History | Britain and its Empire
B303 | 12894 | Dodson

Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA’s only
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class meets with WEUR-W405

For more than 200 years, the British ruled over a truly global
empire; an empire which stretched from the Caribbean to South
Africa, India, and Australia.  The island nation of Britain, with a
population of only 35 million people in 1900, nevertheless ruled
over ¼ of the world’s territory.  How did this unparalleled imperial
state come into existence?  How did the British view their empire,
and their place in the world?  And how did those subjected to
imperial rule react, and eventually throw off the yoke of

This course is intended to provide students with an overview of the
so-called “second” British empire; that is, the empire constructed
by Britain, principally in Asia and Africa, in the immediate
aftermath of the American War of Independence.  This course will
examine the ideas and events which were crucial to building and
maintaining Britain’s empire “at home,” including sustained conflict
between European powers, British liberal thought, British
orientalist scholarship, popular “empire literature,” and the rise
of race science and ethnography.  We will survey some of the
principal events within the imperial realm overseas, including the
cessation of the Atlantic slave trade, and review the importance of
distinctive personalities such as Robert Clive, Thomas Macaulay, and
Richard Burton.  The final part of the course will then examine the
rise of nationalist movements and the process of de-colonization in
Asia and Africa, as well as the legacies of empire for both Britain
and the wider world.  These include, for example, the drawing of
arbitrary boundaries in Africa and South Asia, the influence of
global English, and “reverse migration” from former colonies to

Students will be evaluated on the basis of written work and
examinations.  Weekly readings will be taken from a number of key
textbooks, as well as additional “primary” material, including
historical documents and fiction.