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Between the Empire & Me: Race & Decolonisation in Postwar Britain - HIS00069C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sam Wetherell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This course will connect two strands of twentieth century British history. The first strand is the contested, uneven and often violent collapse of the British Empire and the continued uncertainty over Britain’s role in the world. The second is the transformation of Britain by the migration and settlement of former colonial subjects. While these two histories are often kept separate from each other this course will encourage students to think of British imperial and British domestic history as a whole. Reflecting on the immigration of West Indian people to Britain in the 1950s the Caribbean writer George Lamming pointed out that black migrants and white residents of British cities had “met before” in the empire.

The course will begin with a reflection on ways that British people today remember (or misremember) Britain’s imperial and domestic histories of race. It will then move to an exploration of how, when and (and even if) Britain’s empire came to an end in the twentieth century. We will then look at the lives, ideas and artistic contributions of migrants from different parts of the empire in the post-war period, legal struggles against public and private discrimination, the development of the British border, white racism and urban violence and unrest. Taking the global movements for black lives and decolonization that emerged since 2020 as a starting point, this course will ask how we came to arrive at our present historical moment.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into an unfamiliar period and/or approach to history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have further developed work undertaken in the Autumn Term lecture courses and skills portfolios, including historical analysis, note-taking, using primary sources, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars;
  • Be able to construct a coherent historical argument in oral and written forms

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over nine weeks, plus an overview and revision session in Week 2 of Summer Term. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

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

  1. Remembering and Misremembering the Empire (Part 1)

  2. Remembering and Misremembering the Empire (Part 2)

  3. Decolonization in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s

  4. Colonial Migration and Black Power in the 1950s and 1960s

  5. Inventing and policing Britain's border

  6. The limits of Britain’s welfare state

  7. Enoch Powell and white racism

  8. Inequality and urban unrest in the 1980s

  9. Statues, memory and the global movement for black lives


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
Open Exam - 24 hours
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

During the Spring Term students will prepare a presentation in pairs or small groups. Tutors will determine the formative work for the course: all groups will present on a primary source. Formative work will be completed in one or more sessions at the tutor’s discretion.

Summative assessment:

An open exam in the Common Assessment Period, comprising one essay question chosen from five options


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
Open Exam - 24 hours
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. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

Hall, Stuart. Familiar Strangers: A Life Between Two Islands. Duke University Press 2017.

Eddo-Lodge, Renni. “Histories” in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

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.