Course Guide

Seminars (Great Debates)

Course Assessment
Deadlines for Written Work
Me in the Modern World
One Sentence Response
The Presentation

Course Materials

Contacting Me




Course Guide

Great Debates
Learning Outcomes
Aims and Objectives

This course has been radically re-designed on the basis of student feedback, breakthroughs in the history disciplinary and my own convictions about the kinds of learning experiences a year one course should provide. It aims to help you to achieve the outcomes below in the following ways:

It provides you with a broad historical survey introducing you to major developments in world history from the late eighteenth century to the present. This is mainly provided through lectures. Since the period we will discuss was one during which the world became increasingly interdependent, the course adopts a comparative approach and engages with a number of key global themes. The course lectures do not aim to provide a comprehensive survey of all aspects of the history of the modern world, but instead allow students to acquaint themselves with important developments in the areas of culture, religion, politics, society and the world economy. All of the lectures are supported with readings and additional materials.

The course also provides you with the opportunity to unpack essential themes in the history of the modern world in much greater depth and detail, through three seminar debates. These allow you to play the role of real historical actors in different scenarios. In each seminar you will have a character to inhabit, a special role to play, a mission to accomplish or a position to defend. You might take on the role of a student fighting racial prejudice in the school system of French colonial Vietnam in the 1920s, a member of the Chinese delegation lobbying furiously at Versailles for the return of Kiachow to China at the end of the First World War, or a member of President Truman's cabinet, debating whether or not to use atomic weapons against Japan in 1945. It will be up to you to work together with your teammates and use the materials provided to make the most convincing argument in order to win the debate. But watch out! Your classmates will also be coming along prepared to counter your arguments as effectively as they can. For more on the Great Debates click here.

Third, the coursework assessment provides you with your chance to demonstrate what you have learned, and to improve essential skills. You will have an opportunity to engage in writing the classic 'history essay.' This task is supported by all meetings, but especially the lectures, and the supporting materials provided. You will also engage in short in-class written exercises called 'one sentence responses' which will help you to write concisely and cogently, with impact. Finally, in the 'Me in the Modern World' exercise you draw on your experiences in the course to demonstrate how your own reflections and convictions, in fact how your own life, connects with the wider historical developments we have discussed.

Learning Outcomes

The Learning outcomes of the course are as follows,

Having taken HIST1016 students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate the ability to critically engage with the relevant scholarship and contribute your own ideas and interpretations to discussions of the history of the modern world [Assessed in History Essay; One Sentence Responses]

2. Analyse source materials, explaining their meaning and significance in relation to the context(s) in which they were produced [Assessed in History Essay]

3. Reflect upon your own 'history,' and relate this to the history of the modern world [Assessed in Me in the Modern World Assignment]

Aims and Objectives


The course will not only help you to gain a better understanding of the nature of this period of history, it will also provide you with the chance to improve some skills that are vital for success in the workplace. Communication skills (such as writing and presenting) will be emphasized, as will the development of your capacity for critical analysis of complex problems, and making clear arguments.

Perhaps even more importantly through the Great Debates you will develop a greater sense of cultural understanding, the ability to reflect upon different perspectives, and to approach problems from different directions. This will be a training in making convincing arguments, but also negotiating with others with starkly different positions to defend. The debates will help you not only to understand but to be able to argue your corner in relation to key issues in this period in world history. They will also provide an opportunity for you to get experience that will make you feel more confident presenting in front of people, and more adept at working with classmates.

The essay will help you to focus in and hone skills in research and writing. Through it you will have the chance to become more skilled in preparing sound written work. And we have special history 'essay doctors' to help and advise on the final product.


The objectives of the course are:

To familiarise students with foundational concepts of the nineteenth and twentieth century world

To provide an introduction to the history of the modern world, with wide geographical and thematic coverage

To link up with other first and second semester survey courses introducing history

To identify and make students aware of the importance and impact of key social movements and cultural phenomena of the last two centuries and their relevance to understanding the present

To draw attention to recent historical works, key arguments and controversies in relation to this period

To help develop basic skills of research, analysis and essay writing

To encourage wide, independent, selective reading on historical subject matter, and key skills in analysing documents

To encourage proficiency in developing a sustained, reasoned, well focused argument, based on a broad selection of evidence

To encourage the ability to think independently, creatively, and to express oneself clearly, orally and in writing.

The University of Hong Kong | | © 2018 David Pomfret