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2015/16 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED3606 Machiavelli and the Making of Modernity

20 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Susan Gaines

Taught: Semester 2 View Timetable

Year running 2015/16


PIED1601Freedom, Power and Resistance: An Introduction to Political

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The name Machiavelli is typically associated with nefarious political behaviour for one’s own benefit. In this module, we will examine whether Machiavelli deserves this legacy. This module will expose students to the unique contribution of Machiavelli to the period of political thought that we call “modernity.” We will spend a short time considering the ancient understanding of justice and virtue, and Roman republican ideals. This initial analysis will provide a basis for understanding Machiavelli as a distinctively modern thinker. Moreover, students will consider Machiavelli’s legacy in contemporary politics. The module will require students to engage in careful reading of the assigned texts and to participate in weekly seminar discussions.


By the end of this module, students should be able to delineate how Machiavelli redefines ancient concepts and ushers in modern political thought. More specifically, students will learn how Machiavelli departs from the ancient understandings of justice and virtue, and what he deems to be an ideal republic. Students will accomplish this through a weekly seminar that focuses on examining one text in detail. Students should also be able to identify Machiavellian themes and discourses in contemporary political events.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module, students should have the ability to explain Machiavelli’s divergence from ancient thinkers on the topics of justice and virtue. They should also be able to understand his theory of republican government. They should have a thorough knowledge of Machiavelli’s unique conception of these three concept and his place as a founder of modern political theory. They will also be able to apply Machiavelli’s political theory to issues in contemporary politics.


Part I: The Ancient Context (3 weeks)
- Plato on Justice
- Aristotle on Virtue
- Cicero on Republics

Part II: The Turn to Modernity (6 weeks)
- Machiavelli’s The Prince
- Machiavelli’s Discourses

Part III: The Machiavellian Influence (2 weeks)
- Machiavelli’s and Modern Republicanism
- Machiavelli and Contemporary Politics

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

This module is designed for motivated students who want the experience of a tutorial-style module. The reading load each week will be relatively heavy and will require independent initiative and time management skills. The importance of reading all of each week’s assigned texts will be stressed from the outset. The goal is for students to come away with a nuanced understanding of Machiavelli’s place within the history of ideas and his influence on contemporary political decision-making. This goal can only be achieved by a high proportion of hours being allocated for private study, in combination with intensive seminars.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Each week, the module tutor will post critical thinking questions to the VLE. Students can use these to ensure they understand the relevant themes from each week’s readings. The small class size will permit the module tutor to informally monitor each student’s progress. Moreover, the 1500 word essay, due before the Easter break, will allow students to write a shorter essay with set questions in preparation for the more rigourous 3000-word essay with topic choices only.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 1,500 word, mid-term essay30.00
Essay1 x 3,000 word, end-of-term essay70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 22/07/2015


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