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Tensions of Empire: British Identities in a Colonial World, 1780-1914 (HI950)

Module leader:

Dr Bronwen Everill


Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Outline Syllabus
Illustrative Bibliography
Context of Module

This module, taught in the Autumn term, may be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, or any taught Master's student outside the History Department.


Module Aims:

This module is designed to introduce students to the key theoretical and methodological issues that inform historical analysis of British identity formation during the heyday of imperialism. It re-situates the essential analytical categories of modern British social and cultural history - class, gender, race and nationality - within the colonial contexts of Africa, Australia and India while introducing students to the use of fictional and visual sources in imperial historiography. The module expands the scope of British history encompassed by the Modern British History MA beyond the geographical boundaries of the United Kingdom.


Intended Learning Outcomes:
  • Appreciate the tensions and conflicts created within British national identities by the processes of colonisation
  • Appreciate the contribution to British identities (of class, gender, race and nationality) made by the processes of colonisation
  • Analyse and assess key historiographical approaches to the history of imperialism
  • Analyse, assess and compare the utility of fictional, 'factual' and visual primary sources for the writing of imperial histories
  • Communicate interpretations of the contribution of non-British peoples to the formation of British national identities


Outline Syllabus:

Week 1: Course Overview

Week 2: Alterity: Empire and Identity

Week 3: Class and Caste

Week 4: Gender and Sexuality

Week 5: Conversions: Missionary Activity

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Fictions of Empire

Week 8: Picturing Empire

Week 9: Coming Home: Colonial Travellers to Britain

Week 10: Exhibiting Empire: Colonial Displays


Illustrative Bibliography:

Ann Stoler and Frederick Cooper, Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (1997)

Catherine Hall, Cultures of Empire: A Reader (2000)

Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850 (2002)

Nancy Paxton, Writing under the Raj: Gender, Race and Rape in the British Colonial Imagination, 1830-1947 (1999)

Angela Woollacott, To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism and Modernity (2001)

James Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualisation of the British Empire (1997)

Jeffrey Cox, Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India (2002)

Annie Coombes, Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination (1994)

Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (1998)

David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (2001)


1 assessed essay of 5,000 words; the module is taught in two-hour seminars.


Seminar Day Tuesday
Seminar Time 15:00-17:00
Seminar Room H0.09