.
The development of and issues associated with contemporary British drug policy will be explored and the theoretical questions raised by drug control policy will be examined.
The Politics of Ethnic Conflict
Questions relating to nationalism and ethnic conflict have become more prominent in political debate since the end of the Cold War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the continuing importance of constitutional crafting as a means to manage ethnic diversity within states.
This module evaluates differing definitions of the 'nation' and 'ethnic group', examines different state strategies to manage diversity such as multiculturalism, assimilation and integration, and considers different explanations of conflict between different ethnic groups.
It then examines in more detail strategies adopted by particular states to manage their diversity. The countries of India, America, France, Afghanistan, the UK, and Germany are focused upon, but students are encouraged to use material relating to other countries if they have particular knowledge of these cases.
This module involves part-time placement (one day a week) in an external organisation, and is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to students of politics. Pre-placement training will be provided via three half-day workshops at the beginning of the module.
Each placement will be arranged by the work placement officer. Placements will be provided by organisations involved in private, public and third sector organisations, such as the civil service, charities and political parties.
Departmental mentoring will take the form of a weekly drop-in tutorial with the module convenor, in which experiences are shared and work is undertaken on the assessment tasks. Group presentations will occur during the final four hour workshop, at which time each group will critically reflect on their experiences of the ethos and goals of their host organisation.
The Rights and Wrongs of Climate Change
What should the world do about climate change? How should we proceed in the face of persistent claims that it won't do serious harm, or isn't occurring at all? Should poor countries as well as rich ones be obliged to cut their carbon emissions? Is it wrong for individuals to fly? What if you offset your flight? How much weight should we accord harm that may come many years in the future?
Arguments about climate change raise many of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and political theory. This module will examine these debates and the broader questions they hinge on.
The War in Iraq
This module will comprehensively deconstruct the causes, conduct and consequences of one of the most controversial wars of the modern era: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It will assess how the road to war was paved at the United Nations and through the formulation of a 'coalition of the willing'. It will then critically evaluate how the swiftly concluded invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein gave way to a vicious insurgency.
The adaptation of the US military to the demands of counter-insurgency warfare will be analysed, as will British military performance in southern Iraq. The module will end by critically assessing the effectiveness of the 'surge' strategy under the implementation of Gen. David Petraeus, and evaluating the utility of 'analogical reasoning' through comparisons with the Vietnam War.
Optional American studies modules
Engaging Asia: The United States, India and Pakistan
This module examines American relations with India and Pakistan between the Second World War and the early 1990s. Possible topics include:
- the United States and the end of the British Empire
- the Kashmir conflict and Indo-Pakistan wars
- South Asia's Bomb, America and nuclear proliferation
- race, civil rights and US-South Asian relations
- Hollywood, Bollywood and transnational cultural exchange
- modernisation and the 1960s
- the end of the Cold War, globalisation and economic liberalisation
- Bush, Obama and the War on Terror in South Asia
You'll explore the United States' experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing. The rise of organized crime will be considered, along with gangsters and G-men, the expanding crime fighting role of the state, the federal crime crusade of the early 1930s and the inglorious end of Prohibition.
Popular Music Cultures and Countercultures
You'll examine the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements, focusing on the ways in which subordinate groups have used popular music as a vehicle for self-definition. Considering key issues and moments in American popular music history, you'll cover topics such as the folk revival and the 1930s, rock 'n' roll and desegregation in the 1950s, rock music and the 1960s, and postmodernism in the music of the MTV age.
In the Midst of Wars: The United States and South East Asia, 1940-1975
You'll consider American attitudes, perceptions and policies toward South East Asia from the Second World War until the end of the Vietnam War. Focus will be on the course of the Vietnam War, the role of different players (beyond the US) and the reasons that the US became involved. You'll also consider the wider scope of US policy in Asia during the period and the outlines of the wider Cold War.
The Civil War and its Origins 1850-1865
You'll consider the collapse of the American Republic in 1861, including events in the decade preceding it and the course of the war which followed it. You'll focus on the origins of the Civil War, sectional politics, and the reasons for Union victory and Confederate defeat.
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. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.