Accessibility statement

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

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Patrick Clibbens
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

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 also address economic, social, and cultural dimensions of imperial endings. A series of case studies 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; anticolonial nationalist movements; and the intractable problem of settler colonialism. 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.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2021-22

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

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.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

1. Introducing Decolonization in Comparative Perspective

2. The Caribbean Arena: Contesting the Future of Europe's Oldest Colonies

3. Late British India, Independence, and Partition

4. The Dutch East Indies and Indonesian Independence

5. French Indochina, Vietnamese Communism, and the Cold War

6. The Belgian Congo

7. French Algeria and Decolonization’s Consequences in Europe

8. Portugal, Dictatorship, and Decolonization in Africa

9: British Central Africa and the Rhodesian Crisis to Zimbabwean Independence

Discussion groups will likely deal with the following:

Changing European Imperial Priorities and Capabilities

Anticolonial Nationalisms

Settler Societies

Decolonizing Europe


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

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of 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:

Buettner, Elizabeth. Europe After Empire: Decolonization, Society, and Culture.

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

Westad, Odd Arne. The Global Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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.