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Unit information: Themes in the History of Colonialism in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Themes in the History of Colonialism
Unit code HISTM0017
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Mukherjee
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit provides a critical introduction to many of the core themes and questions faced by historians of colonialism. It asks students to consider the nature of colonial history and the types of philosophical and other issues that its study provokes. The unit introduces students to a range of competing theories of colonialism and also provides students with the opportunity to apply these abstract theoretical literatures and problems to specific historical case studies. The case studies are deliberately chosen to introduce students to a range of stimulating and often new historical literatures that they are unlikely to have had the opportunity to study at undergraduate level.

Intended learning outcomes

1) To give students a detailed understanding of how the history of colonialism has developed in the modern era and of some of the major contemporary debates in the field.

2) To improve students’ ability to argue effectively and at length (including an ability to cope with complexities and to describe and deploy these effectively).

3) To be able to display high level skills in selecting, applying, interpreting and organising information, including evidence of a high level of bibliographical control.

4) To develop the ability of students to evaluate and/or challenge current scholarly thinking.

5) To foster student’s capacity to take a critical stance towards scholarly processes involved in arriving at historical knowledge and/or relevant secondary literature.

6) To be able to demonstrate an understanding of concepts and an ability to conceptualise.

7) To develop students’ capacity for independent research.

Teaching details

10 seminars

Assessment Details

This unit is assessed by one 5,000 word essay (worth 100% of the unit mark) which assesses ILOs 1-7.

Reading and References

  • Antoinette Burton (ed.) After the imperial turn: thinking with and through the nation (Durham, N.C., 2003).
  • Leela Gandhi, Postcolonial theory: a critical introduction (Edinburgh, 1998).
  • Catherine Hall (ed.) Cultures of Empire: colonizers in Britain and the Empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: a reader (Manchester, 2000).
  • Bart Moore-Gilbert, Postcolonial Theory: Contexts, Practices, Politics (London, 1997).
  • Anthony Pagden, Lords of all the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France, c. 1500-1800 (London, 1995).
  • Robert Young, Postcolonialism: an historical introduction (Oxford, 2001). - A useful site providing introductions on various theorists and writers as well as selections