Introduction to Global History

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

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, and what that means for how the world works today. The module 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. Through the module, we will show how and where that past interacts with the present.
Topics will be updated annually but previous topics have 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


On successful completion of this module a student 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


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with:

  • 1 hour lecture per week
  • 1 hour tutorial per week

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Short definition exercise 5%
Assignment 2: Article review summary 10%
Assignment 3: Essay 20%
Unseen written examination 65%

Suggested reading

  • Mazlish, B. (2004). The global history reader. New York: Routledge
  • O’Brien, P. (2008). ‘Global History’ - see article
  • (2013) ‘What if people told European history like they told Native American history?’, An Indigenous History of North America blog 
  • Trouillot, M. R. (1995). Silencing the past: Power and the production of history. Beacon Press


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules