Nationalism, democracy and self-determination since the French Revolution ADED2052E

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: Short Courses
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 2 (SCQF level 8)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The demand for national self-determination has transformed global politics since the 18th century. This course will examine the revolutionary consequences of these changes. It will locate the changes in the emergence of nationalism and democracy and highlight how popular sovereignty became the main source of political legitimacy by the end of the twentieth century. The course will adopt an historical and comparative approach. Beginning with the American and French Revolutions, it will focus on how nationalism and democracy undermined dynastic regimes and colonial empires, while continuously challenging multinational states. Case studies will illustrate specific themes such as secession, partition and conflict between state and nation. The course will explore whether all nations have the right to become states and what conditions might be introduced to facilitate or constrain such a situation.


Blocks 1 and 2

15 meetings of 2 hours per week, plus 2 Saturdays of 5 hours each.

Block 1: Weeks 1-8, Tuesdays 19.00-21.00, plus week 9, Saturday 10.00-16.00

Block 2: Weeks 1-7, Tuesdays 19.00-21.00, plus week 8, Saturday 10.00-16.00

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Students will be required to submit two assessments for this course.
The first, a short report of 1000
-1500 words, can be on an issue related to the course, a critical review of a major text related to the course or a research task agreed with the tutor. This assessment will be submitted at the beginning of Semester 2 (30%).

The second will be an extended essay of 3000 words on a topic agreed between tutor and student. The tutor will also provide a list of possible topics from which students can choose. Students should demonstrate knowledge of primary and secondary sources and be in a position to assess the topic in a critical fashion (70%).  

The extended essay can be a case study, an assessment of relevant documents and/or archival research when they are available. It will also be possible to provide an assessment of an historical issue in respect of nationalism and democracy by adopting a similar methodology. For those with access to the internet, it will be possible to choose a topic that can be researched online (these options apply to the extended essay only). 

Course Aims

This course aims to: 

■ Provide a nuanced and in-depth discussion of how the idea of national self-determination was realised in historical and political terms over the past 250 years.

■ Examine how nationalism and democracy provide the political foundation for claims to national self-determination. 

■ Review current issues and themes in respect of secession and self-determination.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

■ Explain the history of nationalism, democracy and self-determination and how these concepts have evolved over a 250 year period.

■ Recognise and critically engage with key themes, debates and controversies in respect of national self-determination and political independence.

■ Assess the continuing relevance of self-determination in the contemporary world and distinguish between the claims and counter claims made by secessionists and the state in these controversies.

■ Use and critically evaluate a range of source material including primary and secondary sources for interpreting the history of nationalism, democracy and self-determination. 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.