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Undergraduate Courses

studentsThe Department has expanded its undergraduate teaching commitments over the years, in response to a exponential increase in its student numbers. While it is sometimes assumed that the choice of ‘Political Science’ as the name of the emerging department in the 1960s, rather than ‘Politics’ or ‘Government’, was a statement about where the department saw itself in relation to contemporary international debates about how the study of politics should be carried out, in fact the title simply represented a continuation of long-existing terminology within Trinity going back to the nineteenth century. In this tradition, ‘political science’ denoted the study of politics as a discipline or branch of study in itself, as distinct from disciplines such as history or economics, rather than implying an allegiance to any particular methodological paradigm, such as a specifically social scientific approach. The term 'Political Science' appeared in Trinity College first in 1855; at this time the major event taking place in Europe was the Crimean War, the alleged mishandling of which led to a change of prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from Lord Aberdeen to Lord Palmerston; the Democrat Franklin Pierce was President of the USA; in France, the 'emperor' Louis Napoleon was in the seventh year of his rule, and the Gare de Lyon was built as part of Baron Haussmann's reconstruction of Paris; the unification of Germany and of Italy still lay more than a decade in the future; and in Ireland, while there were no dramatic political developments, the aftermath of the famine was still strongly felt, with an estimated 70,000 people emigrating, down from a peak of 250,000 in 1847.

The Trinity College Calendar for 1855–56 announced the establishment of a 'fifth Moderatorship' in History, Political Science and English Literature, and the first cohort to take the prescribed final-year modules graduated in 1856. In 1873 this degree became a Moderatorship in History and Political Science. By 1910 it was also possible to obtain a Moderatorship in Legal and Political Science. The 1913 final-year exam paper for 'Political and Economic Science', which was a module within the Legal and Political Science programme, is shown here. In 1924 the History and Political Science degree programme was expanded into a Moderatorship in Ancient History and Political Science and a Moderatorship in Modern History and Political Science, with a good deal of overlap between the two; in the 1932–33 academic year a Moderatorship in Economics and Political Science was introduced, with the first students to complete the programme being conferred with their degrees in December 1935; and in 1964 the combination of history and politics was rationalised into a new degree of History and Political Science. For admission to this programme students were required to have a matriculation qualification in Latin and another language, a requirement unlikely to be reinstated any time soon.

During the period between the appointment of Olive Armstrong in 1934 and the arrival of Basil Chubb in 1948 (see Staff page) the books used, as listed in the annual Trinity Calendar, were a mixture of the modern and the 'classic'. The latter included A. Lawrence Lowell, Governments and Parties in Continental Europe (1896); Sir Frederick Pollock, An Introduction to the History of the Science of Politics (1890); and Henry Sidgwick's posthumously-published The Development of European Polity (1903). More contemporary items included Sir Ivor Jennings, Cabinet Government (1936); Arthur Berriedale Keith, Governments of the British Empire (1935); Harold Laski, Introduction to Politics (1931); Nicholas Mansergh, The Irish Free State: its government and politics (1934); Robert Henry Murray, The History of Political Science from Plato to the Present (1929); Michael Oakeshott, Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe (1941); and Kenneth Wheare, The Statute of Westminster and Dominion Status (1938).

There is no doubt that Political Science was very much the junior partner in all of the degree programmes in which it featured, and indeed the subject is not even mentioned in McDowell and Webb's Trinity College Dublin 1592–1952: an academic history (Cambridge University Press, 1982). The University of Dublin Calendar for 1960–61, for example, by which stage a de facto Department of Political Science existed (as discussed in the Staff section), gives the syllabus for Modern History and Political Science, and shows that there were no Political Science courses (or modules, in post-2012 terminology) in either JF or SF year (1st year and 2nd year in non-Trinity parlance). The predominance of History was attenuated slightly in JS year (3rd year), where Political Science supplied the module 'History of Political Thought in Europe', while in SS year (the 4th and final year) the offerings were solidly from History apart from one module titled 'Problems in Modern Political and Social Philosophy'. There was a slightly greater Political Science contribution to the Economics and Political Science degree programme, with a JF module titled 'Social and political institutions' and a SF module on 'Public administration'. In JS and SS the same modules as in History and Political Science were available, as well as, in SS, a module on 'Vocational representation'.

In the 1961–62 Calendar the SS module 'Problems in Modern Political and Social Philosophy' had been replaced by 'Contemporary political theories', a module that has survived and thrived for over 60 years. Political Science retained its marginal role in the Modern History and Political Science degree, with the only modules specifically flagged as being supplied by Political Science throughout the 1960s being the two political theory modules, History of political thought in JS year (also a long-term survivor, though now taught in SF) and Contemporary political theories in SS. Among the History sophister offerings were 'Working-class movements, 1864–1914', which was taught by David Thornley, and 'The evolution of parliaments in western Europe', though the latter was not offered after 1966–67. In short, the Modern History and Political Science degree and the History and Political Science degree were, despite their names, basically History degrees that simply included two modules on political theory supplied by Political Science.

The degree in 'History and Political Science' gradually faded away; it appears under that name for the last time in the 1970–71 Calendar. In the two following Calendars the relevant section is titled 'School of History', though those who scoured the small print of the section would find a couple of references to 'history and political science' buried in the text. Even these were absent from the 1973–74 Calendar; now, the two political theory modules taught by Political Science were merely options for students taking a History degree. The dropping of 'and Political Science' from the name of the degree was simply a recognition of the reality that students graduating from the programme had studied very little political science during their four years in Trinity and could not really claim much familiarity with the field, unlike graduates from the very different History and Political Science programme that was to be introduced in 1990.

As from 1963–4 the module offerings in the Economics and Political Science degree programme began to grow. Political Science in Trinity was defining itself more as a part of the social sciences than as an adjunct to History, in line, as Patrick Keatinge observes, with world-wide trends. By this time, the department offered 'Political institutions 1' in JF and 'Political institutions 2' in SF year. In JS two new modules appear, 'Development of political thought' and 'International political institutions', the latter reflecting the appointment of Patrick Keatinge as a junior lecturer in September 1963 (see Staff page). In SS year there were 'Political theory 1', 'Political theory 2' and a third dose of 'Political institutions'. In addition, by the middle of the decade the department was making minor contributions to the Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS) and Bachelor of Social Studies (BSS) degrees, though usually this did not extend beyond a single module in 'Political institutions'.

The modules supplied in the Economics and Political Science degree became more diverse as from 1968–69; now, there was a JF module titled 'The government and politics of Ireland and the United Kingdom', an SF module titled 'History of political thought', JS modules on 'Government and politics of France’ and ‘International political institutions’, and SS modules titled ‘Contemporary political theories’ and ‘Comparative government'. Even so, the balance in the Economics and Political Science degree programme was approximately 75–25 in favour of the former subject. As from the 1970–71 academic year, this degree was in effect subsumed into the Moderatorship in Economic and Social Studies. While there was undoubtedly a certain logic to this, it meant that for the next twenty years the name 'Political Science' was not mentioned in the title of any degree programme, an unwelcome low profile for the subject and for the department that did not assist in the recruitment of undergraduates as it may have created the impression among some school-leavers considering their third-level options that political science was not among the subjects that could be studied at Trinity.

In 1969–70 'Government and politics of France' was replaced by a module with the magnificently Hibernocentric title of 'Modern foreign governments', a title that did not do justice to the genuine interest in both political and academic developments in the wider world that was taken by the department's staff at this time. The recruitment of Ron Hill in 1969 (see Staff page) gave the department a new expertise in the communist world, especially the Soviet Union, and was marked by the introduction during the 1970s of modules in 'Government and politics of the USSR', 'Soviet society', and 'Soviet government'. The impact of Michael Marsh's arrival in 1973 (see Staff page) was apparent in the appearance of modules such as 'West European politics and government', 'Measuring political behaviour', 'Quantitative political and social analysis', and 'European political movements'. The behaviourist revolution had arrived in Trinity. Perhaps surprisingly, there was no dedicated module in 'Irish politics' until 1978, when it was taught as a JS module by Basil Chubb, and subsequently by Michael Gallagher until 2021.

The geographical range of departmental teaching was widened further by the inclusion in the JF 'Introduction to political science' course of a 7-week module on 'The politics of West Africa', taught from the late 1970s through to the mid-1990s first by Michael Marsh and then by Michael Gallagher. The strongest recollection of students from that time seems to be not anything about the substance of the lectures but the politically relevant music played by Gallagher during lectures, notably 'Jah Houphouet' by the Ivorian musician Alpha Blondy (a speech by Cote d'Ivoire president Felix Houphouet-Boigny over a backing track) and 'Candidat na Biso Mobutu' (Mobutu, candidate of the people) by Franco (still probably the most famous African guitarist even though he died as long ago as 1989) and the TPOK Jazz, written in support of the Zairean president / dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in the 1984 presidential election campaign; this track, together with the fact that he was the sole candidate permitted by law, enabled him to secure re-election with a claimed 100 per cent of the vote. More recently the department has been able to offer a final-year module in African politics, taught successively by Shane Mac Giollabhui, Clionadh Raleigh, Christian Houle and Michelle D'Arcy. It also expanded its teaching in EU Politics through Raj Chari and Robert Thomson.

From the early 1990s, a number of new degree programmes have been introduced; in some cases, probably unbeknownst to the designers of the new degree programmes, these were in effect a reinstatement, albeit with very different content, of programmes that had been in existence in earlier decades. In 1990, a new programme, History and Political Science, was introduced, with Philosophy and Political Science following in 1995. In each case the two disciplines were equal partners in the degree programmes, in contrast to the earlier 'History and Political Science' degree programmes. History and Political Science continues to flourish, though PhilPol has now been subsumed into the PPES (Philosophy, Political Science, Economics and Sociology) degree, introduced in 2008, through which students can study these two subjects, or any other combination, together. Two further programmes began in October 2009: Law and Political Science, and Political Science and Geography. The first cohort in both of these programmes graduated in the summer of 2013. Students are still able to study History, Law or Geography (as well as Social Studies) in combination with Political Science, though these options are now part of the Joint Honors programme rather than being designated as separate standalone programmes. Full details are on the Undergraduate Courses page.

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