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Empires of Improvement - ARC00023M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Information currently unavailable
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module focuses on global Historical Archaeologies. As such, the archaeology of the New World is a major component, as the development of the discipline there has shaped the ways that other parts of the world have been studied. In addition, this module will explore the Old World experience of colonisation and settler society alongside indigenous lives and landscapes. In particular, we will consider the dynamics of enslavement and the Afriacan Diaspora on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the major factors shaping the modern world. The case studies chosen will allow a movement between local and global, as we explore the ways that archaeology can contribute to our understandings of historical entanglements and contemporary memorialisation.

Students have said that this module is essential to understand eighteenth and nineteenth century life and that it has made them re-evaluate their understanding of the period.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • To critically examine the archaeology of globalisation over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 

  • To understand the role historical archaeology can play in understanding the foundations of contemporary issues of inequality

Module learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should:

  • Be able to critically evaluate the archaeology of the Atlantic World.  

  • Have a good understanding of the different ways in which globalisation impacted upon economy, diet and consumption. 

  • Understand how colonialism was entangled within everyday life.

  • Have a deeper understanding of the methods, theories and approaches commonly applied in historical archaeology.

  • Have built knowledge of case studies from around the world relating to buildings, landscapes, and monuments.

  • Be able to critically discuss the ways in which dominant theoretical approaches in archaeology have impacted on historical research, particularly post-colonial perspectives. 

  • Have developed their writing skills through assessed essays

  • Have presented their research during seminars

Module content

This module explores the colonial discourse and in particular the Atlantic World. It begins with a discussion about the various theoretical approaches to the archaeology of colonialism and post-colonialism, before critically evaluating the archaeology of the New World. The module explores the material life and landscapes of the Americas, including the important role of environmental relationships. Various different European perspectives on colonialism are explored before we focus on the African Diaspora. There is the chance to build up detailed knowledge of case studies from the Caribbean, before exploring the very different context of East Africa and the Indian Ocean and sub-continent.


Task Length % of module mark
Coursework - Issues in Historical Archaeology 2
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Coursework - Issues in Historical Archaeology 2
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be available within 6 weeks.

Indicative reading

  • Finch, J. 2013, 'Inside the Pot House: Diaspora, Identity and Locale in Barbadian Ceramics ', Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 115-130. 

  • Ogundiran, A. and Falola, T. (eds) 2007 Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and African Diaspora. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

  • Silliman, S. 2010. Indigenous traces in colonial spaces: Archaeologies of ambiguity, origin, and practice, Journal of Social Archaeology 10(1): 28-58.


The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.