Empires (HIH3631)

StaffDr Gajendra Singh - Convenor
Dr David Thackeray - Lecturer
- Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to enhance students’ understanding of recurring themes in the history of empire and imperialism over a time scale extending from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century.  It will be taught by two or three different tutors, and exact chronological and thematic focus will depend on which tutors are teaching the module in any given year. By close specialist evaluation of key topics such as conquest, commerce, political authority, resistance, law, social networks, religion and cultural imperialism in settings as various as the Qing dynasty in China, the Mughal empire in India, the Ottoman Empire, the Dutch East Indies and French Indochina,  British mandates the Middle East, Belgian and Portuguese colonial Africa, the Russian empire in Eastern Central Europe, Japanese imperialism in east Asia and modern American ‘neo-imperialism’, students will trace key developments in the subject, and think about these comparatively across time and space. 
The module will also introduce students to the approaches of different disciplines, such as law, anthropology, geography and political theory, and to a variety of different historical source materials, such as government reports, legal documents, newspapers, art and memoirs. By using a combination of tutor-led seminars and lectures, student-led seminars and independent study, the module will enable students to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of taking a comparative approach to the study of empire and imperialism.  In this way students will learn to draw thematic comparisons between material from different sources, show awareness of contrasting approaches to research, and demonstrate an enhanced understanding of some of the philosophical questions arising from research into large historical themes.  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. Analyse developments in the history of empire and imperialism and compare its relationship to other phenomena such as globalization, modernization, democratization and authoritarianism across a variety of historical time-periods and contexts.
  • 2. Compare and explain key historiographical developments in the history of empire and imperialism across different societies and periods, and relate them to an overall conception of the subject.
  • 3. Evaluate carefully and critically the approaches that historians and scholars working in other disciplines have taken to empires and imperialism.
  • 4. Define suitable research topics for independent study/student-led seminars in the history of empires and imperialism, evaluating different and complex types of historical source and historiography.
  • 5. Demonstrate the possibilities and limitations of comparative methodological approaches in historical research more generally.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse the key developments in complex and unfamiliar political, social, cultural or intellectual environments.
  • 7. Identify and deploy correct terminology in a comprehensible manner; use primary sources in a professional manner; present work in the format expected of historians, including footnoting and bibliographical references.
  • 8. Assess critically different approaches to history in a contested area.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Work both in a team and independently.
  • 10. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 11. As a team, lead a group discussion of a historical topic.

Syllabus plan

The module will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutor-led seminars and student-led seminars.  The lectures will focus on worked examples or case studies from the tutor’s own area of specialism and suggest questions and themes which could be explored comparatively by the students themselves.  The seminars will explore particular issues in more depth, through case studies or discussion of particular sources and historiographical debates.  They will also lay the foundations for the student-led seminars in the second half of the course. 
There will be five tutor-led seminars at the start of the course covering methodological and conceptual issues relating to empires and imperialism case studies, and set-up for student-led seminars.  
In the second half of the course there will be five 2-hour seminars led by groups of 2 or 3 students on topics chosen from a menu offered by tutors. Topics will vary according to tutor availability and student choice.  
 At the end of the module a concluding session will discuss overarching issues and comparative points.
Potential lecture topics include (these will vary depending on staff expertise): 
Introductions: context and questions 
Conquest and Colonization 
Political Authority and Ideology 
Commerce, Finance and Trade 
Law, Governance and Empire 
Indigenous Elites and Intermediaries 
Citizens and Subjects
Resistance and Repression 
Cultural Imperialism 
Decolonization and the End of Empires 
Neo-imperialism and Post-colonialism
Potential seminar topics include (these will vary depending on staff expertise)
Slavery and Citizenship 
Missionaries and Religious Conversion 
Imperial Armies and Strategies of Violence
Migration, Labour and Diasporas
Sex and Sexualities
Symbols of Empire: Maps, Flags and Monuments
Technology, Medicine and Empire 
Empire, Art and Literature
Race and Ethnicity 
Memory and Heritage

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 activities1111x 1 hour lectures.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities126 x 2 hour tutor led seminars.
Scheduled learning and teaching activities105 x 2 hour seminars each led by a group of 2 or 3 students. Topics should be chosen from a menu of subjects agreed in advance by tutors. While tutors give guidance and a basic reading list, students are responsible for designing seminar activities and identifying further reading materials.
Guided independent study267Students prepare for seminars, essay, final report and exam through reading and research; they also work in groups to lead seminars based on projects that have been developed.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan500 words1-8, 10Verbal and written

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
Essay303,000 Words1-8, 10Written and verbal
Student led seminar302 hours 1-11Written and verbal
Seen, open-note exam402 questions in 2 hours1-8, 10Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8, 10Referral/deferral period
Student led seminarSeminar plan and reading list corresponding to one student’s contribution to the group seminar (c.45 minutes)1-11Referral/deferral period
Seen open-note examSeen open-note exam1-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Bhabha, H. K. The Location of Culture (London, 1994). 
Burbank, J.  and F. Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, 2010). 
Cain, P. J. and A. G. Hopkins, British Imperialism 1688-2000 2nd ed. (Harlow, 2001).
Darwin, J. After Tamarlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires (London, 2008). 
Duara, P. Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchuko and the East Asian Modern (Lanham, 2003). 
Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth (New York, 1968).  
McClintock, A. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York, 1995). 
Said, E. Orientalism (London, 1978). 
Said, E. Culture and Imperialism (London, 1993).
Stoler, A. L. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (New York, 2002). 
Thomas, M., B. Moore and L. J. Butler, Crises of Empire: Decolonization and Europe’s Imperial States, 1918-75 (London, 2008).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Africa Through a Lens https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/africa/ 
British Library Images Online https://imagesonline.bl.uk/ 
British Museum Online Collection http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx 
Centre for Imperial and Global History Exeter Podcasts http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/research/centres/imperialandglobal/podcasts/ 
Colonial Film Database http://www.colonialfilm.org.uk/ 
Foreign Broadcast Information Service http://infoweb.newsbank.com 
Global Commodities http://www.globalcommodities.amdigital.co.uk/ 
Library of Congress Digital Collection http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html 
National Archives Online http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/Home/OnlineCollections 
National Library of Australia Digital Collections https://www.nla.gov.au/digicoll/ 
Pitt Rivers Museum http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/vcollections.html 
Sudan Archive at Durham https://www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc/sudan/ 
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces 
Visualising China http://visualisingchina.net/ 
Wellcome Images http://wellcomeimages.org/ 
World Digital Library http://www.wdl.org/en/

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Key words search

Empire, imperialism, colonialism, political authority, commerce, law, violence, citizenship