The British Empire

History 103C.002

Fall 2009
Instructor (text): 
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Mon 12-2

At its greatest extent the British Empire consisted of roughly one quarter of the worldâ€_Äôs land and people. Yet, neither was it culturally homogenous nor was it governed by a uniform set of political theories or practices. How, then, did such a small island come to exercise control over such a large extent of the globe? And, if the British Empire developed in such a haphazard or (as some historians have said) ";absent-minded"; way, how was it held together? How and when did it end? What was its lasting impact on Britain and the world?

This seminar will explore various answers to these questions and others as we engage with the histories of the modern British Empire. We will read classic accounts as well as more recent works by historians influenced by theories of postcolonialism and questions of race, gender, sexuality, and power. The course will examine the methods by which Britain acquired a modern, global empire; the costs and benefits of it; the operation of imperial rule and governance in various places; and the social and cultural effects of imperialism. It will also address the political implications of imperial history and analyze critiques of empire. Finally, there will be some consideration of colonial nationalisms, the processes of decolonization, and the persistence of empire.

Assignments will include brief weekly response papers, in class presentations, and a final paper (which could form the basis for a 101 project).