The Tools of Empire 1760-1920 - HIST6320

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Fundamental to Western European political and cultural ambitions since the mid-eighteenth century has been technological change. This module provides a unique and stimulating social history of science and technology in a period of industrialisation and imperial expansion. In the first part, we examine the twin foundations of British industrial and imperial power exemplified by the dramatic eighteenth-century voyages of Captain James Cook around the Pacific, and by the evolution of the steam engine by James Watt in the same period. In the second part of the module we focus on the powerful new nineteenth century technological systems - railways, steamships, electric telegraphs and ship canals - which served to discipline the diverse cultures of Empire, whether British, American or Continental. In these ways, the module will provide a striking foundational study for an enriched understanding of politics and society in the modern world.


Contact hours

3 hours per week

Indicative reading

C SMITH - 'The Science of Energy', 1998
W SCHIVELBUSCH - 'The Railway Journey,' 1986
DR HEADRICK - 'The Tools of Empire', 1981
D READ - 'The Power of News', 1992
RA STAFFORD - 'Scientist of Empire', 1989
DSL CARDWELL - 'The Fontana History of Technology', 1994

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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