Ideas of History (V1375)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

In this module, you learn about the revival of classical ideas and politics during the Renaissance and Reformation, the debate between ancients and moderns in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the nature of modern political thought as it developed from the middle of the 19th century to the present day.

The aim is to give you an ability to place modern ideas about politics in their historical context, through the study of central figures and themes whose writings continue to be cited in political argument.

The authors considered include: Machiavelli, Milton, Hobbes, Locke, Harrington, Mandeville, Montesquieu, Hume, Rousseau, Smith, Bentham, Hegel, Constant, Tocqueville, Marx, Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Schmitt, Arendt, Chomsky, and Rawls.

You look at:

  • virtue and security
  • the origins of democracy
  • absolutism and empire
  • perpetual peace
  • reason of state and amoral politics
  • the debate about commerce, luxury and markets
  • the size of the state and its form of government
  • the nature of liberty and the means of maintaining it
  • totalitarianism and slavery in politics
  • modern democracy, philosophy and the modern state
  • civil liberty, war and empire.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Group presentation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2021/22. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. However, we are constantly looking to improve and enhance our courses. There may be changes to modules in response to student demand or feedback, changes to staff expertise or updates to our curriculum. We may also need to make changes in response to COVID-19. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: