Modern Political Thought - PO623

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 5 15 (7.5) DR C Devellennes checkmark-circle


The module aims to introduce students to the major developments in Western political thought from the 16th century onwards. More generally, it aims to make students aware of the historical dimension of political thought and to enable them to distinguish those aspects of an idea which are contingent upon the concrete historical circumstances of its emergence from those which transcend its historical context.

Students who successfully complete this module will be familiar with the standard canon of modern Western political theory. They will be able to summarize the main ideas of the key thinkers in these traditions and place them in their respective historical context. They will be able to appreciate that contemporary political concerns are often the result of long-term historical processes. In addition, students will be aware of the specific problems which 'modernity' poses for political theory in Western societies and beyond.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22
Private study hours: 128
Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

Essay 1, 2000 words, 50%
Essay 2, 2000 words, 50%

Indicative reading

Boucher, David, and Paul Kelly, eds. Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present. Third Edition. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Browning, Gary. A History of Modern Political Thought. The question of interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).
Connolly, William. Political Theory and Modernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988).
Kenny, Anthony. A New History of Philosophy Vol. 3: The Rise of Modern Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
Mills, Charles. The Racial Contract (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1999)
Losurdo, Domenico. Liberalism: A Counter History (London: Verso, 2011).
Pateman, Carol. The Sexual Contract (Cambridge: Polity, 1988).
Skinner, Quentin. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Vol. 1: The Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
Skinner, Quentin. The Foundations of Modern Political Thought. Vol. 1: The Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
Tuck, Richard. Philosophy and Government 1572-1651 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students will be:
- aware of key developments in the history of modern Western political thought;
- able to identify the main thinkers representing these development;
- able to summarise the political ideas of these thinkers;
- able to situate these developments within the relevant historical context;
- able to evaluate the ethical meaning and implications of these developments;
- able to assess the intellectual legacy of the thinkers discussed in this module;


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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