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Courses / Modules / HUMA2021 Music and the British Empire

Music and the British Empire

When you'll study it
Semester 1
CATS points
ECTS points
Level 5
Module lead
Erin Johnson-Williams
Academic year

Module overview

The structures that later formed the formal British Empire started to emerge around 1600 and have persisted even in the years since the return of Britain’s last major possession, Hong Kong, to China in 1997. This module engages with the question of how the British Empire sounded, and more particularly with how Britain’s often violent global projection of political and economic power impacted musical practices of all kinds, both in areas of British imperial domination and at home in Britain. It will focus on a series of historical case studies, starting with musical practices and encounters in the era of the East India Company, continuing through the major colonial expansions of the eighteenth century and then proceeding through the zenith of formal Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries right up through the era of decolonisation to the present day. We will examine a wide variety of music found in cultures across areas of British influence including folk song, opera, and sacred, ceremonial and popular forms. We will also listen for the Empire’s echoes in historical and present genres back in Britain, such as symphonic music, chamber music, jazz, pop (including the music of migrants from the Empire to Britain) and film music.

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