England.  Change location


Qualification dates
Start End

What makes a revolution? Why does the world suddenly change, and what are the consequences? In this module, you'll examine four periods of swift and radical change: the Reformation, the French Revolution, the aftermath of World War I, and the 1960s. You’ll look at each from the perspectives of History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies, discovering how these disciplinary approaches complement each other and enhance your understanding of continuity and change. In the final part, you'll return to the discipline that most interests you and study a topic or period in greater depth.

What you will study

Revolutions looks at modern societies during moments of seismic change. It asks why revolutions happen, what it was like to live through them, and what their consequences were. In doing so, it helps you to understand how different aspects of the modern world were formed.

Over the course of the module, you'll study four key points in the modern world when everything seemed to change. Each of these periods will be examined through the perspectives of four different subject areas, History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies, helping you to understand how these disciplines both differ from and complement one other in their approach to ideas, events and people. You'll then have the chance to research a particular revolutionary topic or period in more depth, using the tools and techniques of the discipline you intend to specialise in or study next.

This module is divided into five blocks:

Reformation and Print
In this first block, you’ll be introduced to the module’s four disciplinary approaches through two major and interconnected developments from the early modern period: the Protestant Reformation and the invention of printing. The Reformation shattered the unity of the medieval Catholic church and led to centuries of conflict as well as far-reaching changes in religion, society and culture. At the same time, the rise of printing (often called the print revolution) made knowledge, ideas, opinions and even music available to both rich and poor on a scale previously unimaginable. You'll consider how those fundamental changes to both technologies and ways of thinking altered Europe – and beyond – in ways that still reverberate today.

The French Revolution
In Block 2, you'll look at the event which created the modern concept of a revolution: the French Revolution. In this period, French society was comprehensively remodelled, whilst the overthrow of the French monarchy sent shockwaves across Europe. You'll learn about how the idealism and the violence of the revolutionary period was experienced by ordinary people. You'll also look at the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which lay behind many of the revolutionaries’ ideals. The block also considers the impact of the revolution on the life and the music of Ludwig van Beethoven and on the radical new ideas about the nature of religion found in the writings of Auguste Comte and Henri Saint-Simon.

Revolutions and the First World War
In this third block, you'll learn about the turmoil created by the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen, including social crisis, political radicalism, and the collapse of European empires. The block considers the revolutions in Russia in 1917 and Germany in 1918. You'll also look at the philosophy of Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin, whose ideas lay behind these revolutions, and explore the music of Igor Stravinsky to see how the dramatic events of these post-war years affected his compositions. Finally, you'll look at the role of religion in the revolutionary changes that occurred in Ireland in the aftermath of the First World War.

The 1960s
This block looks at a different kind of revolution, focusing on the social and cultural changes of the 1960s in Europe and the USA, examining these in a much wider global context in an age of satellites and television. This was a period in which many aspects of contemporary life were challenged. You will explore themes such as the Civil Rights Movement in the USA and the rise of youth culture and hippies. You'll also learn about the rise of female pop and soul stars and the implications of that development for women’s rights more broadly. In addition, you'll examine the philosophy of existentialism and its links with the student protests of 1968, and you will consider how far the 1960s saw the rise of secular society or the birth of new forms of religion that challenged established beliefs.

Independent Project
In this final eight-week block, you'll choose a single discipline to focus on as you work towards an extended essay on a question of your choice. This gives you the chance to specialise in History, Music, Philosophy or Religious Studies, deepening your knowledge and skills within that discipline. You'll have considerable freedom in how you approach the essay and will begin to do some of your own independent research as you work towards it. This process will help to prepare you for the next step in your learning journey, moving on to OU level 2.

Entry requirements

OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning to help you progress to modules at OU level 2. This module builds on the skills and understandings of relevant arts and humanities subjects developed through the study of Discovering the arts and humanities (A111). We strongly advise you to take A111 first unless you have already completed The arts past and present (AA100), now discontinued.

Successful completion of this module will equip you for more specialised OU level 2 arts and humanities modules. This module focuses on the subject areas of History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies and may therefore be of particular relevance if you intend to study any of these subjects at OU level 2 or beyond.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

The module is presented through a blend of printed and online material. You’ll be provided with three printed module books and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video recordings
  • interactive content
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study materials and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will also support you with the independent study aspects of the module, including one-to-one advice. Tuition will take place online through tutorials and forums. Your tutor will also keep in contact by phone.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A113 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Revolutions starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2028.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Student Reviews

See what other students thought.