Britain, America, and the Global Order, 1846-1946 (HIH1402)

StaffDr Marc Palen - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Through an examination of key readings covering selected historical episodes, students will explore how Britain managed its global empire and rose to preeminence during a period dominated by industrialization, imperial rivalry, and globalisation (growing interconnectedness). Students will conclude with an investigation of how the American Empire came to replace the British in the twentieth century as the leader of the international system. Their findings will not only provide students with a sophisticated understanding of how today's global order arose, but will allow them to more effectively analyse where it is going.  Students will use a range of sources to examine the topic and in doing this will develop their skills in source analysis and research that will provide a foundation for future historical work.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess and understand the development of the British Empire in an age of empires.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of sources for the history of the British Empire.
  • 3. Analyze important episodes concerning British imperial reactions to global events.
  • 4. Interpret, critique, and demonstrate mastery of key primary source texts and documents, and engage with modern assessments of them.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Identify and engage with the problems of using historical sources, e.g. bias, reliability, etc.
  • 6. Master the art of concise historical argumentation, including the use of supporting evidence.
  • 7. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 9. Comprehend and organize material to produce a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment and to a deadline.
  • 10. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 11. Write concisely to limited word-length.

Syllabus plan

1. Introduction: The Empire Project

2. From Mercantilism to Free Trade: Britain and America

3. Britain, America, and the Repeal of the Corn Laws

4. Pax Britannica? Britain and the International Order

5. Rejecting the British Model: The Idea of Greater Britain

6. ‘New’ Imperialism: The European Scramble for Africa

7. British Imperial Federation and the Global Order

8. The China Market: Nationalism and Imperial Rivalry in Asia

9. The British Empire in Crisis

10. A New Global Order

11. Trading Places: The Rise of an American Empire?

The primary aim of this module is to get students working with primary sources: The first class will explain the overall outlines of the subject, providing a framework into which they can then fit the sources they will be studying, as well as explaining the format that the remaining classes will take. In subsequent weeks the class will have been told in advance to prepare an answer in 400-500 words to a question relating to the set texts. Students will be divided into groups. In the class, one member of one group will present their answer to the question; the remaining members of the group will add in anything they think has been missed or which needs further elaboration. The rest of the students will be subdivided into their own groups to determine a question to ask the presenters. Answers will then be given, followed by discussion to develop on key points. Following the discussion and tutor's comments, the students will then self-assess their own work according to a pro- forma, which will then be collected by the tutor for moderation. Finally, the class will end with the tutor outlining the work to be done for the next week's class.

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 activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-4, 6-7, 9Mark and written comments

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
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries60 (15% per commentary)2000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500 word essay1500 word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Eckes, Alfred. Opening America's Market: US Foreign Trade Policy since 1776 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

Howe, Anthony. Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Magee, Gary B. and Andrew Thompson, Empire and Globalisation: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c. 1850-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Porter, Bernard. The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism 1850-2004 (London: Longman,


Thompson, Andrew. The Empire Strikes Back? The Impact of Imperialism on Britain From the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Harlow: Pearson Longman, 2005).

Trentmann, Frank. Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

British Empire, Imperialism, America, Global, Nation, Trade