HIS 77. Great Britain, The British Empire and the Imperial political and cultural legacy, c. 1500 to Brexit

Course content

Historical Subject 3: Oral Presentation and Discussion
Great Britain, The British Empire and the Imperial political and cultural legacy, c. 1500 to Brexit
The British Empire was the largest global imperial project ever, as is evident from maps that showed a quarter of the world’s territory coloured red, indicating dominance over a fourth of the world’s population as well as over most of its oceans. We begin the course with an introduction to the early history of the Empire with English piracy in the Caribbean and conquests and early colonisation of Ireland, America, India, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, the Opium Wars, British advances into Africa with Livingstone, Rhodes and Kitchener at the head, and the Great Game against the Russians in Central Asia with Afghanistan as the flashpoint. Leading up to the modern period and current issues such as devolution and Brexit, we will look at the Boer War, First and Second World Wars, Commonwealth, Suez-crisis, decolonisation, Falklands War and the heritage of the Empire in British collective memory.

By the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 the British Empire was at a climax with the Royal Navy and lines of the telegraph binding it all together, and the Pax Britannica was considered a civilising force like none other. Yet within the span of a single lifetime, that of Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the Empire not only declined and dissolved, but was seemingly more or less forgotten, with imperialism having become a dirty word. However, more recent historiography has in the light of contemporary debates about globalization and the world order resuscitated the central role of the British Empire in calling forth many of our present globalised institutions, thus raising important questions as to the true historical character and import of British global power.

This course will investigate documentary and non-documentary sources along with the historiographies treating the cultural and political contexts of the Empire, its vicissitudes and legacy.

Among main questions to be dealt with in the course are:
- Reasons for the success and subsequent failure of the British Imperial project.
- Attitudes that drove the Empire and to what extent these were shared by its citizens and subjects within and outside of Britain.
- How the Imperial experience was and is reflected in popular culture.  
- The concepts of prestige and class as motivating and consolidating factors of Empire.
- Appraisals of the significance of the Empire in historiography.
- Sources and resources for researching the British Empire.

Course objectives (clarification of some of the objectives stipulated in the curriculum): 
After the course students will be able to:
• identify, explain and discuss the most important historical issues related to the British Empire
• place the British Empire in its context in time, space and thematic, and summarize and discuss the main historical features of the period as described in the published literature
• identify and choose a relevant problem complex pertaining to the British Empire and justify the choice
• select and apply relevant methodological and theoretical approaches to analysis of well-defined historical problem areas and justify the choice
• communicate knowledge and reflections orally, discursively and in a fluent, precise and clear language
• discuss competing interpretations of historical issues
• reflect critically on historical arguments and interpretations


Historical Subject 3: Oral Presentation and Discussion (HHIK03771E)
[Curriculum for Master´s Programme in History, 2015-Curriculum]

Historical Subject 3: Oral Presentation and Discussion (HHIK03771E)
[Curriculum for the Master’s Minor in History, 2015-Curriculum]

History (ONLY BA-elective for BA students of History)
Module T4: Historical Theme (HHIB10501E) [BA-elective studies, 2013-Curriculum]

Group instruction / Seminar

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 203
  • Exam Preparation
  • 129,5
  • English
  • 388,5