Themes and Controversies in Modern Imperial History - HIST8340

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 24
Private study hours: 276
Total study hours: 300


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

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 1 3,000 words 40%
Essay 2 3,000 words 40%
Individual Presentation and Seminar Participation 20 minutes 20%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Cannadine, D. (2001) Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire, Oxford: OUP.
Dumett, R.E. (ed.) (1999) Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Imperialism: The New Debate on Empire, Harlow: Longman.
Lambert, D. and Lester, A. (eds), (2006) Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: CUP.
Robinson, R. and Gallagher, J. (1961) Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism, London: Macmillan.
Said, E.W. (1978) Orientalism, London: Routledge & Kegan.
Veracini, L. (2010) Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the transformation of imperial history as a field of study over the past century.
2 Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of advanced concepts in imperial historiography, particularly the controversies surrounding the subject.
3 Demonstrate familiarity with key scholarly debates in imperial history.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate their mental flexibility, and their ability to consider complex issues from multiple perspectives.
2 Demonstrate their ability to independently sustain concentration and aim.
3 Construct coherent and rigorous written arguments.
4 Prepare and deliver coherent, analytical oral arguments.
5 Research different source types.


  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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