Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Political Theory
Academic Year
Semester 1
External Examiners
  • Dr Felix J Rosch (Senior Lecturer - Coventry University)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 11 x 1 Hour Seminars
Lecture 22 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Seminar Performance  10%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  50%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 1,000 word assignment, in lieu of seminar performance  10%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   (1 x 2 hour exam)  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

• demonstrate an understanding of the main themes in the history of political thought
• demonstrate an understanding of key concepts in political theory
• demonstrate an understanding of key texts in the history of political thought
• critically evaluate an original text in political theory
• critically evaluate political arguments across centuries

Brief description

This module provides an introduction to the history of political theory and a close analysis of specific ideas, including good government, state of nature and rule of law, and thinkers, such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Kant. It combines lecture tuition with seminars, giving students the wider context as well as an opportunity to get first-hand access to some of the key texts in political theory. By learning about and analysing ideas from temporally and/or spatially distant contexts, students develop crucial analytical skills that will allow them to better understand, analyse and judge the political issues of our day.


Lecture Topics

1. Political theory and its history: an introduction
2. Ancient political thought: Plato
3. Ancient political thought: Aristotle
4. Medieval political theory: Augustine
5. From medieval political theory to renaissance
6. The art of government: Machiavelli
7. Modern political theory: Hobbes
8. Social contract liberalism: Locke
9. Contextualism and constitutionalism: Montesquieu
10. Society and morality: Rousseau
11. Political theory: Methods and approaches
12. General will and democracy: Rousseau
13. Universal moral law: Kant
14. Systematic political philosophy: Kant and Hegel
15. Doing research in political theory
16. Alienation and emancipation: Marx
17. Individuality and liberty: JS Mill
18. Political theory: methods and approaches
19. Contemporary political theory – case study
20. Political theory today and its relevance for the study of international politics

Seminar Topics & Key Texts

1. Plato, Dialogues (4th ct. BC)
2. Aristotle, Politics (4th ct. BC)
3. Augustine, City of God (426)
4. Nicollò Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)
5. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
6. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1689)
7. Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (1748)
8. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Of the Social Contract (1762)
9. Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals (1797)
10. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)


The aims of this module are to introduce students to the use and critical appraisal of some of the principal texts in political thought. This will be done through the study of the writings of key classical writers and the investigation of a number of concepts, such as government, ruler, social contract, moral law, separation of powers, equality and freedom.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to assert themselves to advantage. They will understand the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to the best advantage. They will learn to be clear and direct in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Seminars will be run in groups where oral discussion and presentations will form the main medium of teaching and the emphasis throughout the module will be on student participation and communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context of assistance from both the convenor and the fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and to exercise their own initiative, including searching for sources, compiling reading lists, and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their essay topics. The need to meet an essay deadline will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time and opportunity resources well.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources. Students will also be expected to make use of the resources that will be available on the Blackboard.
Personal Development and Career planning This module is designed to hone and test skills of use to students in their working lives, particularly in speaking to small groups, listening, thinking and responding to the statement of others. Moreover, the written work includes writing clearly and concisely, which is a common task in the workplace. Students will be encouraged throughout to reflect on their performance and to consider lessons for future application.
Problem solving Problem solving will be one of the central goals of the module; the submission of an essay will require that the student develops independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills The submission of an essay will reflect the independent research skills of the student. The need to locate appropriate research resources and write up the results will also facilitate research skills.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module • Ability to evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques • Apply a range of methodologies to complex political problems
Team work Students will undertake team exercises in the seminars. For many of the topics of this module, seminars will consist of small-group discussions where students will be asked to discuss as a group the core issues related to the seminar topic. These class discussions and debates form a significant part of the module, and will allow students to approach and examine a given topic through team work.


This module is at CQFW Level 6