SOAS University of London

Department of History

H102 - The History of the World

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year
The module provides an introduction to the history of the world. It proceeds chronologically, allowing students to understand how the world as a whole got to be the way it is. It also explores different themes during and different ways of looking at this process, and so discerning comparisons between and interconnections among different parts of the world. We will look at empires and nations, trade and industry, but also at social movements, religion, culture, and ideas. The module will thus provide a framework within which students can situate the particular regional and local histories in which they are interested, as well as an introduction to various themes which they might want to explore further. In term 1, we examine the period between the first agricultural and second industrial revolutions (from 12,500 years before the present to the late 19th century). In term 2, we explore the modern world of industry, empire, and the nation-state, which emerged at the end of the 19th century and continues in the present.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, students will:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of how the world got to be the way it is and of the main features of its evolution over time
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of how approaches to the global past have changed over time and differ depending on the historian's perspective
  3. Identify and evaluate the premises, argument and use of evidence in historical writing at a global scale and over large spans of time
  4. Construct convincing arguments, combining critical insight and a command of relevant evidence, about the historical development of the world

Scope and syllabus

Term 1

1. Introduction
2. Civilization and its discontents, from complex societies to axial age
3. The old world web, from silk road to Genghis Khan
4. The world circa 1300 and the 14th-century crisis
5. 1492 and all that
6. Early modern agrarian empires
7. Indian Ocean vs Atlantic system
8. Eurasian revolution
9. Great divergence
10. Asia, Africa and the Middle East circa 1850  

 Term 2

11. Modern globalization
12. New imperialism
13. Anti-colonial nationalism
14. Socialist revolution
15. The world at war
16. Global cold war
17. Decolonization
18. Development
19. Social movements
20. After empire?

 Term 3

1. Review term 1
2. Review term 2

Method of assessment

  • Exam worth 50%
  • Essay - 2,000 words worth 20%
  • Essay - 3,000 words worth 30%

Suggested reading

  • Darwin, J. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires. London: Penguin, 2008.
  • Marks, R. The Origins of the Modern World. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015, 2007.
  • The following will also be extensively used during the module:
  • Mazlish, B. The global history reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules