History of the Contemporary Era


a)Be able to acquire a general overview of the Contemporary period, having as fundamental landmarks the rise and decline of the European preponderance in the 19th and 20th centuries
b)Make sense of the major transformations brought about by the social, economic and political modernizing processes in the Contemporary period and understand their impact in the non-European world
c)Identify the reasons which explain the decline of the European colonial order after the Second World War and identify the main developments in world politics in the post-war era
d)Be familiar with some of the major historical debates related with the various topics of the course
e)Be familiar with some of the key authors on the various topics of the course and be able to locate and work with historical sources for different Contemporary periods
f)Be able to write critical essays and deliver oral presentations on any of the topics of the course

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Joana Vidal de Azevedo Dias Pereira


Weekly - 4

Total - 168

Teaching language





BAYLY, C. A. – The Birth of the Modern World (1780-1914). Oxford: Blackwell, 2004
DARWIN, John – After Tamerlane. The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000. London: Penguin, 2007
HOBSBAWM, E. J. – A Era dos Extremos. Lisboa: Presença, 1999
KENNEDY, Paul – The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Londres: Fontana Press, 1988
REYNOLDS, David – One World Divisible. A Global History since 1945. Londes: Penguin, 2000.


Teaching method

A combination of lectures by the teacher and scheduled interventions by the students, followed by discussion among all the participants in the class. Occasional screening of documentaries or films. Tutorial meetings with students to help them with the drafting of their essays. 

Evaluation method

Evaluation Method - Exam(40%), Participation in some of the classes is mandatory(20%), written essay(40%)

Subject matter

a)Europe of the great powers. The impact of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. State-building processes and related tensions. The revolution/reaction dialectic in the 19th century. The nationalist challenge to Europe’s dynastic order
b)Europe’s economic modernization. Different models of industrialization. The “persistence of the old regime”.  Challenges to Britain’s supremacy. Winners and losers in the new capitalist order. The ‘first globalization’ and its problems.
c)The imperial expansion of the European powers. Geopolitical rivalries. The “Eastern question” and the “Great Game”. The Berlin conference and the scramble for Africa. The struggle for supremacy in the Far East. The impact of Europe’s colonial rule.
d)Europe’s ‘civil war’. The debate on the causes of the First World War. Total war and society. The Versailles settlement. The Russian Revolution. 
e)The Cold War: origins, characteristics and key phases of the global bipolar conflict. 


Programs where the course is taught: