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 Saylor Student Handbook.


Course Description

This course is an exploration of the political and social revolutions that have shaped the modern world between the 18th and 20th centuries, with particular emphasis on their causes and lasting global impact. 


Course Introduction

In the 1970s, the Chinese Communist leader Zhou Enlai was asked to assess the outcomes of the French Revolution of 1789. He supposedly answered: "It is too soon to say." Though this story has a somewhat apocryphal status, it captures a fundamental truth about the world in which we live: it is a world which has been shaped by revolutions, and their legacies are always difficult to evaluate.

In this course, you will gain a better understanding of the modern world by studying some of the most important political revolutions that took place between the 17th century and today. You will seek to understand 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 will be crucial in this process.

The course begins with a theoretical analysis of revolutions and a careful examination of pre-revolutionary Europe and the Enlightenment. Subsequent units examine the English Revolution of the 17th century; the American and the French Revolutions, which are often described 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 finally, the Eastern European revolutions of 1989, which brought about radical changes without recourse to violence.

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

This course is comprised of the following units:

  • Unit 1: What is a Revolution?
  • Unit 2: Revolutions and Modernity
  • Unit 3: Seventeenth-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 the 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'll also see related learning outcomes identified in each unit. You can use the learning outcomes to help organize your learning and gauge your progress.


Course Materials

The primary learning materials for this course are readings, lectures, video tutorials, and other resources.

All course materials are free to access, and can be found through the links provided in each unit and subunit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will instruct you as to what specifically to read or watch at a given point in the course, and help you to understand how these individual materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also access a list all of the materials used in this course by clicking on Resources in the course's "Activities" menu.


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 tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, you may take it again as many times as needed, following a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Saylor Certificate of Completion.

There are also 11 unit assessments and other types of quizzes in this course. These are intended to help you to gauge how well you are learning and do not factor into your final course grade. You may retake all of these as many times as needed to feel that you have an understanding of the concepts and material covered. You can locate a full list of these sorts of assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's "Activities" menu.


Tips for Success

HIST362: Modern Revolutions is a self-paced course in which you the learner determines when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or predetermined schedule to follow. While learning styles can vary considerably and any particular student will take more or less time to learn or read, 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 (daily, or at least weekly) 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 below we've compiled a few suggested study strategies to help you succeed:

  • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories as you read. This can help you differentiate and contextualize concepts and later provide you with a refresher as you study.
  • As you progress through the materials, take time to test yourself on what you have retained and how well you understand the concepts. The process of reflection is important for creating a memory of the materials you learn; it will increase the probability that you ultimately retain the information.
  • Although you may work through this course completely independently, you may find it helpful to connect with other Saylor Academy 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 fully 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, free of charge, here. Although you can access some course resources without being logged into your account, it's advised that you log in to maximize your course experience. For example, some of the accessibility and progress tracking features are only available when you are logged in.

For additional technical guidance check out Saylor Academy's tech-FAQ and the Moodle LMS tutorial.



There is no cost to access and enroll in this course. All required course resources linked throughout the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, activities, etc are accessible for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2019, 2:41 PM