The University of Southampton

HIST6098 Histories of Britain and Empire

Module Overview

This module considers how we make sense of some of the pivotal processes in the development and ending of the British Empire in the twentieth century. Topics include the British Mandate of Palestine, the development of anti-colonial nationalism in Africa, the partition of India, and colonial immigration to Britain. The module is concerned with both the history and historiography of these processes, thereby shedding light on the relationships between events and the historians who attempt to understand and write about them.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce you to key themes in the historiography of Britain and empire • Introduce you to selected debates about aspects of the history of Britain and empire • Provide an introduction to a range of British colonial experiences over time and in different geographical contexts

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Key themes in imperial and colonial historiography
  • Interactions between the history of the metropole and the history of colonies
  • Debates on aspects of British colonial history
  • Selected approaches to empire such as postcolonial, economic, global and subaltern perspectives
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Read and digest a broad range of complex texts
  • Identify and summarise key themes across a range of reading
  • draw out the key arguments and ideological agendas of texts
  • succinctly communicate your ideas verbally and in writing
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Distinguish the tensions between different approaches to the study of Britain’s imperial past
  • Draw comparisons between the historiography on colonialism at different times and in separate geographical contexts
  • Critically evaluate the reading you have done and structure your ideas and responses to it verbally and in writing


This module identifies and explores some of the key developments and debates that have characterised the historiography of the British Empire, and of the United States in its complex two hundred year relationship with imperialism. How have historians since the 18th century engaged with both the theory and practice – often harsh reality – of empire, in both a British, and more recently, also an American context? How has this historiography – or historiographies - developed over time, and what tensions and debates have characterised the field(s)? How have other disciplines impacted upon the nature of those debates, notably anthropology, politics/IR, gender studies, and cultural theory. As well as exploring a broader discourse of imperialism, attention is given to individual case studies which illustrate and reflect keen historical debate. These may range from the place of slavery at the heart of Britain’s ‘first empire’, through the tortured colonial relationship between England and Ireland, to America’s post-Cold War status as a solitary superpower. The module is multi-faceted and interdisciplinary, balancing theory and practice, and embracing a range of approaches, methodologies, and intellectual agendas.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • one double session per week of student-led seminar discussion • following a programme of suggested reading • individual consultations with tutors on assessed work Learning activities include • preparing and delivering seminar presentations • independent study and research

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hall, C. (ed) (2000). Cultures of Empire: A Reader. 

Hyam, R (2006). Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation 1918-1968. 

Cain, P. J. and A. G. Hopkins (2002). British Imperialism: 1688 – 2000. 

Hall, C (2002). Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination, 1830 – 1867. 

Darwin, J (2009). The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System 1830-1970. 

Winks, R. (1999). The Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography. 

Darwin, J (1988). Britain and Decolonization: The Retreat from Empire in the Post-War World. 

Bayly, C. (2004). The Birth of the Modern World, 1780 – 1914. 

Metcalf, T. R. (1994). Ideologies of the Raj. 

Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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