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The Contemporary World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Simon Huxtable
  • Assessment: a 500-word summary of a scholarly article (20%), 1000-word book review (20%), 1500-word essay (20%) and 48-hour online examination (40%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to the major themes of contemporary global history from the First World War to the present.

The twentieth century was an age of total war, mass movements such as Communism, Fascism and Nazism, and genocide. It witnessed the collapse of empires and the rise of nation states in post-colonial societies. The Cold War divided the globe between the competing ideological systems. The world economy was globalised, and mass international migration broke down the old cultural boundaries of nation, race and religion.

Indicative syllabus

Term 1: The Age of Total War (1914-1945)

  • Introduction: World War I and the contemporary world
  • World War I and the foundation of the international system
  • Communism
  • Mass culture
  • Tensions of empire
  • The world in depression
  • Fascism
  • Democracy in crisis
  • World War II
  • Holocaust and genocide

Term 2: The Age of the Cold War (1945-the present)

  • Introduction: World War II and the contemporary world
  • Welfare states
  • Origins of the Cold War
  • Colonialism and labour
  • Decolonisation and development
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Migration
  • The fall of Communism and its legacies
  • Public history
  • Globalisation