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The history of the British Empire in the twentieth century is often told from the perspective of its decline, fall or disappearance. Whilst ‘formal’ colonialism in territorial ‘possessions’ was indeed in retreat, imperial administrators resisted that process at every turn. The course focuses on the drawn-out and often incomplete processes of imperial withdrawal in Asia and Africa. We explore the phenomenon commonly referred to as the ‘end of empire’ as a series of such potential endpoints. Rather than thinking of specific moments as endpoints only – such as the independence of Afghanistan in 1919, of India and Pakistan in 1947 or of Kenya in 1963 – the course also surveys the changing nature of empire in the ‘age of decolonisation’. In this way, we can begin an evaluation of empire’s legacies as well as their relevance for the empire’s manifold ‘afterlives’.
Anderson, David, Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (London: Phoenix, 2006).
Bayly, C. A., Remaking the Modern World 1900-2015: Global Connections and Comparisons Blackwell History of the World (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018).
Bayly, C.A. and Harper, T.N., Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2010).
Brendon, Piers, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997 (New York: Vintage Books, 2010).
Burton, Antoinette M., The Trouble with Empire: Challenges to Modern British Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).
Drephal, Maximilian, Afghanistan and the Coloniality of Diplomacy: The British Legation in Kabul, 1922-1948 (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).
Elkins, Caroline, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (New York: Holt, 2006).
Hyam, Ronald, Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Khan, Yasmin, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2007).
Metcalf, Barbara and Thomas R., A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Wolpert, Stanley A., Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).
Bernard Porter, The Lion’s Share: A History of British Imperialism 1850 to the Present, 2021.
To successfully complete this course students must: 1) submit an essay (Hausarbeit) of 20-25 pages by the end of term; 2) take responsibility for one session by giving an assessed presentation and taking a lead in that session’s discussion; 3) complete key preparatory reading for and actively participate in sessions.
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