Centre for Continuing Education

Revolutions that Changed the World Course

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at CCE, The University of Sydney.


From antiquity to modern times, revolutions have shaken the world. At times revolutionaries won extraordinary victories, at other times suffered shattering defeat. This history course sheds light on successes and failures of major revolutions in the modern history, from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Arab Spring in 2011. Discuss the introduction of new ideologies, such as of Liberalism, Marxism, and Political Islam, through history of the Revolution in China, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Meiji Restoration in Japan, and the 1978 Revolution in Iran. Look at the major theories of revolution, understanding the driving force behind the revolutionary waves, the role of revolutionary leaders, the policies and practices of revolutionary change, and the impact of revolutions on regional and global order. Finally, observe the reasons for various revolutionary outcomes, from democracy to civil war and authoritarian rule, and the possible future of revolutions to change the exciting political and social order.


Upon completion of this history course, you should be able to:

  1. Understand the formation of various revolutionary ideologies, e.g. Marxism, Liberalism and Political Islam.
  2. Explain social, political, economic, and cultural factors that preceded revolutionary process in different parts of the world.
  3. Identify the legacy and global impact of various revolutions.
  4. Engage in political discussions on current issues related to the Middle Eastern revolutions.
  5. Adopt a comparative historical and analytic approach.


This history course covers the following topics:

What is a revolution?

  • Revolutionary processes, leaders and outcomes.
  • Revolutions in the ancient world, the Renaissance and the Reformation.

The French Revolution 1789 and its legacy

  • Pre-revolutionary political and economic situation in France.
  • The symbolism of the revolution.

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 in Japan

  • The fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the revival of monarchy.
  • Creation of the modern nation-state of Japan.

The 1911 Revolution in China

  • The overthrow of the Manchu dynasty.
  • The revolutionary ideology of Sun Yat Sen.
  • On the road to the communist revolution and Maoism.

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

  • The legacy of the revolution for the rest of the world: the past and present of Communism.

The Islamic Revolution of 1978 in Iran

  • Legacy of the revolution and the Political Islam and its future.
  • Religious and cultural complications of the revolution in the Cold War context.

The Arab Spring: the series of revolutions in the Middle East

  • Evaluation of the uprising in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Libya in historical and contemporary political perspectives.
  • Prospects for the future of the region.

The future of the revolutions

Recommended Reading

  • Arendt, H. (2006) On Revolution, Penguin Classics.
  • Goldstone, J.A. (1993) Revolutions and Rebellions in the Early Modern World, New York: University of California Press.
  • Scospol, T. (1979) States and Social Revolutions: a Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tilly, C. (1996) European Revolutions 1492 – 1992: Making of Europe, London: Willey-Blackwell.
  • Trotsky, L. (1980) History of the Russian Revolution, London: Pathfinder.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion

What others say.

  • A fantastic lecturer, obviously an expert in the field and they really made each topic covered come alive. I could have listened to them for hours, and hope to do another of their courses soon.

  • The course was a great overview of revolutions that have changed the world, and the tutor’s capacity to be across the detail of each weeks topics was impressive, as was their enthusiasm for the study of history.

  • Course was action packed. Tutor got through an enormous amount of information, and was passionate, knowledgeable and stimulating. Excellent.

  • A very good presenter, friendly, engaging and extremely knowledgeable.

  • The breadth and depth of the tutor’s knowledge was amazing and inspiring! Very engaging.

  • The course was extremely informative and the tutor had great knowledge and a genuine love for the topics.

  • This course was a great introduction to modern history. An excellent tutor, very knowleadgable and engaging.

  • The course was fantastic and the tutor did an amazing job in making complex information easy to understand.