English - Free topic E: The Making of Black and South-Asian Britain: histories and literatures

Course content

This course considers a critical aspect of Britain’s development from contrasting perspectives.

Studies such as David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History (2017) and Michael Fisher’s A South-Asian History of Britain (2007) attempt to recall a singular, coherent past from the fragmented lives of past settlers and their descendants. In the first half of this course we begin by considering whether such historical narratives are even possible, and we continue by analyzing first person and investigative accounts produced between the eighteenth and the twenty first century. Our broader purpose is to better understand the social contexts, communities and diverse lives of Britain’s African, Afro-Caribbean and South-Asian peoples, both past and present. The accounts we consider include the Narrative (1772) of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c. 1707-75); testimonies from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851); Ursula Sharma’s sociological investigation Rampal and his Family (1971) and Sandhya Suri film I For India (2005) about her family’s settlement and life in Britain since the 1960s. The second part of the module, ‘The Making of Black Britain – Black British Literature’, narrows the scope. In this half, we will be focussing on Black British literature – by authors of Caribbean or African ancestry – and exploring three generations of post-war writers: the influential Windrush generation of the 1950s (Sam Selvon and E.R. Braithwaite), their ‘children’, who started writing in the 1980s (Caryl Phillips and Andrea Levy), and the new generation, who are coming into their own in the early 21st- century (Diana Evans and Olumide Popoola). To supplement the fictional texts, we be reading some seminal theoretical interventions (Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy and Hazel Carby), important autobiographical considerations and literary responses. We will be thinking about literature as an identity-shaping and world-making activity and exploring topics such as ‘race’ and class, gender and generation, and ‘home’ and belonging in order to get a better understanding of two central inquiries: What is Black Britain? What does it mean to be Black British?



The module is taught in two seven-week blocks beginning with case study histories, life stories and investigations during the first half of the semester and Black British Literature and theory in the second half.

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 5th 2022
Portfolio, model 2: 1 long essay (11-15 pages) at the end of part one (counts 50 % of the final grade) and 2 essays (5-7 pages) during and ending part two (each counting 25 % of the final grade).
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

See schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinators
  • Peter Leese   (5-6e67677567426a776f306d7730666d)
  • Ulla Rahbek   (4-7b727267466e7b7334717b346a71)
Saved on the 23-03-2021

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