People and Power: A History of Democracy in Modern Europe

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Democracy cannot be taken for granted. There was a long way to modern parliamentary democracy and universal suffrage. Evolution of existing systems, revolutions, and wars created what is generally called Western Democracy. This module will explore the development of democracy in Europe over the last 200 years. It will examine how democratic states were established, challenged and reborn from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Europe experienced dictatorships, two World Wars and the fall of the Iron curtain in this time period, but it also saw the expansion of citizenship and civil liberties, the establishment of parliamentary democracies on a global scale and the emergence of the welfare states with greater social provisions for its populations. The module will also investigate the crisis of the welfare state, the rise of Neo-Liberalism, and the rise of populism--all challenges to democratic systems in the past and today.

Module aims

To introduce students to modern European history.

To examine processes and developments of democratisation.

To analyse challenges to democratic systems.

Module learning outcomes

1. Ability to critically read and understand scholarly texts on modern European history and the history of democracy.

2. Ability to produce scholarly assignments.

3. Ability to work with primary sources produced in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

4. Development of the skills of scholarly discussion and argument.

Module information

General reading list:

Ludvig Beckman, The Frontiers of Democracy: The Right to Vote and its Limits (Basingstoke 2009).

Ursula van Beek (Ed.), Democracy under Threat: A Crisis of Legitimacy? (Cham 2019).

Ricardo Blaug & John Schwarzmantel (Ed.), Democracy: A Reader (Edinburgh 2016).

Kathleen Canning, Kerstin Brandt, Kristin McGuire (Eds.), Weimer Publics – Weimar Subjects: Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s (New York 2010).

Roger D Congleton, Perfecting Parliament: Constitutional Reform, Liberalism, and the Rise of Western Democracy (Cambridge 2011).

Amy Gutmann (Ed.), Democracy and the Welfare State (Princeton 1988).

Sandra S. Holton, Feminism and Democracy: women’s suffrage and reform politics in Britain, 1900-1918 (Cambridge 1986).

Jack L. Luzkow, The Great Forgetting: The Past, Present, and Future of Social Democracy and the Welfare State (Manchester 2015).

Cas Mudde (Ed.), The Populist Radical Right: A Reader (Albingdon 2017).

Shelley Baranowski, ‘The Collapse of the Weimar Parliamentary System’, in Shelley Baramowski et all (eds), A Compainion to Nazi Germany (2018).

Ian Kershaw, The Nazi dictatorship. Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation (2000).

Richard Bessel, ‘Catastrophe and democracy: the legacy of the world wars in Germany’, in Anthony McElligott?Tim Kirk (eds), Working Towards the Fuehrer(Manchester 2003).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


  • Christopher Clark. (2019) 'Why should we think about the Revolutions of 1848 now?', in London Review of Books, London: LRB, Ltd. vol. 41 (5) , pp.12-16
  • Weber, M.; Gerth, H.H.; Mills, C.W.; Turner, B.S. (1991) From Max Weber: essays in sociology, New York: Routledge.
  • Myers, A. R. (c1975) Parliaments and estates in Europe to 1789, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Martin Blinkhorn. (1990) 'Introduction: Allies, Rivals, or Antagonists? Fascists and Conservatives in Modern Europe', in Fascists and conservatives: the radical right and the establishment in twentieth-century Europe, London: Unwin Hyman., pp.5-12
  • Thomas Mergel. (2010) 'High Expectations—Deep Disappointment: Structures of the Public Perception of Politics in the Weimar Republic', in Weimar publics/Weimar subjects: rethinking the political culture of Germany in the 1920s, New York: Berghahn Books. vol. v. 2, pp.192-210
  • Ute Planert. (2011) 'Women’s suffrage and antifeminism as a litmus test of modernizing societies: A Western European Comparison', in Imperial Germany revisited: continuing debates and new perspectives, New York: Berghahn Books., pp.107-123
  • Roland Sarti. (1990) 'Italian Fascism: radical politics and conservatives goals', in Fascists and conservatives: the radical right and the establishment in twentieth-century Europe, London: Unwin Hyman., pp.14-30
  • Siemann, W. (2001) 'Public meeting democracy in 1848', in Europe in 1848: revolution and reform, New York: Berghahn Books., pp.768-776
  • Berend, I.T.; Bugaric, B. (2015) 'Unfinished Europe: Transition from Communism to Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe', in Journal of Contemporary History. vol. 50 (4) , pp.768-785
  • Rorty, R.; Voparil, C.J.; Bernstein, R.J. (2010) The Rorty reader, Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Matteo Ermacora. (2014) 'Women Behind the Lines: The Friuli Region as a Case Study of Total Mobilization, 1915-1917', in Gender and the First World War, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan., pp.16-35
  • Bader-Zaar, B. (no date) Controversy: War-related Changes in Gender Relations: The Issue of Women’s Citizenship.

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 Weighting
Coursework Secondary source reading (1500 words) 04/12/2019 40%
Coursework Essay (2000 words) 05/02/2020 60%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 44 hours, 44 (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).


Further information

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