A Global History of Empires: 1850-1960 - HI436

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 4 15 (7.5) DR A Cohen checkmark-circle


This course explores the history of empires on a global scale. It challenges students to grasp the history of empires by examining their structures, instruments and consequences. The course will cover the expansion of European empires from the end of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, in the age of decolonization. Topics include the conquest of Africa in the age of the so-called 'New Imperialism', the French and British Civilizing missions in Africa and Asia, the emergence of modern ideas of race, immigration, freedom struggles in Asia and Africa, and postcolonial cultural and political developments across the world. It will provide students with a critical historical knowledge of imperialism and globalisation and enable them to form a deep understanding of the postcolonial world.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

This module will be taught through one 1-hour lecture and one 1-hour seminar each week, with the exception of Enhancement Week and one week that will be dedicated to coursework feedback.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by:

- Essay 1 (1,500 words) - 20%
- Essay 2 (1,500 words) - 20%
- Oral Mark (7-8 minutes) - 10%
- Examination (2 hours) - 50%

Indicative reading

Brook, Timothy, Vermeer's Hat: The seventeenth century and the dawn of the global world, London, 2007
Canny, Nicholas, The Oxford history of the British Empire Vol. 1, The origins of empire, Oxford, 1998.
Cooper, Frederick. Africa since 1940: the Past of the Present, Cambridge, 2002.
Curtin, Phillip D., Cross-Cultural Trade in World History, Cambridge, 1984,
Darwin, John, After Tamerlane: the global history of empire since 1405, London, 2007.
Das Gupta, Ashin, Merchants of Maritime India, 1500-1800, Aldershot, 1994.
Dunn, Richard S. Sugar and Slaves; The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (Chappell Hill, 1972/ 2000)
Elliott, J.H., Empires of the Atlantic world: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830, New Haven, 2006.
Hobsbawm, E.J. The Age of Empire, 1875-1914, London, 1987.
Hyam, Ronald, Britain's Declining Empire: the Road to Decolonisation, 1918-968, Cambridge, 2006.
Hyam, Ronald, Understanding the British Empire, Cambridge, 2010.
Magee, Gary and Andrew Thompson, Empire and Globalisation: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c.1850-1914, Cambridge, 2009.
Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, The Portuguese Empire in Asia, 1500-1700: A Political and Economic History, London New York 1993.
Taylor, Charles and Amy Gutmann, Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition, Princeton, 1994

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes of this module are that, on completion of this module, students will be able to:

- To introduce students to the political, economic and socio-cultural developments in the history of European empires from the sixteenth to the twentieth century on a global scale; and to provide students with the skills needed to understand evaluate, contextualise and communicate effectively their knowledge of history
- To provide students with an opportunity to develop their intellectual interests in history of modern empires and their skills in researching historical subjects and in communicating their knowledge and ideas, both orally and in writing.
- To expose students to the disciplines of political, social, economic and cultural history.

The intended generic learning outcomes of this module are that, on completion of this module, students will be able to:

- Students will gain an understanding of history of modern empires in their global context, which will help them to have a better understanding of the modern multicultural world and the global economy.
- The course will test problem solving skills and ability to work both independently and within groups. Students will engage in independent work, using library resources, and will practice and improve their skills in time management, historical research, organisation and analysis of material, oral presentations and essay-writing.
- Students will also engage in group work in seminars, in which they will be encouraged to interact effectively with others and to work cooperatively on group tasks.
- Students will acquire the skill to communicate complex concepts effectively both orally and through written work. They will acquire the ability to further develop skills they have already gained, which will be of use to them in future study or occupations


  1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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