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From Colonial to Post-Colonial States? The Twentieth-Century Caribbean - HIS00090H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Henrice Altink
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

In 1962, Jamaica became the first British Caribbean colony to gain independence. While it adopted a new flag and anthem and appointed a black man as its first Governor-General, the Queen remained Head of State. More than 55 years after independence, the Queen is still Head of State. This and a recent poll which suggests that half the population believes that the island would have been better of if it had remained a British colony raises the question when former colonies become truly post-colonial.

This module tries to answer this question by examining the socio-economic, political and cultural conditions of British, Dutch and French Caribbean territories in the twentieth century. It first of all explores the various factors that gave rise to independence, including the development of race consciousness , the world-wide economic depression, WWII and nationalism. It then assesses how territories that became independent fared economically, politically and socially. After WWII, most political leaders wanted to move away from dependence on sugar monoculture and diversify the economy and adopted policies to encourage mineral mining and tourism. While this brought in much needed revenue, it also strengthened the position of foreign capital, raising the question of neo-colonialism, which will be explored in some detail alongside other negtive effects. While independent Caribbean nations have remained relatively stable democracies, they were caught up in the theatre of the Cold War and several territories, including Grenada, Suriname and Trinidad, have witnessed attempts to overthrow the government. Furthermore, while constitutions adopted upon independence stipulated freedom from discrimination, certain groups – women, indigenous people, and LGBTQ – have continued to be treated as lesser citizens.

Throughout our discussion of the extent to which Caribbean territories became economically-independent, politically-stable and socially-inclusive societies after independence, we will pay attention to the global context, which affected both the region’s economy and culture, and not ignore the politics and society of the territories that retained government ties with European nations. Discussions centre around textual sources (e.g. official reports, memoirs, semi-autobiogaphical fiction, travel accounts), visual sources (e.g. newsreels, documentaries, art works) and aural sources (e.g. musical recordings). Any sources relating to the Francophone and Dutch Caribbean will be made available in translation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22 to Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term, and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars. One-to-one meetings will also be held to discuss the assessed essay.

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

  1. The Caribbean, the colonial and the post-colonial: an introduction to key concepts
  2. Caribbean plantation culture: setting the scene
  3. Africanisation of the Caribbean
  4. Protest and depression in the 1930s
  5. The road to independence – constitutional change
  6. Creating independent states – Caribbean nationalism
  7. Theatre of the Cold War
  8. Race and ethnicity


  1. Post-war economic diversification and development
  2. The dark-side of development: tourism, foreign investment.
  3. Caribbean integration and belonging
  4. Dictatorship and democracy
  5. Caribbean migrations and diasporas
  6. The challenges and benefits of non-independent status
  7. Gender and sexuality
  8. Popular culture



Task Length % of module mark
Essay : 4000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Online Exam - From Colonial to Post-Colonial States? The Twentieth-Century Caribbean
8 hours 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to do practice gobbets and then required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay relating to the themes and issues of the module in either the autumn or spring term.

For summative assessment, students complete a 4,000-word essay which utilises an analysis of primary source materials to explore a theme or topic relating to the module, due in week 5 of the summer term.

They then take a three-hour closed examination for summative assessment in the summer term assessment period comprising: one essay question relating to themes and issues, but showing an awareness of the pertinent sources that underpin these AND one ‘gobbet’ question (where students attempt two gobbets from a slate of eight).

The essay and exam are weighted equally at 50% each.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : 4000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Online Exam - From Colonial to Post-Colonial States? The Twentieth-Century Caribbean
8 hours 50

Module feedback

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

Work will be returned to students in their seminars 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 during their tutor’s 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 unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. 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:

Heuman, Gad. The Caribbean. Bloomsbury Academic, 2013 or later editions.

Foote, Nicola, ed. The Caribbean History Reader. London: Routledge, 2013.

Palmié, Stephan and Francisco A. Scarano, eds. The Caribbean: A history of the region and its peoples. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.

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.