The MA in The Making of the Modern World is an innovative programme that draws on international relations, politics, human rights, economic history, and development studies to examine the decline of European empires and the impact of decolonisation on the modern world. 

Students examine the processes of democratisation and development in postcolonial states and the national and international contexts in which they have taken place. They consider questions at the heart of enduring conversations about the legacies of colonialism, such as:

  • Should Britain apologise for ‘Empire’?
  • Should European governments pay reparations to their former colonies?
  • Is it still too soon to talk about ‘decolonisation’?
  • Does effective diplomacy always demand talking to ‘the bad guys’?
  • What levels of violence are acceptable to defend the state?
  • Is the Cold War still with us?
  • Are development and democracy contradictory?

The degree offers:

  • A comparative perspective – students examine decolonisation processes across the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Belgian empires
  • Skills-building – students learn how to analyse archival sources and can undertake their own archival and/or oral history research during the course
  • A strong foundation for future study and a wide range of careers – students expand their knowledge of international history, politics and society, an ideal base for those wishing to pursue further postgraduate work or a career in government, international organisations, the media, or business

Students who successfully complete the programme receive a University of London Master of Arts degree.

Degree overview

The MA in The Making of the Modern World provides students with an understanding of the forces unleashed by the processes of decolonisation. By understanding and analysing these forces, students gain an in-depth appreciation of the relationship between decolonisation and modernity. 

The programme examines the political, developmental, institutional and social legacies of the decolonisation process. Unlike other courses touching on these issues, it is not embedded within a single discipline. Although historical understanding is an essential component of the programme, it incorporates insights from international relations, politics, human rights, economic history, and development studies. 

Students are encouraged to draw connections between historical processes and the state of the world today and to develop a contextualised understanding of the states, national and international institutions, and movements that underpin the contemporary world.

This grounding prepares students for careers in international organisations, global diplomacy, journalism, and non-governmental organisations and develops them as scholars.

  

Structure and assessment

The degree comprises four compulsory modules, including a dissertation, and three optional modules.  

Core modules

  • Historical Research Skills (with the Institute of Historical Research) 
  • European Decolonisation in the 20th Century 
  • Ethnicity, Nationalism, Liberation and Identity: the view from the extra-European world 
  • Dissertation (15,000 words) 

Optional modules (students complete three)

  • Diplomacy and Decolonisation
  • Geopolitics and Decolonisation
  • Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Insurgency
  • Decolonisation, Nation-State Building and Development

Assessment

The MA is assessed primarily through essays, although class participation also contributes towards assessment. Additional formative assessments include class presentations.

  

How you study

This degree can be taken full time over one year or part time over 24 months. 

Students undertaking the MA on a part-time basis will take two core modules in the autumn term of their first year and up to two optional modules in the spring term. They will take one core module in the autumn term of their second year and one or two optional modules in the spring term. 

 

Entry requirements

The normal minimum entrance requirement is a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree from a university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard (for example a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or higher).

We can consider applications from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements, but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience.

 

Structure and Assessment

The degree comprises four compulsory modules, including a dissertation, and three optional modules from the range offered. 

Note: the following list of courses is indicative and may occasionally be subject to change according to availability.

Core Modules

  • Historical Research Skills (with the Institute of Historical Research)
  • European Decolonisation in the 20th Century
  • Ethnicity, Nationalism, Liberation and Identity: the view from the 
  • Extra-European world
  • Dissertation (15,000 words)

Optional Modules

  • Diplomacy and Decolonisation
  • Geopolitics and Decolonisation
  • Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Insurgency
  • Decolonisation, Nation-State Building and Development

 

Why study here?

  • The Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London is an internationally renowned centre for the study of empire and decolonisation. It runs a termly Decolonisation workshop that brings together researchers from across the UK and beyond. 
  • Teaching is provided by core academic staff and features guest lectures from experts in the field for specific topics. 
  • The Institute’s Library is a major resource for scholars and includes a mixture of primary and secondary sources, including 13,000 publications issued by political parties, trade unions, and pressure groups – resources students can draw on for their dissertations. 
  • Students also have access to Senate House Library, with its millions of books and journals, digital resources, special collections, beautiful study spaces and laptop loans. 
  • The Institute hosts a range of events on European and British post-colonial history, development, and democratisation in various post-colonial states.