Skip to main content

Unit information: The History of Western Political Thought in 2021/22

Unit name The History of Western Political Thought
Unit code POLI20007
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Jonathan Floyd
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims


The unit aims at introducing students to a wide range of texts in the history, and encouraging the critical assessment of these texts. Through exploring the work of a range of historical authors, spanning a period of over two thousand years, students will experience both difference and similarity in how different eras have seen ideas of the political and understood the relation of the individual to the state and to others. Lectures will provide broad overviews of the work of the author in question, and contextualise their writings with reference to the political contexts of their times. Seminars will focus on particular extracts from the key works of the authors in question, and will encourage students both to analyse significant passages of political writing and to think about the relation of these extracts to the writer's wider projects. The summative essay aims to enable students to engage in a detailed study of a particular text from the political theory canon: reading it in detail and at length, and engaging with the secondary literature.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe the key arguments of a range of authors in the history of political thought.
  2. Explain and discuss the authors’ own arguments, the historical contexts of their time, their relationship to other important writers, and their place in the history of political thought
  3. Synthesise material from different writings to gain an understanding of the interrelationships between different authors’ work.
  4. Analyse and compare the approaches which different authors adopt in relation to key political concepts, such as the state, equality, and liberty.

The summative 2,000 word essay with pairwise questions assesses achievement of outcomes 1, 2, and 3.

The seen exam with topic questions assesses achievement of outcomes 1, 2 and 4.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

3,500 word essay (100%)

The Assessment tests all Learning Outcomes


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. POLI20007).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.