Course Syllabus

Welcome to HIST362: Modern Revolutions

Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Student Handbook.


Course Description

Explore the political and social revolutions that shaped the modern world between the 18th and 20th centuries, with a particular emphasis on their causes and their lasting global effects.


Course Introduction

In 1970, the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai was asked to assess the outcome of the French Revolution of 1789. He responded that it was "too soon to say". While this story has questionable authenticity, it captures a fundamental truth about how revolutions have shaped our world. Their legacies are difficult to evaluate.

In this course, we study some of the most important political revolutions that took place between the 17th century and today. We explore the causes of each revolution, analyze the ideologies that inspired the revolutionaries, examine revolutionary uses of violence, and consider how historical revolutions still shape contemporary politics. Close and critical readings of historical sources are critical to this process.

We begin with a theoretical analysis of revolutions and a careful examination of pre-revolutionary Europe and the Enlightenment. Next, we examine:

  • the English Revolution of the 17th century;
  • the American and French Revolutions, which many describe as the crucible of modernity;
  • the Mexican Revolution, which changed the history of Latin America;
  • the Russian and the Chinese Revolutions, which sought to create Marxist states;
  • the Iranian Revolution, which created an Islamic Republic; and
  • the Eastern European revolutions of 1989, which brought about radical change with less recourse to violence.

By the end of the course, you will be able to identify commonalities and differences among these revolutions and understand how they transformed the modern world, individually and collectively.

This course includes the following units:

  • Unit 1: What is a Revolution?
  • Unit 2: Revolutions and Modernity
  • Unit 3: 17th Century England: Revolution or Civil War?
  • Unit 4: The American Revolution: Ideas and Experience
  • Unit 5: The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity
  • Unit 6: Revolutionary Mexico and Legacies of Colonialism
  • Unit 7: Revolutionary Russia: Marxist Theory and Agrarian Realities
  • Unit 8: Two Revolutions in China: Liberalism and Marxism in a New Context
  • Unit 9: Revolution and Religion: The Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Unit 10: 1989: Nonviolence and the End of The Cold War
  • Unit 11: Revolutions in Perspective


Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • provide a concise historical narrative of each of the revolutions presented in the course;
  • identify the origins and causes of each revolution, and compare revolutions with respect to their causes;
  • analyze the goals and ideals of the revolutionaries, and compare how these functioned in various modern revolutions;
  • discuss how revolutions in various parts of the world have affected women's rights;
  • analyze how religious and secular worldviews came into conflict during times of upheaval and revolution;
  • discuss the patterns and dynamics of revolutionary violence, and evaluate how revolutionaries have used nonviolent tactics against oppressive regimes;
  • evaluate connections between revolutionary ideologies and revolutionary events;
  • analyze how the legacies of each revolution are present in modern politics;
  • describe and evaluate competing theoretical models of revolutionary change; and
  • interpret primary historical documents.

Throughout this course, you will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.


Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are articles, lectures, and videos.

All course materials are free to access and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources in the navigation bar.


Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score

Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

There are also end-of-unit assessments in this course. These are designed to help you study, and do not factor into your final course grade. You can take these as many times as you want until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's navigation bar.


Tips for Success

HIST362: Modern Revolutions is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or an assigned schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 85 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.

Learning new material can be challenging, so we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
  • As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.
  • Although you may work through this course completely independently, you may find it helpful to connect with other Saylor students through the discussion forums. You may access the discussion forums at


Suggested Prerequisites

In order to take this course, you should:


Technical Requirements

This course is delivered entirely online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.

  • To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.

For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.



This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, is available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Monday, September 28, 2020, 5:03 PM