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Unit information: American Empire in 2020/21

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Unit name American Empire
Unit code HIST30043
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Julio Decker
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit explores the significance of Empire and imperialism for nineteenth- and twentieth-century American history. Following a chronological order, it explores ideas about American exceptionalism used in continental and overseas expansion. The reading and discussion privileges two perspectives: on the one hand, the mutual dependence of domestic cultural, social and economic processes and imperial expansion is investigated in detail. On the other hand, the course includes transnational and inter-imperial connections, exploring how the American Empire built on and related to imperial predecessors and colonial models such as the British Empire.


  • To enable students to explore continuities and historical changes in the conceptions and practices of American Empire
  • To develop further students' ability to work with primary sources
  • To develop further students' abilities to integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider historical analysis
  • To develop further students' ability to learn independently within a small-group context.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit students will have:

1. Developed an in-depth understanding of the concepts and practices that shaped American imperialism

2. developed a high level of competency in identifying complex historical arguments and use selected secondary sources for their essays

3. a high degree of competency in working with an increasingly specialist range of primary sources

4. an ability to formulate independent lines of thought and to express these with a high level of accomplishment.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

1 x 3500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-4]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-4]

Reading and References

Go, Julian, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)

Kaplan, Amy, and Donald E. Pease, Cultures of United States Imperialism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), New Americanists

Madsen, Deborah L. (1998): American Exceptionalism. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Ninkovich, Frank A., The United States and Imperialism (Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 2001)

Rosenberg, Emily S., A World Connecting, 1870-1945 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012)

Stoler, Ann L., Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), American Encounters/Global Interactions