Triangle Skip to content
Exit nav

Course overview

This course explores the recent past and how political, social and historical events have shaped the world we're living in today. You'll engage with topics including labour and urban history, women’s history, religion and conflict in the Middle East, film history, and contemporary British history.

You'll be taught by expert staff from a range of disciplines including social sciences, history, theology and American studies. 

The school regularly holds workshops and conferences with guest speakers from international institutions, some of which include:

  • Edward Garnier – former Conservative Party politician
  • Professor Michael Clarke – specialist in defence studies
  • Faiza Shaheen – Director of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies

You'll have the opportunity to undertake a placement as part of your studies to apply your knowledge to real world settings, helping you to stand out to employers.

You'll graduate ready for a range of careers including working in the public and private sector, the media, politics, government or research.

Why choose this course?

Learn from experts

who are internationally recognised for their research in politics and international relations

Gain real experience

through our placement programme

96%

of our research is of international standard

Course content

At least 60 credits will be taken with the School of Politics and International Relations, plus a 60-credit dissertation.

The remaining 60 credits may be studied with other schools/departments across the University, subject to approval, with certain modules being especially recommended.

Modules

Core modules

Dissertation

You will research and write a substantive dissertation within the field of international relations/studies. The dissertation must be between 14,000-16,000 words.

Optional modules

Politics and international relations

Airpower and Modern Conflict

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.

Contemporary Warfare

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.

Covert Action and Unacknowledged Interventions

This module covers:

  • Covert Action
  • Propaganda and Influence Operations
  • Fake News and the Digital Revolution
  • Political Action: Coups, Bribery, and Election Rigging
  • Paramilitary Action: Sponsoring Insurgencies
  • Assassination and Targeted Killing
  • Secrecy in International Relations
  • Covert Signalling and Strategy
  • Political Management of Covert Action
  • Democratic Oversight of Covert Action
  • Measuring Success: Evaluating Secret Policy Impact
Disasters, Politics and Society

Disasters are defined by the United Nations as ‘a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope with using its own resources.’ The failure successfully to reconcile human behaviour with environmental threats has, throughout time and in different places, led to multiple disasters.

This module will examine the relationship between natural hazards and human society, how and why disasters happen and how the impact of disasters can be ameliorated. With reference to cases across the globe, there will be a focus on how social life has mitigated, adapted and evolved in the face of environmental hazards.

We will examine the social, economic and technological processes that mediate the relationship between human society and the natural world. We will examine key themes such as governance, technological innovation, urbanisation and migration, gender, culture and identity, global patterns of production and consumption, health and pandemics, race and class to understand why disasters impact on different people in different ways.

Global Asia

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.

Grand Strategy

Grand Strategy examines how states have sought to integrate political, economic, and military goals to preserve their long-term interests. The module analyses a variety of strategies to understand what drives decision making at the highest levels of government in times of war and peace. It draws on scholarship from the fields of international relations, diplomatic history, and strategic studies to provide you with a more nuanced understanding of global 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 (for example, Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

IPE in the Era of Globalisation and Regionalisation

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 (for example, Heligendamm 2007) as well as developments around the European and World Social Forums.

Justice Beyond Borders: Theories of International and Intergenerational Justice

The module introduces and explores the concept of distributive justice on an international and intergenerational basis. Standard accounts of distributive justice typically operate upon the assumption that the relevant principles are framed by, and apply within the borders of the nation-state.

This module examines how justice has traditionally been conceptualised, and challenges the idea of the nation-state as providing limits to the proper operation of principles of justice. Justice between nations, and between generations, as well as between humans and non-humans, forms the focus of this module.

The programme for dealing with these themes includes:

  • international theories of justice, with particular reference to faminie relief and humanitarian intervention
  • intergenerational justice and personal identity
  • 'biocentric' theories of justice
  • animal rights
  • direct political action
The Politics of Celebrity, Sex and 'Alternative' Lifestyles in China

This module will introduce you to developments in Chinese society, media and popular culture. Through the vehicle of 'alternative' lifestyles it will examine the political, social and economic contexts that have given rise to expanded opportunities, and concomitant responses from the state, for personal and political expression.

The module will provide detailed studies of Chinese celebrity, sex, internet culture, self-development, and numerous subcultures through a lens of class, gender, urbanisation and generation change.

Research Methods in International Relations

This module covers:

  1. Methods and methodology – the logic of qualitative and quantitative research
  2. Theory, metatheory and methodology – how they relate to each other
  3. Quantitative data collection – surveys and polls
  4. Quantitative data analysis – basic statistical analysis
  5. Qualitative data collection – interviews and documents
  6. Qualitative data analysis - process tracing, thematic analysis, discourse analysis
  7. Mixed methodology – pros and cons
  8. Primary and secondary sources – how to use the library
  9. Research questions, design and ethics – practical considerations of research 
  10. Academic skills – how to write a literature review and how to plan a dissertation
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 theory there exist highly divergent interpretations and applications of key concepts (for example, 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.

History

Japan and the Asia-Pacific War: Conflict, Aftermath and Memory

In 1940, Japan was a vibrant, modernising power in the world replete with possibilities embedded in its industrial technology, social organisation and global intellectual engagement. Five years later, its cities were ruined, its economy wrecked, its population was exhausted, hungry and traumatised by the a-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Throughout the post-war period Japan's leaders have been haunted by ‘contested war memories’ and by the ghosts of the countless millions of myriad nationalities left dead, maimed, displaced or psychologically scarred.

This first part of this module examines the reasons for Japan’s slide into war. In the second part we study the on-going legacy of the war in Asia and Japan through a variety of media including secondary literature, documentary evidence, witness testimony, film and popular culture including animated film (anime). Students are warned that some of this material contains graphic and distressing imagery and description.

Exploring English Identity

Recent debates surrounding the Brexit vote and its aftermath have refocused attention on what it means to be English, but what exactly is ‘Englishness’ and how should we understand it historically? What has it meant to feel or be English? What has been the relationship of this to Britishness and how has that dual relationship played out in practice? Is English identity fundamentally rooted in empire and its legacies, and if so how? Could English nationalism be a positive, progressive force, or must it be divisive and backward-looking? Where historically has Englishness been located?: in a language?; in a monarchy?; in a set of ideas?; in a territory?; in a set of preferences or tastes?

Recent historians have been conscious of English identity not as a stable phenomenon ready to be described, but as a historical construct subject to regular change, revision and contestation. During this module, you will consider ‘English identity’ as a historical phenomenon, exploring the creation of an assumed English national identity that has both developed over time and been imposed retrospectively on an idea of the past. 

Foreign Policy and Appeasement, 1933-39

This module examines the evolution of British foreign policy from Hitler's ascendancy to power in Germany in 1933 until the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. More specifically, the module will consider:

  • British foreign policy from the Versailles Treaty to the early 1930s
  • the emergence of Nazism in Germany Definitions of appeasement
  • strategies of appeasement
  • challenges to the status quo
  • Abyssinia and the re-occupation of the Rhineland
  • the Spanish Civil War
  • the English Governess - Anglo-French relations and appeasement
  • the USSR and the failure of collective security
  • Japanese revisionism in the Far East
  • public opinion and appeasement
  • The Munich Agreement
  • the end of appeasement, 1938-9
  • the historiography of appeasement
Memory and Social Change in Modern Europe and Beyond

Build your understanding of various conceptual approaches to studying modern history.

Following a chronological approach, we will use specific case studies as prisms for interrogating common themes, including memory, identity, and social change.

You will explore the construction and representation of national, political, local and ethnic identities which are borne out of (and continue to shape) social change. These collective identities will be analysed in terms of memory and commemoration, considering how the recent past is remembered and memorialised.

By the end of the module, you will understand how the past has contributed to the construction of contemporary identities in Europe and beyond.

This module is worth 20 credits.

(Mis)Perceptions of the Other: From Savages and Barbarians to the Exotic and Erotic

Investigate how western Europeans constructed and categorised peoples as 'other'. We explore this in a wide range of eras and places, potentially including:

  • Views on the Jewish and Islamic faiths in the medieval period
  • Notions of Russians between the 16th and 20th centuries
  • Representations of different genders across the British Empire, particularly in India
  • Views of various societies in the 19th and 20th-century, including China and Japan

These 'others' were variously constructed as savages, barbarians, or exotic, and were often sexualised or eroticised. Even when the 'other' was perceived as fabulous, those constructions usually had negative connotations, often being used to justify the actions towards them of those doing the 'othering'.

We will cover the below key themes:

  • conceptualisation and construction of the 'other'
  • using the other to justify actions
  • civilisation vs barbarism
  • decadence vs progress
  • East vs West
  • Christianity vs paganism

This module is worth 20 credits.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Wednesday 28 April 2021.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Workshops

How you will be assessed

  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Examinations
  • Reports

Contact time and study hours

A typical 20-credit module includes 22 hours of contact hours. Outside of this time, you will be expected to conduct independent study such as reading, researching, and writing.

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2021 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent)

Applying

Our step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know about applying.

How to apply

Fees

Qualification MA
Home / UK £9,250
International £20,000

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland starting your course in the 2021/22 academic year, you will pay international tuition fees.

This does not apply to Irish students, who will be charged tuition fees at the same rate as UK students. UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland will also continue to be eligible for ‘home’ fee status at UK universities until 31 December 2027.

For further guidance, check our Brexit information for future students.

Additional costs

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles which could cost up to £120.

Please note that these figures are approximate and subject to change.

Funding

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding

Careers

We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

Graduate destinations

This course will introduce you to the advanced study of contemporary history and equip you with the skills needed for a wide range of career paths, from media and leisure, to national government and international organisations.

Many students take an active role in politics throughout their time in the school, and after. Politics is an ideal academic discipline if you are interested in a career in politics or government.

Other students go into a range of careers, including management, marketing, teaching and broadcasting. Recent graduate destinations include Channel 4, the European Union, GCHQ, Reuters and the Thailand National Police Department.

Career progression

90.7% of postgraduates from the School of Politics and International Relations secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £26,593.*

* HESA Graduate Outcomes 2020, using methodology set by The Guardian. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

We offer a range of local, national and international placement opportunities, which may be paid or voluntary, part-time alongside your studies or longer placements during University vacations.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates

Related courses

The University has been awarded Gold for outstanding teaching and learning (2017/18). Our teaching is of the highest quality found in the UK.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a national grading system, introduced by the government in England. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and how well they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate-level employment or further study.

This content was last updated on Wednesday 28 April 2021. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.