Making of the Modern World, c. 1780 - 1919

Home/ Making of the Modern World, c. 1780 - 1919
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS0024

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Prof. Denys P. Leighton (has been taught also by Dr. Anil Persaud, Dr. Dhiraj K. Nite)

Email of course coordinator: denys[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: MA History students take the course after completion of SLS2HS001 and SLS2HS004.

Aim: The course surveys historical processes, events and actors that shaped and were shaped in the course of the formation of what we understand today as the ‘modern world’. The period covered by the course is what Eric Hobsbawm called the long nineteenth century, beginning with upheavals in Europe and its colonies (1780s – 1820s) and culminating in a clash of empires during the ‘Great War’ (1914 – 1918). A primary aim of the course will be to consider how the movement of people during this period facilitated exchanges of ideas and things that in turn linked places, ‘nature’ (or ‘resources’) and populations to create the modern world. By doing ‘connected histories’ (Sanjay Subrahmanyam) we can focus on spatial (and social) interactions and highlights aspects (and locations or sites) of world history that tend to be obscured or misunderstood. Since the making of the modern world was a process of contestations, resistances and struggles, we pay attention to these ‘crises of modernity’, not only in relation to politics and movements but to everyday experience. Attributes of modernity--qualities that are supposed to be part of or to mark it--include reason and rationality, liberalism, democracy, nation, capitalism, rapid technological and scientific advance; but the modern world has been characterized by its anti-modernities, and by movements claiming to want to restore what was eroded or destroyed by modernity. Ideas and ideologies generated by modernity also receive due attention. Modernity and its discontents create a framework for understanding change and continuity of the past 250 years.

Course Objectives:

Explore methodological issues and questions around modernity and modernization, including debates around attributes of modernity, ‘diffusion’ of modern practices and habits and the question of a single modernity or multiple ‘local’ modernities. Likewise, identify ‘anti-modern’ practices and viewpoints and relate them to the formation of modernity.

Examine interrelationships of societies in the making of global modernity c. 1780 – 1930.

Assess interpretations of global modernity from the comparative national framework as well as those focusing on transnational dimensions of continuity and change.

Course Outcomes: On completion of the course:

  1. Students will have developed their capacity for critical engagement with and evaluation of historical literature/scholarship through reading, discussion and group presentations.
  2. Students will have acquired or significantly improved advanced academic writing and presentation skills.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Weeks I – II. Modernization(s) and modernity as a historical condition. The Enlightenment and the formation of modernity.

Week III. Birth of the nation (idea); invention of race; societies, borders and frontiers.

Week IV. Revolutions I: France and Haiti (1789 – 1804), France and Europe (1789 – 1815).

Week V. Social sciences and modern knowledge/knowing the modern. (Book review due.)

Week VI. Traditional to modern in social organization and behaviour: industrialization in and beyond Europe, c. 1800 – 1900; migration and displacement.

Week VII. Traditional to modern: social transformations (class, age and gender).

Week VIII. Colonialism and capitalism: political dimensions after c. 1850.

Weeks IX - X. Student (group) presentations.

Week XI. Revolutions II: China (1911 – 1919); Russia (1905 – 1921).

Week XII. World War, 1914 – 1918: state and society.

Week XIII. After 1918: challenges to European hegemony in politics, economy and culture.

Week XIV. Socialism, communism, liberalism and the drive towards fascism: (1) in Europe, (2) outside Europe.

Week XV. Overview and conclusions.

Assessment Details with weights:




Date/period in which assessment will take place



Review essay (of a book, cluster of essays or historical film: 600 – 1000 words)

Week 5



In-class (group) presentation

Weeks 9 - 10



Course participation (discussion grade)




End-semester examination (essay answers)

Per end-sems calendar



Reading List:

C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World. Blackwell, 2004 [selected chapters]

J. M. Blaut, ‘Marxism and Eurocentric Diffusionism,’ in: The Political Economy of

Imperialism, ed. R. Chilcote (Boston: Kluwer, 1999), pp. 127-40

J. M. Blaut, ‘The Theory of Cultural Racism,’ Antipode, 23 (1992), pp. 289-99

Susan Buck-Morss, ‘Hegel and Haiti’, Critical Inquiry, 26/4 (2000), 821-65

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, with introduction by Robin D. G. Kelly, Monthly

Review Press, 2001

S. N. Eisenstadt, ‘Modernity and Modernization’, Sociopedia.isa (2010). DOI:


Li Gongzhang, ‘Republic in Early Modern China,’ Chinese Studies in History, 49/3 (2016),


Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben (eds.), Formations of Modernity: Understanding Modern

Societies [Book 1]. Blackwell-Wiley, 1992 [selected chapters]

A.G. Hopkins (ed.), Globalization in World History. Pimlico, 2002 [chapters by R. Drayton, H.

van de Ven, T. H. Harper]

Leo Lucassen, ‘Migration and World History,’ Intern’l Review of Social History, 52 (2007),


Walter D. Mignolo, ‘Geopolitics of Knowledge and Colonial Difference,’ South Atlantic

Quarterly, 101/1 (2002), 57-96

David Vincent, ‘The Progress of Literacy,’ Victorian Studies, 45/3 (2003), 405-31

Mizoguchi Yuzo, ‘The 1911 Revolution: a reassessment,’ Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 17/4

(2016), 519-25

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE: A course webpage (Moodle) has been used that includes supplementary reading and links to historical films relevant to the course.