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The history of the British empire is full of stark contrasts: of settlement and expulsion, ‘free trade’ and exploitation, ‘progress’ and disruption, profit and famine. That history also is an integral part in the making of modern Britain as well as the modern world. Despite empire’s many endings its histories are still contested as works adulating empire’s supposed benevolence meet the need to decolonise our understanding of it. The manifold legacies of Britain’s imperial past remain at the surface of present-day politics and society; they continue to be the subject of lively debate among scholars, politicians and the public.
The course is a survey of the British empire from the early 1600s to the present. It introduces students to key developments, periods and processes as well as important historiographical contributors to the field. Students will engage with empire in its various shapes and determinants, incarnations and afterlives. The course’s contemporary relevance offers an exciting opportunity to study the present and the past together.
Please note: The course will be offered in English and requires an appropriate level of language proficiency, especially with regard to reading comprehension and conversation skills.
Bayly, Christopher Alan, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons, The Blackwell History of the World. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2004.
Cannadine, David, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire. London: Penguin Books, 2001.
Colley, Linda. Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600 - 1850. London: Jonathan Cape, 2002.
Darwin, John, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire since 1405. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.
Gopal, Priyamvada. Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent. London: Verso, 2019.
Hall, Catherine, and Sonya O. Rose, eds. At Home with the Empire: Metropolitan Culture and the Imperial World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Howe, Stephen. Empire: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions 76. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Levine, Philippa. The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset. Third edition. New York: Routledge, 2020.
Porter, Bernard, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Wilson, Jon. India Conquered: Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire. London: Simon & Schuster, 2017.
Woollacott, Angela. Gender and Empire. Gender and History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
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