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The Russian Revolution 1914-1921 - Module Details

Aims & Objectives

The module is a 30 CATS Special Subject, accounting for about a quarter of your final-year work. Special Subjects involve the intensive study of a tightly focused set of topics or problems using a large quantity of primary sources. It is, above all, through the Special Subject that you will acquire hands-on experience of the skills involved in working with primary sources.


The module offers students an opportunity to explore the history of the Russian Revolution in great depth. There is no requirement for you to have taken any previous courses in Russian history or politics and the teaching will not assume that you have done so.


The module covers the political, social, economic and cultural history of the Russian Revolution examining the impact of war; the February Revolution; the events of 1917; the Civil War; War Communism ; the uprisings of 1920-1 and concludes with the Tenth Party Congress and the Kronstadt rebellion. It is divided into two halves - The collapse of the old order; the emergence of the new Soviet order.

Teaching & Learning

The module is taught in weekly seminars of two hours or more. Normally all members of the course take part in the same seminar so size tends to vary up to a maximum of 18 students. The seminars focus on selected English language documentation on which the course is based. Seminar discussion also covers the main directions of analysis in the abundant secondary sources on the topic. Seminar documents are discussed in detail in class and gobbets for question 1 of the exam paper are taken from them. The documents include official proclamations; official documents; electoral statistics; political writings of leading figures in the revolution especially Lenin; extracts from memoirs; extracts from newspapers; literature. Section A of the exam paper will require discussion of the primary sources and historiography of the revolution. Section B of the exam paper will require discussion of the events of the revolution. As a final-year student you are expected to organise your learning more independently than hitherto, and, for this reason, there are no lectures in the module.


The assessment for this module is determined by whether or not the student will be basing a Dissertation on the module:

  • For students who are not basing a Dissertation on this module: a two-hour exam and a 4,500 word essay
  • For students who are basing a Dissertation on this module: Three-hour exam

For details of examination and assessment, please see:

Please note that extra credit is given for good use and knowledge of documents in all aspects of course assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes
  • the further development of essay-writing and seminar participation skills
  • the development of a deeper understanding of the relationship between primary and secondary historical sources
  • the development of a student's ability to assess the importance of, to recognise the difference between types of and to critically evaluate a wide variety of sources.
  • to appreciate how analysis of primary sources contributes to historical debate, and development of a capacity to undertake such analysis.
  • developing critical analytical skills based on:
    • introducing students to a wide variety of approaches to the study of the Russian Revolution
    • conveying basic historical knowledge of the Russian Revolution
    • utilising interdisciplinary perspectives to deepen historical understanding
    • providing students with the opportunity to evaluate critically a range of primary sources including official documents, statistics, writings of leading historical figures and memoirs.
    • examining a wide range of secondary sources and secondary interpretations of the Russian Revolution
    • To enable students to produce written and verbal analyses based on the above