Critics of Empire: Sources (HIH3182)

StaffDr Marc Palen - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesCritics of Empire: Context
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and student-led seminars, students will come away with a sophisticated understanding of the interrelationship between theories of imperialism and the global capitalist system. The sources to be examined include correspondence, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, conference and organizational records, speeches, novels, poetry, and government documents, focussing on the context of the British and American Empires. They will also learn to present some of these complex issues to the rest of the class by leading a seminar in the second half of the course. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the different sources available for the study of theories of imperialism, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow theories of imperialism across the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Do independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

The module will examine a wide array of sources relating to theories of imperialism, focusing upon the critics of imperialism—anti-colonial nationalists, cosmopolitans, anti-imperialists, pacifists, feminists, Marxists, non-Marxists—within the context of the British and American Empires.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4422 x 2 hour seminars.
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course.1-6, 8Oral from tutor and fellow students.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totaling 4,000 words1-7Verbal and written.
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal and written.

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation1-8

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Anthony Brewer, Marxist Theories of Imperialism: A Critical Survey (Routledge, 1980).

Martin Ceadel, Semi-Detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945 (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Gregory Claeys, Imperial Sceptics: British Critics of Empire 1850-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Michael Doyle, Empires (Cornell University Press, 1986).

Norman Etherington, Theories of Imperialism: War, Conquest, andCapital (London, 1984).

David S. Patterson, Toward a Warless World: The Travail of the American Peace Movement, 1887-1914 (Indiana University Press, 1977).

Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960 (University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire: British Radical Attitudes to Colonialism in Africa 1895-1914 (Macmillan, 1968).

Leila J. Rupp, Worlds of Women: The Making of an International Women’s Movement (Princeton University Press, 1997).

Bernard Semmel, The Liberal Ideal and the Demons of Empire: Theories of Imperialism from Adam Smith to Lenin (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

Ian Tyrrell and Jay Sexton, Empire’s Twin: U.S. Anti-Imperialism from the Founding Era to the Age of Terrorism (Cornell University Press, 2015).

Penny M. Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Cornell University Press, 1997).

W. A. Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (1959).

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Empire; Imperialism; Critics