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Rebels, Riots and Revolutions in International Development


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Professor Karen Wells
  • Assessment: a contemporary archive (15%), 3000-word literature review (35%), 2000-word film review (15%) and 2000-word essay (35%)

Module description

As a student of international development, you are likely to be interested in how to develop social, economic and political forces to reduce poverty and increase equality at various scales from the village to the international system. In your core modules you will have examined this question by engaging with theories of development, aid actors, unions and other civil society organisations. The research literature you have engaged with is generally sceptical about the possibility of progressive change that extends equality rather than reproducing or deepening old, and creating new, forms of inequality. This module introduces you to other social forces that have tried, and sometimes succeeded in, overturning old regimes and instantiating new forms of development.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Theories of revolution: the role of states, classes, individuals and political imaginaries in revolutionary change
  • Theories of revolution: reactions to development, restoration and counterrevolutions
  • Food riots and political change
  • Nationalist revolutions after 1945 and international development: Pan Africanism, the non-aligned movement and the formation of the Third World
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union as a response to failed development
  • Socialist revolutions in Latin America and the Caribbean

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • understand how processes of development produce oppositional movements
  • be able to explain why some movements ‘fail’ and others ‘succeed’
  • have a broad and deep knowledge of the academic research on: riots and populist insurgencies, nationalist revolutions, socialist revolutions and counter-revolutionary forces.