Long-term History: The Patterns of the Past and the Shape of Things to Come

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Ian Morris


This course is available on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Global History, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


A prior knowledge of world history over the last 15,000 years will be an advantage.  Students unfamiliar with the subject should do some preliminary reading.

Course content

This course explores the big patterns that have played out across the last 15,000 years and investigates whether these give us any sense of where things might go next. The key areas covered are: broad theoretical and methodological issues; the global balance of power; violence; inequality; and a general discussion of the past as a guide to the future.


3 hours of lectures, 4 hours of seminars and 9 hours of workshops in the MT. 3 hours of lectures, 4 hours of seminars and 9 hours of workshops in the LT.

The course is taught over four non-consecutive weeks, with two weeks in MT and two weeks in LT. Each of the four weeks will include one 90-minute public lecture, two two-hour seminars, amounting to 5.5 hours per week.  In addition, one full-day workshop of nine hours will be held each term.  This course will therefore have 20 hours of teaching in MT and 20 hours in LT. 

Formative coursework

This course will include one formative essay of 6000 words.

Indicative reading

Ian Morris, War! What Is It Good For? (2014)

Ian Morris, The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations (2013)

Ian Morris, Why the West Rules... For Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal About the Future (2010)


This course is non-assessed.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Non-assessed

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills