SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Introduction to Global History

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

Introduction to Global History provides students with a broad understanding of the development of the modern world system. Beginning with 1492, it traces how the world became increasingly integrated and connected – economically, politically, militarily and socially. The course begins by asking what we might mean by ‘global history,’ and then considers global phenomena including empire, slavery, colonialism and revolution, through primary and secondary sources. We take a global look at the twentieth century, moving through the world wars, decolonization, the Cold War in the non-Western as well as Western worlds, the creation of a global economic system, the impact of 9/11 and the contemporary rise of India and China to the prominence they enjoyed at the very beginning of modern history. In short, the course seeks to “narrate the world’s past in an age of globality” (Geyer and Bright), and to show how and where that past interacts with the present.

  • Course topics are updated every year, but have previously included:
    What is Global History?
    The World in 1492
    Encountering Difference: Columbus and the New World
    London: Sugar and Slavery
    The Rise of the West: European Miracle or Great Divergence?
    States and Revolutions
    Lords of Humankind? European Conquest and Imperialism
    European Colonialism: Bula Matari or Hegemony on a Shoestring?
    Migration and the making of the Modern World
    (How) Was World War One a World War?
    Sylvia Pankhurst, Women’s Rights and Global Activism
    The Making of the Modern Middle East
    World War Two: Causes and Effects
    Decolonisation, self-determination and the United Nations
    Contradictions of modernity: Fascism, capitalism, liberalism, socialism
    The International Economic Order and contemporary Global Governance
    The Cold War: The Division of Europe and the Domino Theory
    The Unipolar Moment? 1989 and the ‘End of History’
    9/11 and the Global War on Terror
    Mega-events in Global History: the politics of the Olympic Games from Berlin to Sochi
    The Future of Global History: a pivot back to Asia?
    1968 and all that
    The Hydrocarbon Civilisation? Oil, Coal and Energy Crises
    Nature's Revenge? Environmental crises and responses

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Show good knowledge about key aspects of global history; in particular, those relating to major political, economic, social and cultural aspects of the emergence of ‘modernity’
  • Identify and appraise different intellectual perspectives on the development of the modern world system
  • Conceptualise and prepare in written form arguments based on the analysis of different accounts of global history as they relate to international politics
  • Develop specific research skills in areas of international politics and world history
  • Identify and appraise concepts in International Relations relevant to the understanding of the politics of global history


  • 1 hour lecture per week 1 hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assessment is 65% unseen examination, and 35% coursework.  The coursework may be resubmitted.

Suggested reading


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules