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Level 5

5AAH1052 Theories of Empire and Imperialism

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Dr David Todd
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (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 essay of 2,500 words (50% each)

N.B. This module cannot be taken in conjunction with 5SSWF007/5SSWS007 (Department of War Studies) due to overlap of content.

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.

Empires have been the prevalent form of large-scale political organization in world history. The module offers an overview of the different types of empire and of the ideas used to justify or criticize imperialism since 1500. Using a comparative approach, it highlights the key legal, economic and environmental characteristics of modern empires. The main focus is on the British and other European (Spanish, Dutch, French, Russian, American) empires, but comparisons are also made with the Chinese and Ottoman empires. Several key contemporary texts for and against empire are examined, and special attention is paid to the concrete aspects of life under imperial domination.   

Provisional Teaching Plan

  1. Introduction: What is an empire?
  2. Ancient models
  3. Eurasian empires
  4. Maritime empires
  5. Revolutionary reconfigurations
  6. Settlerism
  7. Liberalism and empire
  8. Informal Empire and Borderlands
  9. The global scramble for empire
  10. Conclusion: the end of empires?

Suggested Introductory Reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these texts is not mandatory.

Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, 2011)

John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire since 1405 (London 2008)

Krishan Kumar, Visions of Empire: How Five Imperial Regimes Shaped the World (Princeton, 2017)

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