Colonial Conflict and Decolonization 1918-1975: Context (HIH3251)

StaffProfessor Martin Thomas - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits in History at level 1 and/or level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3250 (Sources)
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will analyse the conflicts and pressures – social, economic, cultural and political – that contributed to European withdrawals from empire in the half century after the First World War. It will concentrate on four centres of European colonial power: North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia); sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. Geographically, the inter-war period marked the zenith of European colonial power. Yet if anything, the ‘imperial trajectory’ of colonial powers was downward. Imperial decline became more widely anticipated as the material costs of colonial control surged ahead. Imperialistic visions of empires reborn after the shattering experience of the First World War were at odds with the impoverishment of colonial populations, the growth of organised anti-colonial nationalism, the failure of reform projects, and the limited impact of popular imperialism on domestic populations. Students will be asked to question the parts played by Europeans and indigenous peoples in shaping the course of decolonization. Key issues addressed include the role of organised colonial nationalism in decolonization, the importance of empire in European politics and culture, and the development of colonial conflicts after 1945. Concepts of decolonization, the colonial state, transfers of power, and neo-colonialism will be explored through case-studies of individual colonies.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop a broad and detailed knowledge of the different meanings attached to key concepts in European decolonization in the modern period
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independant study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within the history of decolonization
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues
  • 5. Understand and apply historical theories of imperialism
  • 6. Follow shifting, and often complex, colonial discourse across the period

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

The module will investigate the following subjects: European empires after the First World War; inter-war colonial reform and methods of rule; popular imperialism in Britain and France; colonialism and international politics; the Second World War and colonial change; constitutional renovation and post-war decolonization; colonial conflicts and ‘popular liberation struggles’ in Africa and Asia.

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 activities44Seminars (22x2hr)
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7, 9Verbal 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
Essay253000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen Exam502 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written
Essay253000 words1-8verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Two essaysTwo essays1-8Referral/deferral period.
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Robert Aldrich, Greater France. A History of French Overseas Expansion (London: Macmillan, 1996) 

Tony Chafer, The End of Empire in West Africa. France’s Successful Decolonization? (Oxford: Berg, 2002) 

Alice L. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize. The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford University Press, 1997) 

Matthew Connolly, A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era (Oxford University Press, 2002). 

John Darwin, Britain and Decolonization. The Retreat from Empire in the Post-War World (London: Macmillan, 1988) 

Prasenjit Duara, Decolonization. Perspectives from Now and Then (London: Routledge, 2004). 

Martin Thomas, Fight or Flight: Britain, France sand their Roads from Empire (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Martin Thomas, Bob Moore & L. J. Butler, Crises of Empire: Decolonisation and Europe’s Imperial States, 1918-1975 (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)

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