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Ending European Empires: Decolonisation after 1945 in Comparative Perspective - HIS00002I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Amanda Behm
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2017-18

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to important specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological or geographical focus;
  • To enable them to work on those topics by combining access to the specialised expertise of staff through lectures with their own close study and discussion of issues and reading;
  • To deepen students' understanding and appreciation of a range of historical subjects and issues; and
  • To support students' progression from the broad chronological and conceptual work undertaken at Stage 1 of their programme to more detailed and rigorous study of particular topics.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a broad overview of specific historical themes and topics with a clear chronological and geographical focus;
  • Be able to evaluate different interpretations of the subject matter and approaches to it;
  • Gain a critical awareness of the primary material and secondary works used in these interpretations and approaches; and
  • Be able to synthesise information from lectures, discussion groups and reading to make evidence-based arguments both orally and in writing

Module content

This module is jointly taught by Dr Amanda Behm and Dr Henrice Altink

This course focuses on the end of the British, French, Dutch, Belgian, and Portuguese empires but situates decolonization within the longer-term context of late-colonial rule, changing European attitudes and colonial policies, and the rise of nationalism. While its emphasis is on political issues, lectures and seminars will not neglect economic, social, and cultural dimensions. A series of case studies of decolonization episodes will illustrate the differences between (and within) European empires, exploring topics that include the impact of the First and Second World Wars; the Cold War and American influence; anti-colonial nationalist movements; and the particular problems posed by white settler colonies. The end of empire decisively reshaped former colonies but also had a deep impact upon Europe itself, and the paths by which Europe as well as former overseas possessions became ‘postcolonial’ both receive attention.

Teaching Programme:
This 20-credit module consists of 16 twice weekly lectures delivered in Weeks 2-9 plus one round-up session in Week 10, and eight 90 minute discussion groups.

The lecture programme is likely to include the following:-

Lectures 1 and 2: Introducing Decolonization in Comparative Perspective

Lectures 3-7: Ending Empires in Asia

  • 2 lectures on Late British India, Independence, and Partition
  • 2 lectures on the Dutch East Indies, Indonesian Independence, and Protracted Rule in the Dutch West Indies
  • 1 lecture on French Indochina, Vietnamese Communism, and the Cold War

Lectures 8-9: The Belgian Congo

Lectures 10-16: Settler Colonialisms in Africa and the Decolonization’s Impact on Europe

  • 2 lectures on French Algeria
  • 2 lectures on Decolonization’s Consequences in Europe
  • 2 lectures on Portugal, Dictatorship, and Decolonization in Africa
  • 1 lecture on British Central Africa and the Road from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe

Discussion groups will likely deal with the following:

  • Changing European Imperial Priorities and Capabilities
  • Anti-colonial Nationalisms
  • European Settler Societies
  • Decolonizing Europe

Sessions will consider these issues in relationship to the themes featured in that week’s lectures. During discussion groups, students will be asked to focus on a selection of core readings that include primary and secondary sources.


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will be required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay, due in either week 5 or week 7 of the autumn term. They will then complete a 2,000-word assessed essay, due in week 1 of the spring term.


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessments

  • Within two working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

Summative assessments

  • Within six working weeks of the completion of the assessment task. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Betts, Raymond. France and Decolonisation, 1900-1960. London: Macmillan Education; New York: St Martin's Press, 1991.

Darwin, John. Britain and Decolonisation: The Retreat from Empire in the Post-war World. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1988.

Thomas, Martin, Bob Moore, and L.J. Butler. Crises of Empire: Decolonization and Europe's Imperial States, 1918-1975. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2008.

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.