Themes and Controversies in Modern Imperial History - HI834

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
7 30 (15) DR G Macola







This is a core module for the MA in Imperial History. Its chief objective is to survey the field of imperial history and chart the momentous changes it has undergone since the heydays of Western imperialism. The module explores the principal controversies that have shaped this field of scholarship over the past century. By focusing on a series of past and ongoing scholarly debates, students will gain a thorough understanding of complex theoretical issues pertaining to the operations and consequences of Western empires. Themes to be explored successively include: the relationship between empire, slavery and the industrial revolution; 'peripheral' readings of late nineteenth-century imperialism and the Scramble for Africa; ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ and British imperialism; violence and settler colonialism; colonial knowledge production; popular imperialism; the imperialism of decolonization; empires as global networks.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

One 2-hr seminar a week.


Compulsory for students on the MA in Imperial History; optional for students on all other History MA programmes.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by 100% coursework:

• Students will be expected to make regular contributions and to provide one formal presentation and submit an accompanying written plan/outline of the paper worth 20% of the final mark (15% presentation, 5% written record. The record should be no more than 1000 words).

• Essays: Two essays of 3000 words each. These essays will demand close engagement with the concepts and debates that lie at the heart of the module and will each be worth 40% of the final mark.

Indicative reading

S. Howe (ed.), The New Imperial Histories Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2010)
E. Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944)
B.L. Solow and S.L. Engerman, British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The Legacy of Eric Williams (Cambridge: CUP, 1987)
J.A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: James Nisbet, 1902)
R. Robinson and J. Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism (London: Macmillan, 1961)
P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, British Imperialism: Innovation and Expansion, 1688-1914 (Harlow: Longman, 1993)
R.E. Dumett (ed.), Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Imperialism: The New Debate on Empire (Harlow: Longman, 1999)
Belich, J., Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-
World, 1783-1939 (Oxford, 2009)
L. Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)
E.W. Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1978)
D. Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (Oxford: OUP, 2001)
J.M. MacKenzie (ed.), Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: MUP, 1986)
B. Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford: OUP, 2004)
J. Darwin, The End of the British Empire: The Historical Debate (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991)
D. Lambert and A. Lester (eds), Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: CUP, 2006)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students will have gained:

1. An in-depth understanding of the transformation of imperial history as a field of study over the past century.
2. A sophisticated understanding of advanced concepts in imperial historiography.
3. Familiarity with key scholarly debates in imperial history.

The intended generic learning outcomes

As a consequence of taking this module, all students will have:

1. Developed their mental flexibility.
2. Improved their ability to sustain concentration and aim.
3. Gained the ability to construct coherent written and oral arguments.
4. Gained the ability to research different source types.
5. Gained the ability to produce a variety of robust outputs.

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