BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
States, Nations and Empires. Europe, c.1750-1914

Unit code HIST10312
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


People have killed and died to make and break the states and nations which make up modern Europe. Why? From our birth in a state hospital to our state pensions in old age, the state is an integral part of our lives. Most states claim to embody a nation, and most people claim to belong to a nation. But it was not always so – both European states and nations in their modern forms were recently created by specific people at specific times for specific reasons – and with important results. This course explores European history from c.1750 to c.1914 to discover why Europeans began to organise themselves in this way, and will serve as a thematic introduction to the study of all modern history at degree level.


HIST10312 is restricted to History programmes, and History joint honours programmes (please check your programme regulations for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas. Available to students on an Erasmus programme.


The course aims to:

1) provide a thematic survey of the later modern history of Europe;

2) introduce students to some important theoretical approaches to major themes in the study of modern history;

3) practise weekly reading skills;

4) encourage students to explore sophisticated ways of understanding change and continuity over time.

5) practise taking notes on relevant information from lectures and seminars

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to;


Week 1 - Organisational seminars only - Introduction & Course Organisation Modernity and Modernisation

Week 2 - What does a historian mean by 'nation', 'state' and 'modern'? - The Idea of a Mass Society Theories of Nationalism

Week 3 - 'Enlightened Absolutism': the Eighteenth-Century State - The Eighteenth-Century State Enlightenment and the State

Week 4 - The French Revolution: Birth of the State, Birth of the Nation? - The French Revolution: Money, Institutions and the State. The French Revolution: Inventing the Political Nation

Week 5 - The Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars - War, Revolution, and the Modern French State. The French Revolution Abroad

Week 6 - Reading week - Independent essay planning and research

Week 7 - Nationalism as Revolutionary Force: Radical Nationalism in the mid-19th Century - Dreaming of Freedom, Dreaming of the Nation. Middle-Class Ambitions and Nationalist Ideology

Week 8 - Making States and Using Nationalism: Italian and German Unification - Making States: Italy. Making States: Germany

Week 9 - When Nationalism Began to Hate: Race, Empire and Exclusion - Making People National. Race, Empire and Nationalism

Week 10 - Class, Gender and National Belonging - Class, Masculinity and Political Inclusion. Gender, Femininity and Exclusion

Week 11 - The First World War and the Modern State - Total War, Total State?

Week 12 - The Essay: What are you expected to do?

Teaching and learning methods

2 x 1 hour lectures, 1 x 1 hour seminar per week and 1 x course unit office hour per week.

All the support materials for the course will be on BB, and the portfolio pieces and the essay will be submitted and returned via this medium.

Further weekly meeting times will be scheduled with the lecturers on the course for drop-in sessions.

Knowledge and understanding

  • be familiar with some of the main theoretical approaches that have shaped the historiography of nation and state in modern Europe; 
  • have critically examined these approaches in examining a number of historical case-studies; 
  • be confident in using a range of theoretical approaches to understanding both modernity and nationalism.

Intellectual skills

  • Students will apply a range of theoretical approaches to a range of empirical case studies, to demonstrate their ability to bring the qualities of one to bear on the other.
  • They will regularly practise how to extract arguments from academic writing.

Practical skills

Students will learn how to:

  • prioritise tasks,
  • detect academic arguments in historical writing,
  • conduct weekly reading,
  • and write with brevity and precision. 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Clear, brief writing. 
  • Regular reading and thorough preparation for seminars. 
  • Confidence in presenting opinions orally and in writing. 

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Group/team working
Oral communication
Written communication
As a first-year History course unit, the course provides expert training in analysis and critical reasoning and the range of forms of written assessment develop important transferable skills in communication and presentation; argument and debate; teamwork; research and time management.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Portfolio 50%

Feedback methods

Oral feedback in seminars and office hours (one-to-one feedback) - formative

Written feedback on Turnitin on portfolio pieces and essay - summative

Recommended reading

Robert Gildea, Barricades and Borders (Oxford,  2003 edition)
Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge, 1992)
Hagen Schulze, States, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford,  1996)
Jonathan Sperber, Revolutionary Europe 1780-1850 (London,  2000)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christian Goeschel Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

Portfolio - 2 x 750 words assessed written pieces, summative - 50%

Essay - 2,500 words - 50%

Discussion of essay plan in office hours, formative

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