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 module 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 and key debates over controversies.
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
- 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.
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: An Introduction
This module aims to introduce you to some of the key facets of American culture across a broad historical range. The emphasis will be on texts and cultural artifacts beyond those encountered in the core modules on American literature and American history. In this respect we are likely to focus on a variety of forms, which may include music, painting, cinema, television and various genres of writing.
We will concentrate on important and influential cultural forms, demonstrating and exploring connections made across different time periods and, in particular, with developments in contemporary America. Ideally, the module will help to open up ways for you to move between different parts of the undergraduate programme, while also encouraging you to think critically about some of the assumptions that you bring to the subject.
Approaches to Contemporary American Culture 2: Developing Themes and Perspectives
This module aims to develop further some themes and perspectives encountered on Approaches to Contemporary American Culture 1. The emphasis will be on texts and cultural artefacts beyond those encountered in the other American studies core modules. In this respect we are likely to focus on a variety of forms, which may include music, painting, cinema, television and various genres of writing.
We will concentrate on important and influential cultural forms, demonstrating and exploring connections with developments in contemporary America. Ideally the module will help to open up ways for you to move between different parts of the undergraduate programme, while also 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 American Social and Political Thought
This module will analyse key texts in the history of American political and social thought, from the colonial period to the present. You will be introduced to debates over such issues as religion, politics, race, gender, nature and the environment, and education, as they arose at different periods in American history.
You will use primary sources to reconstruct 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
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
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 module examines the history of immigration to the United States from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. It traces the making and remaking of immigrant communities, cultures, and identities from the 19th century to the present day.
The module analyses models of race, ethnicity, culture, and nation by focusing on the perception and reception of immigrant groups and their adjustment to US society: how has immigration forged new identities and transformed the meaning of being American? The module examines the immigrant experience through historical, literary, and cultural texts.
The US and the World in the American Century: US Foreign Policy 1898-2008
This module offers a critical introduction to understanding America's place in the world. It provides historical and political analyses of U.S. foreign relations, looking at the themes and traditions that have shaped America's increasing influence in global affairs from the late 19th century to the present day.
From the war of 1898 to the conflicts of the early 21st century, it examines how America's involvement abroad has changed over time. How can we understand the evolution of America's relationship with the wider world; what interests and themes have lay behind the execution of American power? The module analyses traditional political and diplomatic issues, as well as the link between foreign and domestic policies, the role of foreign actors and private organisations - from religious groups to citizen organisations to NGOs - that have served to shape America's actions abroad.
It also engages with important contemporary trends in the historiography of U.S. foreign policy, including those that emphasise the significance of race, gender, emotions, and religion.
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.
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.
Government and Politics in the USA
This module 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 module will highlight the impact of different institutional arrangements on electoral accountability and policies in the United States.
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.
Nature, Ecology and Political Thought
This module considers the development of environmental and ecological political thought and how these relate to different forms of politics. It explores the relationship between deep ecology, environmental politics and different forms of anarchism, such as anarcho-primitivism and social ecology.
In addition it examines the 'ecological turn' as it has impacted upon feminism, Marxism, and right-wing thought. It also looks at the tensions between ecological politics and democracy, and at justifications for forms of environmental direct action. These strands of thought will be illustrated through application to specific policy areas such as climate change and species loss.
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 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
The Civil War and its Origins 1850-1865
This module looks at the collapse of the American Republic in 1861, at the events in the decade preceding it and at the course of the war which followed it. The module focuses upon the origins of the Civil War and upon the reasons for Union victory in it.
Engaging Asia: The United States, India and Pakistan, 1942-1992
This module examines American relations with India and Pakistan between the Second World War and the onset of market-based economic reforms in the early 1990s that transformed the socio-economic landscape of the Indian subcontinent. Much of the focus will be on:
- American involvement in conflicts that shaped modern South Asia (Indo-Pakistani hostilities in 1947, 1965 and 1971; 1962 Sino-Indian War; 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan)
- the influence exercised by external actors on American regional policy (principally Britain, the Soviet Union and Communist China)
- the impact of international trends on America's relations with India and Pakistan, such as decolonisation, globalisation and nuclear proliferation
In addition, consideration will be given to the cultural dimension of America's relationship with India and Pakistan. Cinematic and literary depictions of US-South Asian relations, encompassing issues of race, religion, gender and neo-colonialism, will be critically examined.
You will be expected to develop an awareness of the evolution of US policy in South Asia within the wider contours of the Cold War, and be able to evidence an understanding of the ways in which shifts in global political economy have impacted upon the region.
In the Midst of Wars: The United States and the Vietnam Wars, 1940-1975
This module looks at American attitudes, perceptions and policies toward Vietnam from the Second World War until the collapse of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. Much of the focus will be on the course of the Vietnam Wars, the role that different players (beyond the US) played in the course of the conflict, the reasons that the US became involved in such a destructive and tragic war and why, ultimately, the world's greatest power was unable to win against what appeared to be a far weaker opponent.
Although we will necessarily spend a considerable amount of time examining the course of events in Vietnam, we will also analyse other developments in South and East Asia more broadly in order to put the conflicts there into their wider conflict. Hence, you must develop a contextual awareness of the overall course of US policy in Asia during the period and the outlines of the wider Cold War, and also be able to demonstrate the way that these wider trends intersected with events in Indochina.
The module also intends to introduce you to some of the key sources, materials and archival collections that can be employed when embarking upon independent research in the area. In addition, we will also consider some of the filmic representations of the Vietnam Wars - considering the relationship between fact and fiction that characterises them, and the themes that commonly feature, such as race and gender, in the different depictions.
Popular Music Cultures and Countercultures
This interdisciplinary module examines the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements. It focuses on the ways in which marginalised, subordinate or dissenting social groups have used popular music as a vehicle for self-definition and for re-negotiating their relationship to the social, economic and cultural mainstream.
It explores how the mainstream has responded to music countercultures in ways that range from repression to co-optation and it analyses how the music and the movements have been represented and reflected on in fiction, film, poetry, journalism and theory.
A central concern of the module is to evaluate the effectiveness and potential of popular music as a socially-critical or oppositional force. The module is built around case studies of key issues and moments in American popular music history.
This module explores the United States' bold but disastrous experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing. We begin with the reasons for passage of the Eighteenth Amendment which outlawed the liquor trade, and examination of its impact on US society and culture during the 1920s.
We shall consider the rise of organised crime, gangsters and G-men, and the expanding crime fighting role of the state. The module concludes with the federal crime crusade of the early 1930s and the inglorious end of Prohibition.
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.