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Level 5

5AAH1021 Imperial Britain? Britain and Empire c.1860-1964

Credit value: 15

Module convenor/tutor: Dr Priya Atwal
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 1,500-word formative essay; 1 x 3,000-word essay (100%

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Assessment pre 2019/20: 2 x 2,500 word essays (100%)

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years

The effects of empire on Britain and other European nations have increasingly
fascinated historians. In recent years, historians have reappraised the ways in
which the society, culture, politics and economy of European nations were
affected by being part of empires, provoking lively debates about the place of
empire in British and European history. Was Britain ever an ‘imperial’ country,
or was the empire something that passed most British people by? What exactly
did the empire mean to the British? How unique was the British experience of
empire? This course focuses on Britain, asking how important the empire was in
British life. Politics and the economy are considered, as well as the effects
of the empire on elite and popular culture, and how British peoples’ experience
of empire varied with gender, class and region. The course also engages with
the controversial historiographical debates about the cultural and social
consequences of decolonisation in Britain, including debates around ‘race’ and

 Provisional Teaching Plan

  1. Introduction
  2. Empire in later nineteenth-century British politics
  3. Race, ‘jingoism’ and empire in British popular culture, c. 1870-1902
  4. A ‘balance sheet of empire’: the economic costs and benefits of empire to Britain, c.1870-1914
  5. Empire, society and culture, c. 1902-39
  6. Domestic critics of empire, c. 1919-1939
  7. Colonial migrants
  8. The politics of decolonization
  9. The ‘persistence of empire’ in British culture after 1945
  10. Britain after empire

Suggested introductory reading

It is not necessary for students taking this course to purchase any books but should they wish to do so then the following is recommended:

Andrew Thompson ed., Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century (Oxford, 2011).  

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