Review of GL2101 – Origins of the Modern World

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(Alternate Title: GL2101 – Chunky History of Globalization)


As the last module for my GL minor, I approached this module with some apprehension and curiosity. Having read a previous review of it being ‘High school history lessons’, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it much since I hadn’t done history for even O’s. Still, seeing that it was a history semester (along with Chinese Politics and International Society being fairly historical), I felt there was some potential for module synergy.

What I expected

Pretty much what had been written, although it’s possible that the lecturer changed from her time to mine. Maybe a bit more after the Reformation period?

What I got

A fairly comprehensive survey of world history from around the 16th century up till World War 1. Major events or themes are studied – the first arc looks at Imperialism followed by the arc of Revolutions and on Colonialism. Each of these major themes mix with each other given that that’s how history progressed: the trio of Enlightenment, Protestant Reformation and Industrial Revolution at times overlapped and impacted each other to a curiously significant extent. The focus was also drawn on how specific chunks of ‘globalization’ existed prior to the modern form of globalization we now imagine today – global commodities existing in the form of sugar, silver and cotton, global trafficking existing in the form of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Overall, it provides a good foundation for understanding why global governance became perceived in an increasingly favourable perspective following World War 2.

I took this module under Prof Graf who also taught a 4k module on Human Rights and found her to be quite a free-spirited, enthusiastic instructor. She possesses a seemingly uncanny ability to link several remote but related aspects when answering questions posed by students while doing a great job facilitating tutorial discussions, so it was quite enjoyable to take the module with her.

[Webcasted?] Nope.

[Course Materials?] All PDF readings, yay for saving money!

Assessment & Workload

One is assessed as follows:

  1. Tutorial participation: 20%. Surprisingly more competitive in this module than a few other PS modules I’ve taken – made for some fun times, actually.
  2. Take-home Midterms: 25%. 3C1 questions, one just has to write a short essay (~1k words) in answering and they’re given about a week to do so. Not too bad as well.
  3. Term Paper: 25%. Relatively short at a soft cap of 1k words, surprisingly fast to write but one is limited to the knowledge they have from the module’s resources in order to ensure a fair playing field. Familiarity with the readings and tutorial discussions is thus necessary to write this properly.
  4. Final Exam: 30%. Open-book but limited to a single-sided cheatsheet. First section has 20 marks worth of comparative questions while the second section has 60 marks worth of single topic questions. Relatively less stressful especially with the cheatsheet, but the ease of questions makes it difficult to excel from the rest.

The workload for this module is light – at about 50 to 80 pages per week, it can be completed quite quickly in at most an hour every week.

Expected Grade

I was quite disappointed when I received a B for my Term Paper, so I hoped for at least a B+ at the end of the semester.

Actual Grade

Clearly history isn’t my strong suit, then, relative to others at least: I ended up with a B ><. A B that can’t be S/U’d (since GL1101E is its pre-req) and caused my CAP to drop like a rock…

Conclusion & Tips

As it’s a mandatory module for GL minors and majors to take, not much can be said in the way of recommending it to those that don’t fall into either category. One could actually consider taking it if they didn’t mind the potential for a bad grade and had some interest in world history studied from the perspective of globalization, but for some, the light workload may not be worth risking their CAP (particularly since it can’t be S/U’d).

  1. Given that it’s primarily a history module (or a global studies module teaching history), it would be good to adopt a ‘history’ mindset/lens when studying this module. Precisely what that means, I’m not too sure (as evidenced by my bad grade for this module), but maybe asking one’s friends or the Prof how they should approach the module would help.
  2. For the finals, we were encouraged to focus on studying connections, similarities and differences between particular phases of globalization and avoid being tied down on specific events. Perhaps drawing these analytical connections would serve one well in their exploration of this module.
  3. Perhaps one of the few modules that study groups help more than they hinder, if one’s able to find like-minded students for this endeavour.

No materials to preview unfortunately 😦

Here are some of my personal notes though ^^

One thought on “Review of GL2101 – Origins of the Modern World

  1. Pingback: Review of PS4882A – Topics in IR: Globalization, Security, and the State | Ramblings of Roe

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