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The British Problem: Empire, Conflict and National Identities (HI275)


Lectures: TBC
Seminars: TBC

Module overview:

This 30CAT second-year early modern option module will explore the attempts of Early Modern monarchs and governments to gain hegemony over the British Isles and establish an imperial dominion beyond the Atlantic. Moving from the accession of Elizabeth to the death of Queen Anne, the module will incorporate the ‘plantation’ of Ireland and America, the Civil Wars, the 1688 Revolution and the 1707 Act of Union. It will focus on the connections between the kingdoms, and show how relations across the British Isles were affected by conflicts over the powers of crown and church, and challenged by splits between rival religious communities. These tensions, as the module will highlight, were grafted onto ancient national, cultural and ethnic fault lines.

The module will look at how the experience of civil war, unrest and revolution took place within a larger international setting, studying the impact of civil and religious divisions on the development of the overseas empire, and highlighting the competing European affinities that impinged upon subjects of the three kingdoms. The module will focus on the experiences of the different religious, national and ethnic groupings within the British Isles and British America, and will encompass the history of culture and ideas, as well as religion and politics. While following a chronological structure, it will examine the longer underlying themes of religious and national consciousness, and consider how the question of British, English, Irish or Scottish identity was explored by poets, scholars and artists within the period. The aim will be to fix the events under consideration within wide horizons, with students encouraged to assess the British kingdoms and empire in a comparative framework, alongside the experiences of other European states. Students will explore accessible primary sources, while entering into critical examinations of the rich historiography underlying the module.