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Black British History and Decolonisation - Semester 1 - HIS00165H

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

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.

Focussing mostly on the postwar era, we will look at how, when and even if Britain’s empire came to an end in the twentieth century. We will 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, policing, urban violence and unrest. As well as reading the latest cutting edge research into black British history - currently a booming field after years of neglect - we will also be engaging deeply with the writings of contemporary black intellectuals and artists, figures like Stuart Hall, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Beverly Bryan. Taking the global movements for black lives that emerged in the past few years as a starting point, this course will ask how we came to arrive at our present historical moment.

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. Remembering and Misremembering Britain’s Empire
  2. Black Life by the Docks: London, Liverpool and Cardiff in the Interwar Years
  3. World War Two and the Empire Remande
  4. The Windrush
  5. Decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s
  6. Affirmative Action for White Britons: Race, Housing and the Welfare State
  7. Music, Politics and Black Studies in the 1960s and 1970s
  8. Black Feminisms


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:

  • Renni Eddo Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (London: Bloomsbury 2017), Chapter 1, “Histories”.
  • Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).
  • Ian Sanjoy Patel, We Are Here Because You Were There: Immigration and the End of Empire (London: Verso, 2021).

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.