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Empires, Imperialism, and the History of the Modern World (Module)

Module description

*Please note that module information is indicative and may change from year to year.


This module explores the conceptual difficulties with the terms ‘empire’ and ‘imperialism’ in the study of the development of modern warfare, strategy, and international relations.  Taking an historical and comparative perspective on the experience, primarily but not exclusively, of western maritime empires since the fifteenth century, it challenges simple models of modernising change.  A particular emphasis will be on assessing the role of military coercion in shaping the relationship between the ‘west’ and the rest of the world.  Prominent, too, is the sea and naval power in the evolution of modern war and globalisation.  The aim is to challenge some of our working assumptions about the past by exploring the many different motivations, experiences and contexts within which past empires operated and to begin to re-assess our understanding of the current global environment.

The aims of the module are to:

  • provide a detailed historical and comparative perspective on the role of empires in the shaping of the modern world;
  • introduce students to appropriate theoretical models and to the conceptual difficulties involved in the study of imperialism and in the contemporary analysis of global affairs;
  • encourage an assessment of the role of military coercion in the long process of globalisation;
  • provide opportunities for small group work to develop interpersonal and communication skills;
  • and, develop skills in the collection and synthesis of information in individual research on key aspects of the history of empires.


Upon successful completion of the module, students will: 

  • have detailed knowledge of the history of European empires and an awareness of the key concepts and theories related to their study;
  • be able to identify and analyse different issues or themes related to the study of empires;
  • have undertaken individual research and synthesised information in order to inform an understanding of the historical experience and contemporary significance of imperialism;
  • and, have interacted effectively in small group settings discussing the history of western and non-western empires, adapting interpersonal and communication skills in a range of situations.

Staff information

Dr Alan James and Dr Nicola Leveringhaus*

Teaching pattern

Typically, 1 credit equates to 10 hours of work. For a Full Year 30-credit module, this will equate to 40 hours of teaching time (2 hours per week) with 260 hours of self study.

Module assessment - more information

Coursework & Exam*

Key information

Module code 5SSW2014

Credit level 5

Assessment coursework written examination/s

Credit value 30

Semester Full-year

Study abroad module Yes