IR321      Half Unit
Revolutions and World Politics

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr George Lawson CLM 5.12


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

Course content

Revolutions are often considered to be a ‘side order’ to the ‘main course’ of International Relations. But as this course explores, the lack of attention paid to revolutions is a mistake – revolutions have played a major part in the making of modern international order. From the ‘Atlantic Revolutions’ of the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the ‘colour revolutions’ of the early 21st century, revolutions have been constitutive of notions of sovereignty, order, justice, and more. Revolutions have also been tightly bound up with dynamics of war and peace. This course explores both the theory and practice of revolutions, teasing out their effects and examining the prospects for revolutionary change in the contemporary world.

List of Topics

Part 1   Thinking about revolutions

Week 1   What are revolutions?

Week 2  Key themes in the study of revolutions

Week 3   Revolutions and world politics

Part 2   The experience of revolution

Week 4  The Atlantic ‘age of revolutions’

Week 5  Socialist revolutions

(Week 6  Reading week – session on the assessed essay)

Week 7  ‘Third World’ revolutions

Week 8  The ‘last great revolution’?

Week 9  ‘Colour’ revolutions

Part 3   Revolution today

Week 10  The Arab uprisings

Week 11  Rethinking revolution


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of classes in the LT.

The main aim of the course is to provide an opportunity for students to make informed judgments about how and in what ways revolutions have impacted on core features of modern international order. Additional aims include assessment of the place of revolution in the contemporary world and, more generally, the ability to connect theoretical arguments about revolutions with the substantive experience of revolutions.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Students will also submit an outline of their assessed essay during Lent Term.

Indicative reading

Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly (2001) Dynamics of Contention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

John Foran (2005) Taking Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

John Foran, David Lane and Andreja Zivkovic eds. (2008) Revolution in the Making of the Modern World (London: Routledge).

Jack Goldstone (2014) Revolutions: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, Oxford University Press).

Jeff Goodwin (2001) No Other Way Out ¿(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Fred Halliday (1999) Revolutions and World Politics (London: Palgrave). 

Charles Kurzman (2008) Democracy Denied (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Daniel Ritter (2015) Unarmed Revolutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press). 

Eric Selbin (2010) Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance (London: Zed).

Theda Skocpol (1979) States and Social Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). 


Essay (80%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (10%) and coursework (10%) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication