Critical Approaches to Imperial and Global History (HISM003)

StaffDr Julia Leikin - Lecturer
Dr Hao Gao - Lecturer
Dr Silvia Espelt-Bombin - Lecturer
Dr Marc Palen - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce students to key themes, methods and analytical frameworks in the study of imperial and global history. It will enable students to think critically about key methods and techniques used by historians—and scholars in related disciplines—to analyse and interpret issues of imperialism and globalisation. It will give students the skills necessary to review scholarly books and articles in imperial and global history, and to produce critical writing assessing key themes, approaches and methods.


The module draws on, and introduces students to, the expertise of the Centre for Imperial and Global History (CIGH) at the University of Exeter. As such, the exact content of the module will vary each year to reflect the expertise of members of the CIGH. Geographical areas covered may include, but are not limited to: the British Empire; the American Empire; the Mughal Empire; the Chinese Empire; the French Empire; the Soviet Empire.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and evaluate the main themes and approaches in the study of imperial and global history
  • 2. Possess detailed knowledge of the key historiographical and theoretical debates informing the study of imperial and global history
  • 3. Assess critically the role of primary sources in informing the study of imperial and global history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 5. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates, and recognise the differences between different approaches and source types.
  • 6. Develop practical research skills in the primary and secondary evidence.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate capacity for independent critical research, study and thought, including developing the ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 8. Work as an individual and with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way.
  • 9. Apply key bibliographical skills to independent study.

Syllabus plan

The course will be taught primarily through weekly seminars, each of which will focus on key themes and approaches to imperial and global history. The precise topics and approaches examined in these seminars will vary each year, and will reflect expertise of the Centre for Imperial and Global History at Exeter. Seminar topics may include, but are not limited to:


Political Economies of Empire

Empire at Home

Race and Ethnicity


Violence, Collaboration, and Resistance

Rhetoric and Colonial Discourses

Decolonisation and Neo-imperialisms

Gender and Sexuality

Migration, Diaspora and Networks

Humanitarianism and Development


Subaltern Studies


Transnational and Global Histories

Dependency & World Systems Theories

Anthropology and Ethnography

Colonial Knowledge

Colonial Science, Technology and Medicine

Exhibition and Museum Culture

Theories of the Imperial/Colonial State

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 activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study278Independent Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan2-sides A4 maximum1-9Verbal and written feedback

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
Book Review332,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback
Essay674,000 words1-9Written and verbal feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book Review331-9Referral/deferral period.
Essay671-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 1,000 book review and 4,000 word essay as in the original assessment.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

John Darwin, After Tamarlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires (London, 2008)

Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2002)

C. A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford, 2003)

Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, 2010)

Michael Doyle, Empires (Cornell UP, 1986)

Herfried Münkler, Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States (Cambridge: Polity, 2007)

Emily Rosenberg (ed.), A World Connecting, 1870-1945: A History of the World (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2012)

Antoinette Burton, Dwelling in the Archive: Women Writing House, Home, and History in Late Colonial India (Oxford: OUP, 2003)

Antoinette Burton, Empire in Question: Reading, Writing and Teaching British Imperialism, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011)

Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley and Los Angeles: California University Press, 2002)

Jennifer Cole, Forget Colonialism: Sacrifice and the Art of Memory in Madagascar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 2004)

Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)

Frantz Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks (1952)

Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington: Howard University Press, 1981)

Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley: University of California, 2001).

Frederick Cooper, 'What is the Concept of Globalization Good for? An African Historian's Perspective,' African Affairs, Vol. 100, No. 39 (2001), pp.189-213

Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley; University of Californai Press, 2005).

David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley; LA; London: University of California Press, 1993)

Akhil Gupta, ‘Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State’, American Ethnologist, Vol. 22, No. 2 (May, 1995), pp. 375-402

Michael Barnett, Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (2011)

Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn, eds., Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum (1998)

Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)

Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995)

R C Dutt, The Economic History of India (London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1906)

Ranajit Guha & Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak(eds.), Selected Subaltern Studies (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988)

James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Africa Through a Lens

British Museum Online Collection

Centre for Imperial and Global History Exeter Podcasts

Colonial Film Database

Foreign Broadcast Information Service

Global Commodities

Pitt Rivers Museum

Sudan Archive at Durham

Visualising China

Wellcome Images

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Imperialism, globalization, imperial history, global history, historiography