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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PIED3408 Nuclear Weapons and Global Politics

20 creditsClass Size: 140

Module manager: Dr Laura Considine

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will focus on the place of nuclear weapons in global politics. It will examine the ways in which nuclear weapons have impacted central issues in International Relations such as state power and conflict, the role of international institutions and the potential of transnational activism. This will be accomplished through a study of core concepts such as deterrence, disarmament and nuclear security and terrorism, plus an analysis of case studies and contemporary issues of nuclear politics. The module will examine how the development of a weapon capable of global mass destruction has shaped global politics and society and how humanity has reacted to ‘the bomb’.


This module will provide students with the ability to critically engage with the key issues of nuclear weapons and global politics. During the module students will engage with questions such as: Why do states want nuclear weapons? Should some states be allowed to have them? What are the different global threats associated with these destructive weapons? Does nuclear deterrence work and what happens if it fails? Is nuclear disarmament desirable or possible?
On completing the module students will be able to critically analyse contemporary issues of nuclear threat and global nuclear governance and will be able to locate current issues within a historical context and relate them to core concepts. Students will also be able to engage with different theoretical approaches to nuclear weapons, including gender and postcolonial approaches, as well gaining knowledge about the place of nuclear weapons in popular culture and society.

Learning outcomes
On completing this module, students should be able to:
1. Critically analyse and compare the core concepts, theories and debates that structure our knowledge of the role of nuclear weapons in global politics.
2. Demonstrate knowledge of the political history of nuclear weapons from 1940s to present and evaluate their place in global governance.
3. Reflect critically on the key actors, institutions and controversies in the contemporary politics of nuclear weapons.
4. Analyse contrasting theoretical perspectives on nuclear weapons and be able to relate them to an understanding of empirical examples.


This module will cover the following topics:
- The development of nuclear weapons and the institutions of nuclear governance, and the core concepts of nuclear weapons politics
- Case studies of nuclear rivalries and crises (for example US/USSR, India/Pakistan, North Korea)
- Nuclear threats, nuclear terrorism and nuclear security.
- Nuclear disarmament movements and anti-nuclear activism.
- Theoretical approaches to nuclear weapons within International Relations
- Critical ways of engaging with nuclear weapons (such as through gender, race and postcolonial studies).
- The ‘nuclear era’ - nuclear weapons in popular culture

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Students will need to read extensively from the module reading list to gain the necessary knowledge to understand the topics, debates and concepts studied and to prepare for the seminar discussions. This entails careful and reflective reading, note-taking, summarising, preparation for class discussion, and developing a sense of a field of literature in addition to engagement with individual readings.

Students are also encouraged to use their initiative and skills of discernment in finding additional material relevant to the course topics and are encouraged to read across disciplines and approaches to the topic.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will submit 1 x 1000 word essay draft for formative feedback in week 7 that will be non-assessed

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3000 End of Term essay100.00
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: 28/04/2023 14:51:19


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