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Empires - HIS00146H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Edd Mair
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

In this course, we’ll explore the history of empire-building, expansion, resistance and rule. Our main chronology will be the early modern period to the late twentieth century, though we will also examine classical models of empire and think critically about the legacies of Rome. Lectures and seminars explore a wide variety of case studies within a thematic and chronological framework, putting European overseas empires in conversation with land-based Eurasian empires, twentieth-century revisionist bids, Cold War superpowers, and enduring debates about the postcolonial world. Weekly discussions will explore a range of historiographies and interpretive positions, including economic, social, and diplomatic history, political thought and intellectual history, and critical theory; as well as primary sources reflecting debates over the nature of empire, its past, and future.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the practice of comparative history;
  • To enable students to acquire skills and understanding of that practice by studying a particular topic or theme; and
  • To enable students to reflect on the possibilities and difficulties involved in comparative history

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp the key approaches and challenges involved in comparative history;
  • Understand a range of aspects of the topic or theme which they have studied;
  • Be able to use and evaluate comparative approaches to that topic or theme; and
  • Have learned to discuss and write about comparative history

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1, then a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in each of weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of the semester. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Whose empire? Theories of imperialism and the ghosts of Greece and Rome
  2. New World, new crusades? Early modern European and Ottoman empires
  3. Mughal and Qing states
  4. Empire and revolution
  5. Colonial commodities
  6. Settler colonialism, migration, and the age of ‘high imperialism’
  7. Revisionist empire: fascist and communist projects in context
  8. Decolonization and the postcolonial world


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination
Open Exam
5 hours 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment work, students will produce an essay plan relating to the themes and issues of the module.

For summative assessment students will complete an Open Exam in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination
Open Exam
5 hours 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback, which may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss their feedback 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 25 working days of the submission. For semester 1 assessments, the tutor will be available during student hours of the following semester 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:

  • Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).
  • Stephen Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

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.