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More in this section Postgraduate taught

Modern World strand

Modernity has brought with it new structures of power and dominance, as well as new economic systems. People in the non-Western world, and in the Western world itself, have had to contend with both. This pathway looks at how they have resisted such power and dominance and what conflicts have arisen as a result. For example, in the Western world blacks have had to struggle against white dominance and the non-Western world has had to come to terms with imperialism. Should resistance be violent or non-violent? Does faith justify violent action and can it explain terror? At the same time modernity has produced mass politics, manifested in revolutionary and protest movements, so this pathway asks, what power to the people? It also examines how the present is fed by the memory and commemoration of past struggles.

In addition, imperialism has provoked crises in identity and faith which feed into modern international insecurity; these in turn have led to major migrations of peoples, themselves sometimes unsettling. In the twentieth century the age of overt empire gave way to superpower dominance, and emerging and resurgent nations have had to struggle at a regional level to withstand the might of the USA and until recently, the USSR.

This pathway examines the complex issues of negotiating modernity. It also looks at the Western historiography of the non-Western world and the narrative of its development as constructed by Europeans. Thus it provides a background to current Western perceptions and misconceptions.

Students will

  1. take four option courses (see below)
  2. take two mandatory courses:
    1. (a) a skills course which, in addition to classes on historical sources and research skills, also includes guest talks by practitioners - museum curators, archivists, publishers, journalists, broadcasters, radio/television producers.
    2. a wide-ranging methodology course that explores the development of History as a discipline and its evolving functions in relation to questions of power (who and what is History for?). This course will also look at how theory and empirical history mesh. (For 2007-8 this course is HS5450 History Past and Present: Definitions, Concepts and Approaches).
  3. write a dissertation of 12000-15000 words. The courses are taken in the autumn and spring terms. Work for the dissertation is done in the summer. 

HS5442 Conflict, Faith and Terror in the Middle East since 1945

HS5740 Gendering the modern Islamic world

HS5745 Leading Thinkers of the Islamic world

HS5750 Violence in the American South

HS5755 Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement: Controversies and Debates

HS5760 China and the Wider World

HS5765 Tigers and Dragons  

NB. Courses are offered with the usual proviso that periodically, due to sabbatical cycles and recruitment thresholds, some specific titles may be withdrawn.

Students may choose either to select all their optional courses from within the Modern World strand or to adopt (under tutors' guidance) a more eclectic approach with some courses selected from other strands within the MA in History.


Dr Emmett Sullivan (strand leader), Professor Vanessa Martin, Professor John Kirk, Dr Sarah Ansari; Dr Bruce Baker, Dr Zoe Laidlaw, Dr Chi-kwan Mark, Professor Francis Robinso



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