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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Third Year Students

In your third year in Politics and International Relations, you may choose to offer four papers, or three papers and a dissertation. HSPS students who are taking Part II over two years take POL 9, while History and Politics students take Theory and Practice. There are separate guidelines for those taking HSPS Part II in one year. The choices available in both Triposes enable you to extend your knowledge of political thought, certain themes of modern world politics such as gender or conflict, and to study the politics of a particular region such as Middle East or Africa. 

Draft Paper Guides for 2021-22

POL9Conceptual Issues and Texts in Politics and International Relations

POL10: The History of Political Thought from c.1700 to c.1890

POL11: Political Philosophy and the History of Political Thought since c.1890 

POL12: The Politics of the Middle East

POL13: British and European Politics 

POL14: US Foreign Policy 

POL15: The Politics of Africa 

POL16: The Politics of Conflict and Peace

POL17: Politics and Gender

POL18: The Politics of the International Economy 

POL19: Themes and Issues in Politics and International Relations 

POL20: Politics and Religion

POL21: The Idea of a European Union


Paper Options available in 2022-2023

POL9: Conceptual issues in Politics and International Relations

POL10: The History of Political Thought from c1700- c1890

POL11: Political Philospohy & the History of Political Thought since c1890

POL12: The Politics of the Middle East

POL13: British and European Politics

POL14: US Foreign Policy

POL15: The Politics of Africa

POL16: The Politics of Conflict and Peace

POL17: Politics and Gender

POL18: The Politics of the International Economy

POL19: Themes and Issues in Politics and International Relations

POL20: Politics and Religion

(please see above for the 2021-22 paper guides)

POL21: The Politics of the Future, 1880-2080 (previously on offer 2020-21)

Paper description:

Political thinkers have long sought to imagine better worlds. The most famous texts in the Western tradition include Plato's Republic and Thomas More's Utopia, the latter of which gave this style of thinking a name. This course explores the modern utopian tradition. It examines accounts of the future produced in Britain and North America from the 1880s to the present. Combining work in literature, political theory, and intellectual history, the course encompasses both utopian and dystopian visions, as well as recurrent attempts to produce a social science of the future. To do so, we read a sample of important utopian/dystopian speculative writings – from William Morris and H.G Wells, through George Orwell and Ursula Le Guin, to Margaret Atwood and William Gibson – as well as theoretical literature on the nature and value of utopian thinking.

The course proceeds in a broadly chronological fashion. It is divided into 3 broad periods: 1890–-1925; 1925–1970; 1970–the present. Each concentrates on two main themes (though it is important to recognise that these are cumulative, each building on the previous sections).
Section I traces the intellectual and imaginative impact of Darwinism and debates over possible socialist societies. Section II focuses on attempts to make sense of totalitarianism and nuclear war. Section III turns to the potential of bio-technological transformation and of environmental catastrophe, culminating in discussion of Artificial Intelligence and the possible emergence of post-human beings. Particular attention is paid to the gendered and racialised dimensions of future visions. Throughout the course we will reflect on three broad themes:
how writers – whether novelists, philosophers or public intellectuals – (1) imagined alternative social, political, and economic structures; (2) reimagined the self in relation to new technologies and forms of political association; and (3) debated the possibilities and the value of thinking about the future. The course is not intended to be an exhaustive survey of modern utopian thought; rather, the aim is to identify and explore the most significant foci for writing and thinking about the future.

POL22: Politics and Public Policy (new for 2022-23)

Paper description:

This paper introduces the politics of democratic policymaking, with the aim of laying the foundations for empirically substantiated and critical evaluation of the actions of governments. It is structured in two parts. Part one, in Michaelmas term, introduces conceptual and theoretical tools that can help us make sense of how governments in different countries respond to social and economic pressures. We will explore, in turn, the interests, ideas, and institutions that shape the behaviour of key actors in public policymaking. Part two, in Lent term, is an opportunity to delve deeper into some specific policy issues. We will analyse four policy challenges that are of pressing importance in the 21stcentury, in a series of guest lectures and seminars delivered by experts from the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. There will be two revision sessions in Easter Term.

Introductory readings:
Dodds, A. (2018) Comparative Public Policy. London: Palgrave. Second Edition.
Kingdon, J. (2013) Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. Essex: Pearson. Second Edition.
Scheve, K. & Stasavage, S. (2016) Taxing the Rich. A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.




The deadline for submitting the dissertation is Thursday 5 May 2022, at 12.00 noon.

  • Each year the Department publishes a guide to dissertations which sets out the expectations of content, layout, and submission. It is important that you read this guide whilst working on your dissertation and before submitting.
  • Penalties for late submission:

    • 1 point per hour or part thereof - up to 3 points (1 point per the first hour, another point for the second hour, and a third point for any further delay up to 12 noon the next day)
    • Next ten days or part thereof - 3 points per day
    • Any work submitted after 10 days is marked 0
    • Electronic submission is mandatory
    • Submission times are standardised as 12pm on the due date, with daily penalties applied every 24 hours from the due time
  • Dissertation Application Form 
  • Undergraduate Ethical Approval Form
  • For reference when writing your own dissertation please see below for a couple of examples of first class dissertations written by POLIS students in previous years of the HSPS tripos.
    • Example #1:The US Constitution and debates on the expansion of federal power, 1932-2013
    • Example #2: Global Justice and indeterminacy - the boundaries of the cosmopolitan premise


Student Guides

  • Guide to supervisions. This document gives you a sense of what to expect from supervisions, and guidance on essay writing in Politics & International Relations.
  • Guide to exams. This document sets out how examining works, explains the marking system, and gives guidance on how to write essays under exam conditions.




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