Democracy, Dictatorship and Regime Change

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Sunday 15 January 2023
Friday 24 March 2023
22 May 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module studies political regimes and regime change. It will introduce classic theories, current debates, and state-of-the-art tools in the field of democratisation.

While the number of democratic regimes across the globe grew between the mid-1970s and mid-2000s, it has declined in the last decade and, now, democracy seems to be under attack even in some of its oldest bastions in North America and Western Europe.

This raises a number of fundamental questions. What difference does it make to live in a democracy over a dictatorship? How does democracy emerge and what makes it endure? When do democratic revolutions occur? What do the authoritarians do to prevent them? Can democracy be exported? When and how do democracies break down? These are just some of the questions that will be tackled.

Although the module employs historical examples and case studies (e.g., democratisation in Central and Eastern Europe and in Latin America), a particular focus lies on the latest political developments (e.g., efforts at democratic transition during the Arab Spring and more recently; democratic backsliding in places like Poland, Brazil, Mexico, and the US; consolidating electoral autocracies in places like Hungary, Russia, Turkey, India, and Venezuela, and ongoing authoritarian rule in places like Thailand, Iran, and China, etc.).

Module aims

This module aims to provide students with conceptual tools, theories, and methods to make sense of the world’s changing political landscape. By adopting a scientific approach to the study of major political developments and transformations, it seeks to help students develop sound research aptitudes.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the on-going political transformations and challenges to democratic regimes
2. Formulate analytical questions and develop cogent fact-based arguments in relation to the study of major political developments and transformations.
3. Find relevant information on current political regimes, critically assess it, and incorporate it into a coherent narrative.
4. Master complex political realities and abstract concepts.

Module information

Week 1 - Introduction: Historical Trends in Democratisation
Week 2 - Democracy: Definitions, Concepts, and Measures
Week 3 - Dictatorships: Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes
Week 4 - Democratisation: Explanations and Approaches
Week 5 - Democratic Regime Survival
Week 6 – Democratic Regime Breakdown (or the Rise of Authoritarian Rule)
Week 7 – Authoritarian Regime Survival and Breakdown
Week 8 – Subnational Regime Juxtaposition
Week 9 – Regime Types and Economic Development/Growth
Week 10 - Contemporary Challenges and Future Prospects for Democracy

This module is part of the Q-Step pathway. Q-Step is an award which you can gain simply by enrolling on specific modules and will signal to employers your capability in quantitative research. Learn more about the Q-Step pathway and enhance your degree now.

Learning and teaching methods

Weekly lecture and tutorial


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Online Quiz    20% 
Coursework   Essay  24/04/2023  80% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Allyson Benton, email: allyson.benton@essex.ac.uk.
Allyson Benton
Module Supervisor: Allyson Benton allyson.benton@essex.ac.uk Module Administrator: govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Edward Morgan-Jones
University of Kent
Reader in Comparative Politics
Available via Moodle
Of 4 hours, 4 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information

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