Module Catalogue 2020/21

HIS2259 : The Russian Empire from Peter the Great to Lenin

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Stella Ghervas
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module examines the history of the Russian Empire from the reign of Peter the Great to the Revolution of 1917 and the rise of Lenin to power. Between about 1700 and 1917, Russia was a vast empire, the largest country in the world. The Tsar Peter the Great started a drive to modernize Russia by adopting Western technology and some aspects of Western culture; he also was the first Russian ruler to be addressed with the Western title of ‘emperor’. The autocratic system created a rift between the elites and the common people, a divide that Lenin’s 1917 Revolution attempted to mend by eliminating the elite. This module will look at the flow of events that led Russia to become a primary actor in European history. Yet the huge Eurasian state also maintained specific cultural traits and political traditions, a situation that affects international relations even today. We will examine several facets of Russia (particularly politics, economy, and culture), which shaped its unique historical trajectory.

The aims of the module are:
1.       To provide historical and geographical background on the history of the Russian Empire.
2.       To give opportunities to investigate selected problems in some depth (by close scrutiny of primary sources, and detailed and critical examination of particular aspects of the latest historiography) based on a sound general knowledge of the subject.
3.       To introduce students to handling translated primary sources on the history of the Russian Empire.
4.       To encourage students to read widely and critically in the secondary literature, and to develop their capacity for independent study.
5.       To enable students to focus on specific issues of interest and develop their own critical sense and interpretations of sources.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists of 24 one-hour lectures, 11 one-hour seminars, and three hours of Surgery time.

The outline lecture syllabus is intended as a guide only, and topics may vary slightly. Its principal themes include: the development and challenges to autocratic rule; social relations within Russia; the process of imperial expansion, the nature of the Tsar’s authority; Western cultural influences and their reception in Russia; the role of religious institutions and practices; the importance of trade and of political relations with other great powers (notably the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France); the creation of a uniquely Russian cultural style; the meeting between Russians and the many different people and environments, along the borders of what became in this period the world’s largest empire; Russian colonisation and russification.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

Students who complete the module successfully will have reflected at length on the reasons for the long vitality but eventual unsustainability of the tsarist political, social and economic order.

By the end of the semester, students are expected to:
-       Locate important locations in the Russian Empire on a map
-       Recognise important characters and turning points in Russian history
-       Become acquainted with key specificities of Russian culture and political traditions
-       Describe the key developments in Russian imperial history from the late seventeenth century to the Bolshevik Revolution
-       Analyse the key issues in the historiography and interpretation of this period

Intended Skill Outcomes

Students are expected to:
-       Improve their ability to listen carefully (to lectures), to read quickly and with an eye for the distinction between the general and the particular
-       Analyse and interpret primary sources of historical information
-       Know how to deal with translated Russian sources
-       Argue clearly and succinctly both on paper and orally
-       Develop associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of the results
-       Write and develop their own independently evolved argument, supported by evidence

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion541:0054:001/3 of independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading541:0054:001/3 of independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery13:003:00Surgery hours
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 of independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire. They also stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills.
Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem solving skills and adaptability.
Written works are an exercise on how to conduct proper academic research; they are treated as an opportunity for students to learn the historian’s craft by practice.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M401000 word review essay (includes footnotes, excludes bibliography)
Essay2A603000 word extended essay (includes footnotes, excludes bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

Essays test acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem in detail, problem-solving skills, the ability to work unaided and to use references and write clearly and concisely. Also, the ability to compare and contrast related primary and secondary sources on a common subject is key.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.