From Empire to Commonwealth: war, race and imperialism in British History, 1780 to the present day

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Elizabeth Shlala, room E306, Michaelmas term
Dr Joanna Lewis, room E494, Lent and Summer terms


This course is available on the BA in History and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course offers an advanced history of the British Empire that focuses on the metropolitan experience of building, running and then losing an empire. It covers the period from the loss of the American colonies to the decolonisation of Africa. Within the context of Britain's wider political, social and cultural history, the course will examine the following: the extension of empire during the Victorian era; liberalism and racism; the expansion of colonies of white settlement; the role of missionaries; the impact of empire at home, the running of empire overseas; managing national decline and empire; the contribution of empire to the First and Second World Wars; violence and decolonisation. Case studies include: India; the Pacific; Australia; Malaya; Kenya and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

3 essays; one mock exam; 4 presentations.

Indicative reading

John Darwin, The British Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System, 1830-1970 (OUP 2010); C A Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780 to 1914 (Blackwell 2004); Ronald Hyam, Understanding the British Empire (CUP, 2010); Ronald Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century, 1815 to 1914 (CUP latest edn); L J Butler, Britain and Empire: Adjusting to a Post-Imperial World (I B Tauris, 2007); Sarah Stockwell (ed) The British Empire: Themes and Perspectives (Blackwell, 2007); Bernard Porter, Absent Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society and Culture in Britain (OUP, 2006) Bill Schwarz, The White Man's World: Memories of Empire (OUP, 2012); Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (CUP, 2004); M W Doyle, Empires: A Comparative Study (Cornell University Press: 1986); P D Morgan; S Hawkins (ed) The Black Experience and the Empire (OUP, 2004); David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (CUP 2006); Henry Morton Stanley, How I found Livingstone (1872; kindle ebook); Sir F D Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa (1922); Ashley Jackson & and David Tomkins, Illustrating Empire: A Visual History of British Imperialism (The Bodleian Library, Oxford; 2011); James Belich, The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld (OUP, 2011)


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: 7

Average class size 2012/13: 7

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills