BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Colonial Encounters: Race, Violence, and the Making of the Modern World

Unit code HIST21121
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces students to the history of colonialism from the late eighteenth century. It explores how colonies were fundamentally reshaped by changing ideologies of empire and power politics; how constructions of race, religion and gender were contested from above and below; how projects to control colonial spaces and bodies were transformed over time; and the role of violence in colonialism and its impact on post-colonial societies. Students will be introduced to a range of textual, visual and oral primary sources, historiographical debates drawn from Africa and South Asia.

Lectures will offer case-studies and coverage of key historiographical debates. The seminars will support learning from the readings and lectures; each will also focus on the analysis of a primary source related to the topics of the week. The course will focus in particular on the following topics: slavery and abolition; ideologies of empire; gender and sexuality; fantasies of race and space; contesting empires: violence, anti-colonial nationalism and decolonisation; post-colonial legacies.


HIST21121 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes, and Euro Studies (please check your programme regulations for further details).



Available on which programme(s)?

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas.

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?


Available to students on an Erasmus programme

Yes: Subject to VSO approval

Pre/Co/Antirequisite units


Medium of language





  • acquire a broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of colonialism in the modern period using both theory and specific case-studies.
  • critically reflect on how histories of colonialism have been constructed in a range of global regions, and to make connections and comparisons between these different historiographies.
  • engage creatively and effectively with primary sources, including online learning resources for world history.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:



Indicative Course Structure

Topics addressed across the semester will include:

Colonialism and the Discipline of History

Colonial Encounters in India and Africa

Slavery, Abolition, and Merchant Capitalism

Political and Economic Change

Ideologies and Fantasies of India and Africa: Race, Gender, and Difference

Sexuality, Disease, and Family Life

Violence, Non-violence, and Nationalism

Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures and 1 weekly seminar.
  • All the support materials for the module will be on Blackboard, and the coursework will be submitted and returned via Tii and Grademark.
  • Lecturers and seminar tutors will offer office hours to support the course assessments and they will offer detailed feed-forward feedback on assessments.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the general trajectories of European colonialism in South Asia and Africa
  • Appreciate the ways colonial encounters created modern political, economic, and cultural institutions
  • Understand the multiple legacies of European colonialism in the contemporary world
  • Increase knowledge about South Asian and African societies and history


Intellectual skills

  • Ability to analyse a variety of primary source materials
  • Sensitivity to non-western cultures
  • Ability to compare historical phenomena in radically different societies

Practical skills

  • Ability to read critically about unfamiliar societies and histories
  • Independent analysis of primary source material
  • Enhanced ability to do secondary research on non-western societies
  • Essay writing and analytic skills, as applied to non-western contexts

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Increased knowledge about increasingly important areas of world
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Increased ability to navigate across cultural difference

Employability skills

In addition to the practical and transferable skills outlined above, this module will provide students with exposure to non-western histories and cultures, providing useful skills for a variety of international business and NGO roles. The module's emphasis on how colonialism has been integral to forming the modern world will provide students skills of great use in adapting to multicultural workplaces.

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)



10 questions


source analysis


2,000 words




3,000 words





Assessment task



2000 words


Feedback methods

Written feedback on submitted assessments, given through Blackboard/TurnItIn - summative

Oral feedback on assessed work and class participation in office hours - formative

Recommended reading

Phillipa Levine, The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset (Harlow: Longman, 2007).

Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).

Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy (London: Routledge, 1998).

Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).  

Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley, University of California Press 1997).

Richard Reid: A History of Modern Africa (New York: Wiley, 2008).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Steven Pierce Unit coordinator

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