Imperial Russia Engages the World, 1700-1917 (HIH1037)

Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The principal aim of this module is to examine Russia’s foreign policy initiatives, the interplay of domestic and international factors among which they transpired, and the continuity and change of the values and ideologies that motivated them. The secondary aim is to take a broad view of activities that engage the world outside a state’s territorial borders and concern broad swathes of the population beyond leaders, armies, and diplomats. We will accomplish these goals by pairing contextual readings with a range of primary sources to consider a variety of documents that give insight into historical events, processes, and transformations. These primary sources will include political tracts, pamphlets, petitions, letters, geographical and travel narratives, memoirs, legal treatises, treaties, visual representations, material objects, administrative records, and government documents. Our approach to these sources will assess their intended audience, their reliability, and their role in constructing Russian policy.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in the Russian Empire’s visibility on the international stage and engagements with bordering regions, major international powers, and foreign groups and individuals.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of imperial Russia’s role in global history.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

Weekly seminar topics may vary, but can include: Russia’s interactions with nomadic and steppe communities in inner Eurasia; economic and political exchanges with the Ottoman and Qing Empires; war, diplomacy and ritual with European powers; Pacific geopolitics over exploration in the Far East; the role of religion in construction Russian politics; Russia’s leading role in construction of international law.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative readings:


Andrei Zorin, By Fables Alone: Literature and State Ideology in Late-Eighteenth – Early-Nineteenth-Century Russia (Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2014).


Lucien J. Frary, Russia and the Making of Modern Greek Identity, 1821-1844 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).


Roger Bartlett, Human Capital: The Settlement of Foreigners in Russia, 1762-1804 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).


Clifford Foust, Muscovite and Mandarin: Russia’s trade with China and its setting, 1727-1805 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969).


Ilya Vinkovetsky, Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire, 1804-1867 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).


Ryan Tucker Jones, Empire of Extinction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).


Eileen M. Kane, Russian Hajj: Empire and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015).


Peter Gatrell, A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia during World War I (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999).


Dominic Lieven, Russia Against Napoleon (London: Allen Lane, 2009).


Michael Khodarkovsky, Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002).


Andrew Robarts, Migration and Disease in the Black Sea Region (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).

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Key words search

Russian Empire, foreign policy, international law, diplomacy, migration, population politics.