Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Aims and Assessment


  • Obtain knowledge of the transport technologies and media which connected the different parts of the nineteenth-century British Empire

  • Engage with key concepts and themes in global history such as ‘networks’, ‘connections’, ‘mobility’, ‘exchange’, and ‘contact zones’

  • Critically examine narratives of globalization, modernization, and technological determinism

  • Analyse textual and visual sources

  • Process primary and secondary source material and communicate ideas both orally and in writing

  • Develop research and analytical skills through individual essay-writing and group projects


  • Class participation (10%)
  • Group project (40%)
  • 3,000-word essay (50%)

Class Participation

To get the most out of this module, it is essential that you participate in weekly seminars. This means completing the essential readings, reflecting on the seminar questions as you read, and then contributing actively to classroom discussions. As part of your class participation, you will be required to give an informal 5-10 minute presentation to introduce one of our weekly sessions (topics will be allocated in the first week of term). In this presentation, you will identify a few key themes from the week’s assigned readings and propose a few questions for group discussion. Since there will likely be more than one person presenting each week, it is recommended that you touch base with the other presenter to ensure that there is not too much overlap between your respective presentations (for example, you might choose to divide the readings between you).

For a detailed breakdown of how we assess class participation, see Seminar Contribution Guidelines (excerpted from Undergraduate Handbook).

Group Project

In groups of 3 to 4 students, you will produce a case study of one of the technologies examined in this module. This group exercise consists of two parts:

FIRST, a textual and visual presentation of your research in a blog (using WordPress, for example).

  • Blog entries should be written for a general audience, using clear and concise language.
  • Each group member should contribute a blog post of 1,000 words.
  • It is up to you as a group to decide on what kinds of materials you want to include in your blog. Here are a few ideas for different kinds of blog posts that you might compose:
    • Introductory essay - lay the foundations for your group's blog by describing the historical significance of your technology; to what extent was it dramatically different from the modes of travel and communication which preceded it? (Please note that your blog does not have to have an introductory essay; if you choose, you might simply collaborate as a group to write a brief paragraph about your technology which you might include in the 'about' section of your website).

    • Historiographical review essay - choose 3 books which address similar themes or use similar approaches to the study of your technology; provide a summary of these books and how they compare or contrast, and then give your opinion on the suitability of this approach and/or suggest alternatives. The Historical Journal regularly publishes historiographical review essays, so you can check out their archive for inspiration.
    • Book review - choose a book on your given technology, using the Further Reading suggestions or one of your own choosing in consultation with me; in your review, you should describe what the book is about and what its objectives are; try and evaluate how successful it is at achieving these objectives.
    • Primary source review - choose a primary source from the nineteenth century (for example, a book, pamphlet, image, essay or poem) which relates to your chosen technology; describe the source and the context in which it was written, and then discuss how the source confirms, challenges, or nuances one or more of the propositions from the secondary source literature on your reading list (in other words, to complete this task you should cite a recent academic history book, as well as your chosen primary source). You can draw from both the required reading and ‘further reading’ for this task, and you are welcome to focus on one of the primary sources assigned in class. To identify other, viable primary sources, you can search through the primary source databases which I have identified on the ‘Primary Sources’ section of the course website; you can also reference the bibliographies of the assigned readings, which should give you some ideas about primary sources that you can use.
    • Case study - choose a particular company/route, or focus on the impact which your technology had on one particular region; use this example to address the main themes of the course.
  • Most of these tasks will require you to read 2 or 3 sources. For the book review, you are only expected to cite the book under review, but you are expected to read this book very closely and with great attention to detail; in other words, these tasks should all be roughly the same difficulty.
  • You should have at least one image per post, more if possible, and this image should be properly cited; be sure to identify the artist (if known), the title, the date of composition, and the name and location of the institution where it is housed.
  • The blog posts do not have to fit seamlessly together, but in addition to focusing on the same technology, they should also address the major themes of the course. There are a few big questions which underly our discussions in this module, and your blog post should relate to these questions as identified on the main page of the course website.
  • Please note that each group member must submit the project via Tabula individually; upload a document containing the weblink to your project.

SECOND, a 12-15 minute oral presentation of your project, using audio-visual media (for example, PowerPoint).

  • In this presentation, your goal is to introduce your technology, describe and justify your choice of topics for blog entries, explain your findings, and suggest further topics or questions that you would want to address if you were to continue working on your blog.
  • You will be assessed on the detail, accuracy and relevance of the information you present; the structure of your presentation (is it logical?); your analysis and interpretation (do you show evidence of independent thought?); your presentation skills (audibility, enthusiasm, and use of visual aids); and finally, time management and organisation. For an outline of what constitutes a good presentation, see Presentation Marking Scale.

3,000-word Essay

Essay-Writing Workshop slides

Your final essay (3,000 words) should be framed around a relevant historical question related to the theme of the module. You might choose one of the weekly seminar questions; you are also welcome to come up with a question of your own, in consultation with the convenor. You should write about something that you find interesting. You are encouraged to adopt a comparative perspective; for example, you might choose to look at how photography impacted the reporting of international news and attitudes towards conflict overseas. Or, you might ask how the introduction of the steamship changed patterns of letter-writing across the empire. Whatever you choose to write about, your essay should engage with both secondary literature and primary sources. This may overlap with materials that you analysed in your group project, but you need to show substantial development of these ideas. Essays should be submitted via Tabula in accordance with Departmental rules. See the Undergraduate Handbook for information about marking scales, essay writing checklist, and presentation and referencing. For an outline of what constitutes a good essay in History, see Essay Marking Scales (excerpted from Undergraduate Handbook).

Map of India Shewing the LInes of Railways, Telegraphs, and Dawk Routes. Engraved for the Indian Traveller's guide, from the collection of Major J. P. K. Murphy. National Army Museum, London.
Unknown artist. Two Scribes Copying Manuscripts or Official Letters. Gouache on paper. Wellcome Collection, London.