HST3306: A Comparative History of Revolution

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Caoimhe Nic Dhaibheid

Teaching Team (2019-20): Dr Rosie Knight , Professor Benjamin Ziemann


Thematic Option Description

The Thematic Option (formerly Comparative Option) is a type of 20-credit, one semester module at level 3. Thematic Options take major historical themes and explore these across a broad time-frame and in a variety of different cultural and geographic settings. Each Thematic Option is taught by a team of lecturers whose own research relates to aspects of the topic under discussion, and they are designed to involve students and the teaching staff in a dialogue about how we approach key questions in the study of past societies. The topics selected for the modules all represent areas of lively, current historiographical debate and offer opportunities to respond to interpretations and theories emerging in other disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, geography and political science. For this reason they will appeal especially to students with an interest in thinking across disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, including those studying for dual degrees. All of the Thematic Options raise issues with strong resonances in our contemporary culture.

Thematic Options have been created to complement the more specialised work at Level Three, looking beyond the detailed focus on one specific place and time to ask more conceptual questions and allow for the space to engage with significant themes that run across many of the periods that we tend to study in isolation. How can we compare historical experiences separated in time and space? Can we gain insights into understanding one period by knowing how similar challenges were met in a very different historical context? Do we learn more from what periods have in common, or from the differences that emerge?

The modules are taught through a series of lectures and ninety-minute seminars, placing an emphasis on collaborative learning and the encouragement of active student participation in researching and presenting material in class. The assessment is a mixture of coursework and marks for oral performance in the seminars.



A pass in at least two history modules at level two.


Module Summary

History has seen a vast number of conflicts which have been labelled revolutions, often resulting in a significant transformation of the social, economic and political landscapes of entire societies, questioning the underlying assumptions regarding values and legitimacy, as well as creating new vocabularies which come to permeate political language. The module will cover both a selection of specific Revolutions (the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Glorious Revolution, …) as well as comparatively examining themes which can apply across more than one revolution, such as violence, legitimacy, or class and social change. It will also explore questions such as why certain events are labelled revolutions and others civil wars, the extent to which revolutions are ‘conscious’ and ‘modern’, and the implications of the use of revolutionary vocabulary in specific contexts. The module will not be confined to specifically political and military revolutions, but will also look at other examples such as the industrial revolution and the green revolution. Students will have the opportunity to engage in comparison between case studies directly covered in the module, alongside of any others which they chose from among the vast range of possibilities in world history.


Teaching and Assessment

The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. The lectures introduce the themes covered in the course and provide the necessary background and framework for exploring the subject. The 90-minute seminars provide opportunities for students to develop their ideas and discuss their reading for the module, and allow scope for students to gain experience in collaborative learning and in developing and articulating historical arguments.

Further guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Click here for further details on assessment

Information on assessment can be found at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level3


Intended Learning Outcomes
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