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Corruption in Britain and its Empire 1600-1850 (HI2D2)


The image is detail from 8th commandment- thou shalt not- Steele
(1807) satirising Thomas Steele, paymaster-general, who
was accused of embezzling two sums of £7,000 and
£12,000 from the cash in his hands and for which he
gave his own receipt! © Trustees of the British Museum.

Tutor: Professor Mark Knights
Office: FAB3.20 third floor of the Humanities Building
Office Hours: Mondays 2-3, Thursdays 4-5.

Both will be in my office though I can also take Teams calls if necessary.

Please email me if you would like to arrange other meetings
Lecture Times: Lectures are on Mondays 1-2pm FAB5.03 (term 1) and S0.19 (terms 2-3)
Seminar Times: Thursdays, 2-3 (FAB3.2) and 3-4 (S1.69)

Please check emails regularly.

Assessment and Contact Hours

This 30 CATS undergraduate second-year option module will introduce students to the concept and practice of corruption, and ‘anti-corruption’, in the British state during a key stage in its evolution.

The module investigates the concept, practice and representation of corruption in Britain and its empire during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It considers corruption in theoretical and interdisciplinary terms (using research from political science, law, anthropology, economics, literature and art history) and explores a series of different types of corruption (political, economic, sexual and moral, linguistic, imperial) as well as the language and visual depiction of corruption. The module considers anti-corruption (proposals, reforms, campaigns) alongside corruption, investigating the motives behind campaigns and why solutions took so long to achieve. Discussions will also be informed by contemporary issues, relating pre-modern corruption to current affairs. We will explore the interplay between debates in Britain and its colonies, with a particular focus on India when it was administered by the East India Company.

You will be encourage to use some key databases of primary material (Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Burney Collection of 17th-century and 18th-century Newspapers, Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, Nineteenth Century Periodicals) and also draw on visual material wherever possible, including the British Museum's extensive on-line database of prints and satires.

The module is research-led teaching, and reflects my research about corruption which has been published as Trust and Distrust: Corruption in Office in Britain and its Empire 1600-1850 (Oxford University Press, 2021).

The module has had high student satisfaction ratings, as evidenced in the 'module feedback' section above.