Spring 2016 - HIST 438W D100

Problems in the History of the British Empire (4)

Brit Colonial/Resistance

Class Number: 4206

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including 9 units of lower division history.



An investigation of advanced concepts and methodologies in the history of the British empire. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 438W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


This course analyzes the theories and practices of British colonial rule vs. the anti-imperial politics and social movements that rose up to contest that rule in multiple locations of the British empire from the seventeenth century through the 1960s. Course readings and seminar discussions will trace imperial planning for colonies and trading outposts of North America, the management of the East India Company's expansion on the Asian subcontinent in the eighteenth century, the political economy that drove the "opening" of the China market through the Opium Wars of the 1840s and 1850s, the “New Imperialism” behind the "scramble for Africa" in the 1880s, and “trustee” imperialism and international development planning after 1920. On the other side of the rule/resistance dialectic, the course examines the many arguments and political movements deployed against Empire from its inception through its rapid disintegration after WWII. Topics here include revolts and rebellions of enslaved people, the Abolition movement, radical critiques of empire during the Age of Revolution [1770s- 1840s], social movements to take back British-occupied land in the 19th and early 20th centuries, debates about imperial and Commonwealth citizenship from the 1910s, and socialism, nationalism, and post-colonial development planning.


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Analyze original documents and relate them to social and political contexts of British imperial history
  • Craft arguments in speech and in writing and defend these with evidence
  • Execute an independent research project from the ground up. You will learn how to define an idea for a project, how to develop a primary source base, and how to hone techniques for searching archives and on-line databases.
  • Trace the key episodes of the expansion and collapse/overthrowing of the British empire · Engage in on-going debates about the legacy of British imperialism for British people and for people in Britain's former colonies.


  • Participation 25%
  • Imperial Commodities Paper 15%
  • Presentation/Seminar Discussion Facilitation 15%
  • Research Paper 45%



David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (Norton, 2005)

Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)

All other texts will be posted to CANVAS.

Registrar Notes:

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