Accessibility statement

Empire Remade - HIS00112M

« Back to module search

  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. David Clayton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Did empires perpetuate inequalities, between and within nations? Were colonial peoples exploited by their metropolitan masters? These questions are central to many debates. Despite the efforts of intellectuals from Lenin to Ferguson, they have not been answered satisfactorily. Those of a less polemical bent, would, of course, refine and reframe the questions. They would ask: which empires, and when? They might also differentiate between early and ‘late’ colonialism. So, let us provide some context for our macro-case, the British Empire during a period of rapid decolonisation.

British colonial ‘development’ policy, the subject of enquiry here, had twin aims: to accelerate the rate of economic growth and to deliver (in today’s parlance) ‘social justice’. Colonial Office shifted away from a laissez-faire approach towards a revamped “civilising mission”, one that sought to enlighten colonial people in preparation for self-rule. This led to policy interventions across a wide range of areas, social, economic and political.

Under ‘late’ colonialism there was an attempt to make colonial people healthy, knowledgeable, and, ultimately, participants in democratic independent nation-states; in theory, colonialism was no longer about extracting money, raw materials, and men from indigenous societies.

This module asks: was the British Empire really Remade? How far-reaching were social reforms? What about other means to hold on to an empire: via the systematic use of violence?

The seminars begin with general topics and then study themes, and are designed to set up essay questions answered using self-compiled extended reading lists.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

  • Have an extensive knowledge of British imperial historiography during the epoch of late decolonisation.
  • Have a detailed knowledge of at least one case study: the social, economic and political development of a particular colony; or the formulation and implementation of a particular metropolitan government colonial policy.
  • Have an introductory knowledge of published primary and archival sources available to historians working on ‘late’ colonialism.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

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

  1. Sources and secrets: the politics of revealing Britain colonial past.

  2. Trading ties - was the empire really about the movement of goods?

  3. Strikes and industrial relations

  4. Insurgencies and counter-insurgencies

  5. Making a empire-wide welfare state

  6. Communicating and empire: the case of radio broadcasting

  7. Dealing with Disasters - case study, famine in Bengal, 1943

  8. Conclusion and loose ends.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000 word procedural essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 of the autumn term. They will then submit a 4,000 word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 2 of the spring term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Taught Masters Degrees Statement of Assessment.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. 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. 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 module starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Caroline Elkins, Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire (Penguin, 2022)

Darwin, John. The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970. Cambridge, 2009.

Saito, Shohei. “Operation Legacy’: Britain’s Destruction and Concealment of Colonial Records World, Britain’s Destruction and Concealment of Colonial Records Worldwide’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History’, April 2017, 697-719 (And/or Cobain, Ian. The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies, and the Shaping of a Modern Nation. London, 2016: chapter 4: ‘Sinning Quietly: Operation Legacy and the Theft of Colonial History’, pp. 101-136.)

Brown, Judith and Roger Louis The Oxford History of the British Empire: the twentieth century. Oxford, 2001 [the best comprehensive set of survey essays].

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.