MA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
History Beyond the Nation State: Debates & Dialogues in Modern History

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST66221
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this course, students will engage with the dialogue between European and global history which has spurred these developments,and use transnational and postcolonial approaches to examine key themes cutting across the modern period.  Interrogating core concepts such as modernity, the state, knowledge, identity and power in a variety of contexts, students will gain a deep and critical understanding of crucial forces driving the history of the modern world, and a range of methods of studying them.  

The main body of the course will be constituted within the three indicative blocks engaging with the following questions and issues: 

1) Approaches and Methodologies  

What methods have historians used to write history outside of national and state frameworks? How and why did these approaches emerge and what problems and advantages do they pose?   

2) Subjects and Scales  

How can historians recover subjective identities, such as those based around gender, sexuality, nationality, race, ethnicity and class?   How can we study the forces shaping them, and assess their role in wider historical developments?   

3) Structures  

What do ‘modern’ and ‘modernity’ actually mean? How do historians understand the development and impact of large structures, institutions and forces – such as the state, the public sphere, and technology – defining the modern world?  


  • To equip students to think comparatively, critically and analytically about modern history.
  • To allow students to grasp the historiography of modern European and/or World history.
  • To give students a critical understanding of key concepts and methods useable across the range of modern history.

Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and understanding:

  • Understand and evaluate core concepts and methods used in the writing of modern history.
  • Demonstrate a detailed grasp of theoretical and conceptual debates in modern history.
  • Approach specialist regional and thematic historiographies.

Intellectual skills

Intellectual skills:

  • Critically apply complex theoretical models and concepts to in-depth case-studies.
  • Be able to understand and analyze links and connections across a variety of historical contexts.
  • Formulate a research question based on scholarly literature at the forefront of the disciplines studied and adopt an appropriate method for addressing and answering that question.
  • To develop analytical skills which can be applied to primary or secondary material.
  • To synthesize in a meaningful and incisive manner a wealth of information gathered and analysed through independent research.
  • To identify and assess the significance of historical context for contemporary debates and issues.


Practical skills

  • Draw up a specialist bibliography on a research topic.
  • Manage a sustained program of regular weekly work.
  • Present ideas fluently in writing and oral presentation to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Gain experience in problem solving, leadership and teamwork.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Organise own learning through self-management and work to deadlines.
  • Using ICT for research and presentation purposes.
  • Display fluent presentation skills orally.
  • Write fluent continuous prose.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work in a group and show leadership.
  • Identify, analyse and apply a wide range of data to formulate and solve problems.
  • Ability to bring analytical and research skills to bear on the formulation and design of proposals.

Employability skills

The following skills, which students will develop through the course, are important for their employability: • gather, organize and deploy evidence in marshalling an argument; • conduct independent research; • communicate both orally and in writing with structure, coherence, clarity and fluency; • critically evaluate a team’s performance.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback Method Formative / Summative

written feedback on assessed coursework

oral feedback in seminar discussions Formative

one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment) 



Recommended reading

C.A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons (2004).

Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (2010).

Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (1993).

Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (1983). Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (1990).

Ato Quayson, Postcolonialism: Theory, Practice or Process? (1999).

Edward Said, Orientalism (1978).

Robert Young, White Mythologies: Writing History and the West: Second Edition (2004

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 117

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
EWA OCHMAN Unit coordinator
Jean-Marc Dreyfus Unit coordinator
Christian Goeschel Unit coordinator

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