Emergence of the Contemporary World

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

The Emergence of the Contemporary World module focuses on historical dynamics and themes which shaped the global division of the haves and have nots we see today, and the implication this has for contemporary human security. The module begins with an overview of the state of world power and wealth in the fifteenth century and then explores how the Global North/Europe came to dominate the Global South, the role of the slave trade in undermining prosperity in the Global South, the relationship between slavery and colonialism and the violent impact of the world capitalist system. We study the struggle in the Global South between capitalism and communism through the Cold War and its intersection with nationalist independence movements, the “New Wars” from the 1990s, the return of multipolarity (including through players like India and China) and the militarization of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The aim is to grasp how global historical dynamics can help explain the state of the current world, including through non-Western perspectives.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Orally appraise the validity of claims made in scholarly literature as to the relationship between different historical developments and inequalities that characterise the world today through presentations made in seminar.
  • Prepare an independent analysis and assessment of the assumptions, logics, and modalities of theories regarding the complex interplay of challenges to states, people, and economies today through a research essay.
  • Critically analyse the key debates regarding why the Global South has been undermined by the rise of the Global North in a written exam.
  • Assess analytical, prescriptive and empirical claims regarding the shaping of the contemporary world in various contexts with reference to key literature.


The module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 2 hour seminar per week

Method of assessment

  • Research essay: 50%
  • Written examination: 50%

Suggested reading

  • Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe (2000)
  • Gordon, India’s Rise as an Asian Power (2014)
  • Lorenzini, Global Development: A Cold War History (2019)
  • Mamdani, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996)
  • Manjapra, Colonialism in Global Perspective (2020)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules