The University of Southampton

HIST1118 The Seven Years War and Britain’s global empire

Module Overview

What role did the Seven Years War (1756–63) play in the development of the British Empire? How did it affect national identity? How did people in different parts of the empire experience the conflict? These questions inform our investigation of an episode which consolidated Britain’s growing status as a superpower and laid the foundations of a worldwide empire. We range across the globe – from North America to the Caribbean and India – exploring how the conflict amplified local concerns and reflected global contexts. We examine its effects on art and literature in Britain. And we consider some of the consequences of the war, as well as the ways in which different people have chosen to commemorate it, from the mid-eighteenth century up to the present day.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- introduce you to the causes, contexts and consequences of the Seven Years War and its role in defending and developing the eighteenth-century British Empire - give you a sense of how debates about the Seven Years relate to broader discussions about the history of the British Empire - explore specific themes relevant to our understanding of the Seven Years Wars, it context and its commemoration - illustrate the ways in which Britain engaged with the wider world in the eighteenth century - help you to understand the cultural, social and political background in Britain against which the Seven Years War took place

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the chronology, personalities and major events in the history of the Seven Years War, as well as the latest historiographical debates surrounding their interpretation
  • the wider context of British political, military and commercial activities in the eighteenth century
  • key primary sources and literature that provide evidence for historians of the British Empire
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand and contextualise primary source material relating to the Seven Years War
  • engage with the secondary literature on the British Empire, and contribute to the debates relating to the historiography of the British Empire
  • participate fully and constructively in group discussion, arguing your case by drawing on your reading, knowledge and understanding
  • analyse critically a variety of textual, visual and material culture sources
  • structure your ideas and research findings into well-ordered presentations and essays
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • participate effectively in group discussion
  • develop your time-management skills
  • locate and use effective textual, visual and material culture sources in the library and on-line
  • develop your presentation skills
  • research historical questions and communicate your findings convincingly and concisely in written reports


The Seven Years War (1756–63) played a crucial role in the development of the British Empire. It consolidated Britain’s growing status as a world superpower, laying the foundations of a truly global empire as well as sowing the seeds of future conflicts. Battles were fought in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and India, with major consequences for local societies and global politics. Closer to home, the trials and tribulations of this first worldwide war extended beyond the battlefield, making an impact on a number of cultural, social and political levels as well as having significant consequences for a developing sense of British national identity. In this module, you will study a key event in the foundation of Britain’s global empire from a variety of perspectives and using an array of sources. You will range across the globe, exploring how the conflict between Britain and France (and their respective allies) amplified local concerns and reflected global contexts. You will consider different experiences of the war: from those of the ordinary sailor (like Olaudah Equiano) to the army general (James Wolfe). You will also examine the ways in which a whole host of non-combatants at home experienced and engaged with the conflict: from the production of poetry and song, to the use and display of visual imagery and material culture across the entire social scale. Finally, you will consider some of the consequences of the war, as well as the ways in which different groups have chosen to commemorate it, from the mid-eighteenth century up to the present day. Topics to be explored include: ? - Introduction and overview: the very first world war? ? - Military and naval aspects of the Seven Years War ? - Heroes and villains: personalities, reputations and the Seven Years War ? - The global context I: Canada ? - The global context II: the Caribbean ? - The global context III: India ? - The home front ? - Representations and commemorations ? - The end of the beginning? Consequences and legacies

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: ? - weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar ? - lecturer-led examination and discussion of sources ? - short presentations by students ? - group discussions including feedback from the tutor Lectures will provide you with general knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts. This will be consolidated through readings and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material. Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your own ideas about a topic, analyse a range of source material and articulate a critical argument. Learning activities include: ? - preparatory reading, individual research and study prior to each class ? - preparing and delivering short presentations relating to specific aspects of the module ? - studying textual and visual primary sources ? - participation in group and class discussion In this module learning and teaching activities focus on helping you to explore and investigate the ideas and themes outlined above. Throughout the module you will also engage in directed and self-directed study, for example through pre-seminar reading and through library research. The presentations (by you and your fellow students) and your reading will provide you with a broad overview of the secondary literature, using the bibliography provided at the start of the module. The discussion generated by these presentations will provide you with the opportunity to explore the relevant major historical debates on a weekly basis. In addition, you will study in depth a range of primary written and visual sources, as well as surviving material culture. These sessions will allow you to prepare for the essay and examination exercises. Feedback on your progress and development will be given via seminars and group discussions. Responses from tutor and your fellow students to your presentation will also give you formative feedback.

Independent Study130
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

F. Anderson (2000). The Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. 

D. Baugh (2011). The Global Seven Years War, 1754–1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Exam  (1 hours) 40%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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