Faculty of Arts

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2015 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Arts
Organisational UnitHistory
OfferedNot offered in 2015
Coordinator(s)Annabelle Baldwin


For much of the 20th century, the exploits of gangsters have been constantly re-imagined in books, music, film, radio, and television. In popular culture and the news media, gangsters are often either portrayed as rogues resisting the intrusive state, or as villains who commit heinous crimes. But beneath the veneer of sensationalism, gangsters have had a much more complex relationship with states and societies. Just what makes a gangster, and what do gangsters tell us about the societies that cast them as such? This unit will explore the very idea of the gangster in modern history. Using case studies from the United States, Britain, China, and Japan, we will track the emergence of the idea of the gangster as a contemporary character in world history.


On successful completion of this unit, students will:

  1. Have a deep understanding of the history of twentieth century organised crime and gangsterism
  2. Understand the complex nature of gangsters' relationships with states and societies
  3. Recognise the historical and contemporary contexts in which gangsterism emerges and flourishes
  4. Understand the relationship between the romanticisation of gangsters and the state of society
  5. Develop the capacity to analyse the meaning of popular sources such as film
  6. Become familiar with the research skills and methods of social and cultural historians
  7. Have further developed their oral and written communication skills
  8. Have experience working with a range of textual, visual, and material historical sources


Within semester assessment: 65%
Exam: 35%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units.