Modern World, 1750s-2010s

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1HS4054

Semester and Year Offered: Semester fourth and since 2012

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Dhiraj Kumar Nite

Email of course coordinator: dhiraj[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: It focuses on the emergence and progression of the modern and postmodern world. It lays bare the nature of and reasons responsible for the great divergence, as it were, between the north Atlantics and the Asians. It discusses the significance of advancement of modernity– the claim for progress in the shape of formation of a virtuous world on the basis of reason, rationalism, individualism, worldliness, naturalism, common good and economic prosperity. Equally, it considers the germination of postmodernity – the emphasis on perspectivism, personal autonomy, difference and refutation of the modernist claims for seamless progress. Here, modernity and postmodernity are not viewed as a force imposed by the West on ‘The Rest’. Rather, it was something emerging from the new pattern of interactions between commercial-industrial societies of the northern and western hemispheres and the peoples of the East and South, who witnessed a comparatively advanced early modern past, colonial downfall and ex-colonial reconstruction / resurgence.

The economic order of modernity is characterised by the driving concerns for affluence, accelerating consumption, intensification of resource use and sustained (technological) growth. Modern polity is characterised by the nation-state, developmental state, and military fiscalism; characterised by the centrality of citizenship, civic rights and political representation. The changes in social structure involve the identification of persons on the basis of ‘individual’ merit or roles rather than inherited or ascribed status, the collapse of primordial social relationships (‘orders’ of society) and formation of new classes and social categories. The shifts in cultural patterns, occurring in tandem with social changes, include secularisation, the entrenchment of scientific and professional ethics, privatisation of many areas of social life, the establishment of status based on consumption, and more rigorous segregation of leisure from labour/work. By contrast, information accumulation (the function of ICT and service economy as the basis of sustained economic growth) and the pre-eminence of finance capital characterise the beginning of postmodern world from the third quarter of the 20thc and onwards. A shift from the polity of discipline to that of control and bio-politics defines its political order. The presence of accentuated inequality, a large proportion of the precariat population in the midst of surfeit, on one side, and the demand for autonomous individuality and difference, and a critique of surveillance and disciplinarian power, on the other, are noticeable in this world. All these issues form the different modules of this course.

Course Outcomes:

  1. 1. Helping the student to grasp the evolution of the world, as we inhabit it today.
  2. 2. Guiding the student to locate the scenario of their national society, as it was linked to the rest of the world.
  3. Equipping the student with concepts and analytical design, as indicated under the subhead of aim of the course, useful for comprehending changes and continuities of our world in a comparative context.
  4. 4. Preparing the student for a grasp of the connected and comparative history of human societies across the globe.
  5. 5. Engaging with the reference materials in a critical and comparative manner in order to grasp the sources of divergent viewpoints on historical episodes.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Week 1.

Module 1: Asia and Western Europe in comparison before domination and colonisation efforts of the European; the Agrarian economic changes, Proto-industrialisation and Proto-capitalism in Europe and Asia; and the Slave economy on the plantation in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Week 2 and Week 3.

Module II: the Meaning of Modernity; Tendencies and Geographies of Early Modern World: the Humanist Revolution: Renaissance, Reformation, the Copernican revolution.

Week 4 and Week 5.

Module III: Strands of enlightenment thoughts and practices; Political strives for liberty, equality, fraternity, happiness, prosperity, and utilitarianism in the 19thc.

Week 6 and Week 7.

Module IV: Strands of enhanced-modernity and Postmodernity; Political strives for freedom, equality, peace, happiness, social justice in the 20thc and 21stc; conflicts between secularism and religious matters; prosperity and fragility of the eco-system.

Week 8.

Module V: The first Industrial revolution; ‘modern industrialisation path’; social problems of the industrialising society in the 18th and 19thc.

Week 9 and Week 10.

Module VI: The second industrial revolution; new geographies of late industrialisation; protectionism or import substitution; human resource development and R&D; Fordism; scientific management (Taylorism); the great depression; social life in the late-19thc and early-20thc.

Week 11 and Week 12.

Module VII: Economic life and its philosophies in the 19th and 20thc: Capitalism, Utilitarianism, Colonialism/Imperialism and Socialism/Communism; Underdevelopment, De-colonization and ex-colonial resurgence; Information accumulation and postmodernisation of the economy; Postmodernism; Multiculturalism.

Week 13.

Module VIII: A case of the Islamicate world: the Ottoman Empire, its predicament, breakdown and reorganisation.

Assessment Details with weights:

Two essay submissions and their two presentations to the class (each of them is 35% on written + 10% on presentation of total grade). The third component is a weekly discussion to be done by different groups of the student on selected reading materials and lectures. This accounts for the remaining 10% of the total. Participation in all three activities, excepting some forbidding circumstances, is necessary to get a passing grade.

Reading List:

  • Acemoglu, Daron and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, New York: Crown, 2012.
  • Allen, RC. An Introduction to the Global Economic History, 2011.
  • Heuman, G. and T. Burnard, The History of Slavery, Oxen: Routledge, 2011
  • Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment, a Reinterpretation: The Science of Freedom, 1976. [essential]
  • Pomeranz, K, The Great Divergence: Western Europe, China and Japan and the Making of Modern World Economy, 2002. [essential]
  • Arrighi, G, The Resurgence of East Asia: Perspectives of 1000, 500, 100, and 50 years, 2003.
  • Clark, G, Farewell to Alms: A brief economic history of the world, Princeton University Press, 2007.
  • Allen, Robert C, The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective, Cambridge, 2009. [four chapters: essential]
  • Parthasarathi, Prasannan. Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850, Cambridge, 2011.
  • Nayyar, Deepak. Catch Up: Developing Countries in the World Economy, 2013. [last three chapters: essential]
  • Piketty, Thomas, Capital of the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. [Chapter 13 on Social State: Essential]
  • Arrighi, Giovani. The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times, 1994.
  • Braudel, Fernand. Civilisation and Capitalism, vol. III: the perspective of the world, 1984. [chapters – 4, 5, 6.]
  • Hardt and Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, 2000. [Part II: essential]
  • Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism or a Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, London: Verso, 1992.
  • Harvey, David, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the origins of cultural change, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1989/1992.
  • Bayly, C.A. The Birth of Modern World, 1780-1914, 2009. [chapters on the political revolutions, the 2nd Industrial Wave, the Ottoman Empire]
  • Hobsbawm, EJ. The Age of Extremes, 1914-91. [chapters on the USSR and the Arabs: essential]
  • de Vries, Jean. The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behaviour and the Household Economy from 1650 to the Present, 2008.
  • Maddison, A. Monitoring the World Economy, 1820-1992.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Decline of American Power, 2003.
  • Allen, Robert C, From Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, Princeton: Princeton University Press.


  • Historical documents:
  • Paine, Tom, The Rights of Man, 1790; Common Sense, 1774.
  • de Gouges, Olympe, The Declaration of the Rights of Women, 1791.
  • List, F. The System of National Economy, 1885.
  • Nehru, J. The Discovery of India, 1946; Glimpses of World History, 1935/2003.
  • Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth, 1961.
  • Mandela, N. A Long Walk to Freedom, 1994/2006.
  • Foucault, M. The Order of Things, 1986.