Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

In this unit, students will explore key themes in western history, including European interactions with other cultures and traditions, and scholarly debates concerning the concepts of 'the west' and 'western civilisation'. Against this historical backdrop students will also engage with a range of modern thinkers whose work demonstrates the essential value of a liberal arts education within the western tradition. They will practice and reflect upon the skills of textual analysis and rational argumentation that operate within this tradition and come to appreciate how an education in the liberal arts fosters democratic citizenship, emphasises human dignity, and promotes the notion of the public good in challenging times.

The aim of this unit is to develop students' understanding of the history and historiography of western civilisation and of the liberal arts tradition, and to build students' skills in analysis, critical reading and communication.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe key themes, developments and debates in western history (GA5)

LO2 - Identify major contemporary theories of the liberal arts (GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Communicate ideas and arguments clearly in written and/or oral form (GA9) 

LO4 - Use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary sources to develop an evidence-based narrative or argument (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA10)

LO5 - Apply critical reading skills to the understanding of the history of the west and/or modern theories of the liberal arts (GA4, GA5).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  • An overview of the major currents and epochs of western history  
  • Key themes in western history and their relation to traditions in philosophy, art and literature in the creation of western identity  
  • Historical interactions between western and non-western cultures and traditions   
  • Major debates concerning the concept of the west and western civilisation 
  • Interpretations of the meaning and significance of liberal arts education 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

In line with the agreement between ACU and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, classes are run in attendance mode for seminar/ tutorial groups of ten students. Students are expected to have read the texts prior to attending class and, on that basis, there will be a strong focus on shared analysis.

These seminars will be driven by a broadly ‘Socratic’ approach to thinking and discussion, by which texts are examined through a guided process of question and response informed by close readings of the texts. Such discussions include implications for contemporary thought. In this way, high level skills in textual analysis, conceptual evaluation, and clear verbal and written expression will be taught, skills that are of great demand in the professional workplace.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The assessment tasks are linked in a developmentally progressive sequence with the later assessment tasks given more weighting than the earlier ones since students’ knowledge and understanding of the unit should increase over time and thus, they should be better able to do well on the set task. The reading-related task/s will be a relatively lightly-weighted assessment task to assess students’ ability to identify and discuss ideas and content related to specific readings. It is designed to be diagnostic (since this is an introductory unit) and formative. It will begin in the first half of the semester with initial feedback made available to students by, at the latest, the end of week 6. The Research Task requires students to identify relevant and suitable historical resources in response to a set question, and to apply analysis and discussion skills developed in the first assessment to construct an evidence-based historical argument or narrative. The Summative Task requires students to demonstrate knowledge of the unit as a whole, their ability to synthesise and apply that knowledge, and the acquisition of level-appropriate written communication and analysis skills


The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for first year studies of Western Civilisation.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reading-Related Task 

This task gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to identify key knowledge and historical debates within set scholarly historical readings and communicate their findings.


LO1, LO2

GA5, GA8

Research Task

This task allows students to demonstrate their ability to identify key resources related to a set topic and apply critical reading skills to construct an historical argument or narrative.


LO1, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA10

Summative Task 

This task enables students to demonstrate the skills, understanding and knowledge they have acquired and/or developed over the course of the unit.



GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8, GA9, GA1

Representative texts and references

Bate, J. ed. (2011). The Public Value of the Humanities. London Bloomsbury Academic.

Daly, J. (2015). Historians Debate the Rise of the West. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ferguson, N. (2012). Civilisation: The West and the Rest. New York: Penguin.

Goody, J. (2007). The Theft of History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gress, D. (2004). From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and its Opponents. New York: The Free Press.

Hobson, J. M. (2004). The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nussbaum, M (1998). Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Nussbaum, M. (2010). Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Said, E. (2003). Orientalism. New York: Penguin.

Smith, H. (2013). The Value of the Humanities. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

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