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From Colonial to Post-colonial States? The Twentieth-Century Caribbean - Semester 1 - HIS00157H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Henrice Altink
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This module tries to answer the question about when colonies truly become postcolonial 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 moves on to assess how territories that became independent fared economically, politically and socially. After WWII, most political leaders wanted to move away from a dependence on sugar monoculture and diversify the economy, and they 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 negative effects. Furthermore, most independent Caribbean nations became stable democracies but they were caught up in the theatre of the Cold War and some have also witnessed attempts to overthrow the government. And while constitutions adopted upon independence stipulated freedom from discrimination, we will see that certain groups – especially women and LGBTQ+ people – have continued to be treated as lesser citizens.

Class discussions centre around textual sources (e.g. official reports, memoirs, and semi-autobiographical fiction), visual sources (e.g. fiction film and documentaries) and aural sources (e.g. musical recordings). Any sources relating to the Francophone and Dutch Caribbean will be made available in translation.

Related modules

Students taking this module must also take the second part in Semester 2.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

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

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 and a 3-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW). Students prepare for and participate in eight three-hour seminars in all.

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

  1. Caribbean plantation culture: setting the scene.
  2. Africanisation of the Caribbean in the interwar years
  3. Protest and depression in the 1930s
  4. Constitutional change: the process from above
  5. Constitutional change: the process from below
  6. Theatre of the Cold War
  7. Race and Ethnicity
  8. Postwar economic diversification


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to produce text commentaries in seminar, including a written commentary.

For the summative assessment students build a portfolio of two parts, to be submitted together:
a) Two text commentaries of 500-750 words; and
b) One 1,500-word essay which reflects on the significance of the chosen texts in light of scholarship and sources from across the module.
The commentaries comprise 50% and the essay 50% of the overall mark for this module. Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Text Commentaries and Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative work will be live marked in seminar and supplemented by the tutor giving oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For summative assessment tasks, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 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 semester 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:

Bridget Brereton, (ed.), General HIstory of the Caribbean vol. v The Caribbean in the Twentieth Century (London: MacMillan, 2003).

Gad Heuman, The Caribbean (London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

Robert B. Potter et al, The Contemporary Caribbean (London: Routledge, 2015).

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.