81947 - World History: Theory and Methodology (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course unit students will have acquired awareness of the concept of universal history centred around Europe and Western Civilization as well as with the ways through which this narrative has been deconstructed by means of alternative and peripheral critical stances. Students will be able to understand the relevance of different traditions of critical thought as cultural Marxism, anti-imperialist and Afro-American thought, cultural and postcolonial studies. At the end of the course students will demonstrate a sound theoretical framework within which specific research interests could be developed.

Course contents

The course is divided in two parts.

The first part will be devoted to the critical analysis of narratives of the world history since ancient times and will focus on the following topics:

  • Narratives of Universal History: classic, medieval, and early modern patterns
  • From the Enlightenment philosophy of history to the 19th century imperial history
  • The crisis of the western image of world history

The second part will focus on a fundamental subject of World History i.e. the relationship between race, nation and socialist internationalism. Moving from the analysis of the historical origin and development of the concepts of race and racism and of the formation of national and nationalist ideas, the seminar will explore the attitude of the socialist and communist movements towards the question of "nation" and "race", strictly related with those of colonialism and imperialism.

The following topics will be discussed:

  • The invention of race between 18th and 19th century
  • Nation and nationalism in historiography
  • Socialist internationalism and ethnic differences
  • The concept of nation in Marxist thought from Marx to Lenin
  • The Colonial question from the Second to the Third International
  • The First World War, the collapse of empires and the national question in a revolutionary phase
  • The Third International, Soviet Union and the Islamic question
  • The Rif War, the Comintern and the French Communism
  • The question of race in Latin America and the international communist strategy in the late 1920s

Attending students will write individually a brief paper (500 words) on text listed belows. They will then meet in virtual groups in order to prepare a class presentation of the readings.

Texts have to be read and papers delivered according to the following schedule. Papers have to be sent to the following email address:


Student presentations schedule

5th October

Students will read one of the following texts:

  • Group A - John Breuilly, Nationalism and National Unification in Nineteenth-Century Europe, in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism Edited by John Breuilly
  • Group B - Miroslav Hroch, National Movements in the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires Miroslav, in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism Edited by John Breuilly
  • Group C - Carole Reynaud-Paligot, Construction and Circulation of the
    Notion of “Race” in the Nineteenth Century
    , in Bancel, Nicolas, David, Thomas, Thomas, Dominic, The Invention of Race: Scientific and Popular Representations, pp. 87-99
  • Group D - Gérard Siary, The Reception of the Idea of Race in East Asia, in Bancel, Nicolas, David, Thomas, Thomas, Dominic, The Invention of Race: Scientific and Popular Representations, pp. 145-57

12th October

Students will read one of the following texts:

  • Group A - Otto Bauer, The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, chapter 1. (1907)
  • Group B - Rosa Luxemburg, The national question (1908)
  • Group C - Josef Stalin, Marxism and the national question (1913)
  • Group D - Lenin, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination (1914)

21st October

Students will read one of the following texts:

  • Group A - Marc Becker, Mariátegui, the Comintern, and the Indigenous Question in Latin America, Science & Society, Oct., 2006, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Oct., 2006), pp. 450-479
  • Group B - W. McLellan, Africans and Black Americans in the Comintern schools, 1925-1934. International Journal of African Historical Studies. 26, 1993, pp. 371-390
  • Group C - Robin Kellley, The Third International and the Struggle for National Liberation in South Africa, in Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies, 38(1), pp. 245-46
  • Group D - M. Kemper The Soviet Discourse on the Origin and Class Character of Islam, in Die Welt des Islams New Series, Vol. 49, Issue 1 (2009), pp. 1-48

Teaching methods

The course is articulated through lectures and seminar discussions. Students are expected to participate actively by reading in due time the texts which are in the programme, as well as participating in class discussions.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending

Attending students are required to participate actively to all classes and must regularly write short papers (500 words) on the reading texts listed in the class programm in due time; they will further write a 4000 words final paper on one of the following areas:

  • Race and socialism in the late 19th and 20th century (Capuzzo)
  • Europe's changing place in the long 20th century (Tolomelli)

Students are required to choose a specific subject within one of this two areas with the advise of one of the two professors (Paolo Capuzzo and Marica Tolomelli).

Deadline for the submission of the final paper is either 30th January or 31st March.

The grade assigned to the paper will be based on:

- selection of the topic and its relatedness with the course content

- ability to identify relevant bibliography

- critical analysis

- clarity in structure and aims

- language proficiency

Not attending students are required to pass a written test. This concerns this module (6CFU), look at the programme of Prof. Tolomelli for the second module.

The written test (60 minutes) requires to answer to three questions on the following bibliography. An accurate studying of the following books is necessary in order to pass the written exam.

The mark assigned to the paper will be based on the precision in anwering the question, the capacity to develop a critical analyis using an adequate scientific language.

The following chapters of Jerry J. Bentley, The Oxford Handbook of World History:

Chapters 1-7; 10-12; 15-21

Part I: Concepts

1: Michael Bentley: Theories of World History since the Enlightenment

2: Martin W. Lewis: Geographies

3: Luiji Cajani: Periodization

4: Matthew Lauzon: Modernity

5: Jürgen Osterhammel: Globalization

6: Patrick Manning: Epistemology

Part II: Themes

7: David Christian: World Environmental History

10: Charles Tilly: States, State Formation, and War

11: Marnie Hughes-Warrington: Genders

12: Zvi Ben-Dor Benite: Religions and World History

Part III: Processes

15: Dirk Hoerder: Migrations

16: James D. Tracy: Trade across Eurasia to about 1750

17: Patrick Karl O'Brien: Industrialization

18: J. R. McNeill: Biological Exchanges in World History

19: Jerry H. Bentley: Cultural Exchanges

20: Thomas T. Allsen: Premodern Empires

21: Prasenjit Duara: Modern Imperialism


The final grade will result from the evaluation of all aspects concerning the course: active participation in class; accuracy and punctuality in delivering the due papers; accuracy in oral presentation and academic writing; capability to deepen and master topics addressed during the course; ability to identify relevant bibliography; critical analysis; clear and logical structure of the final paper.

Proper language and the ability to critically analyze relevant topics will lead to a good/excellent final grade

Acceptable language and the ability to resume relevant topics will lead to a sufficient/fair grade.

Insufficient linguistic proficiency and fragmentary knowledge of relevant topics will lead to a failure in passing the exam.

This 6 CFU course is part of the 12 CFU Integrated Course “World History (C.I.) (LM)". If the student has the Integrated Course (12 CFU) in his/her study plan, the final grade for not-attending will result from the arithmetic average of the marks obtained in the two parts (“World history: theory and methodology" and “Europe in World History"). For attending students the final grade will be assigned by the professor with whom the subject has been agreed (either Capuzzo or Tolomelli).

Teaching tools

During frontal lessons the teacher will use power point presentations conaining text and visual sources.

Office hours

See the website of Paolo Capuzzo