Not available in 2016/17
Empire and Nation: Britain and India since 1750

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Taylor Sherman E601


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations 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.

May be taken by 3rd years where regulations permit.

Course content

This course examines the history of South Asia from the eighteenth century to the present day. Focusing on the imperial relationship between Britain and India, it investigates the ways in which imperial rule shaped South Asian society, studies the nature of anti-colonial nationalisms, and explores the legacies of British rule for the independent states of South Asia. The course will explain how and why the East India Company acquired an empire in India, and will explore the techniques by which the British sought to derive profit, prestige and power from its empire in South Asia. It will ask, to what extent did the British seek to reform India, and what were the consequences - intentional or otherwise - of imperial efforts to understand and change Indian society? The course will examine the ways in which different groups of Indians responded to, benefited from, and resisted colonial rule in India. The economic impact of colonialism will be considered, as the course asks, did British rule drain India of its wealth? In the second term, it will assess the impulses behind the emergence of Indian nationalism, and discuss Gandhi's philosophy and his political strategies. The course will consider why British India was partitioned in 1947 when India and Pakistan gained independence, and it will investigate the long-term consequences of partition, including the conflict over Kashmir. The course concludes with a discussion of the impact that colonialism has had on the political and economic development of independent India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


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

Students will be required to submit two 2,000-word essays from topics designated in the course reading list and to sit a mock exam in the Summer Term. These assignments will not form part of the final assessment, but they are a required component of the course, and students must complete them in order to be admitted to the course examination.

Indicative reading

A full reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. The following are essential reading: Catherine B. Asher and Cynthia Talbot, India before Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2006) C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 1988); Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 1996); Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf, A Concise History of India, (Cambridge University Press, 2002); Douglas Peers, India under colonial rule 1700-1885 (Longman, 2006); Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885-1947 (London, 1989); Tirthankar Roy, The Economic History of India 1857-1947 (Oxford University Press, 2006); R. Guha & G. Chakravorty-Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies (Oxford University Press, 1988); M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (ed. A J Parel) (Cambridge University Press, 1997); D. Hardiman, Gandhi: in His Time and Ours (Permanent Black, 2003); A. Jalal, The Sole Spokesman (Cambridge University Press, 1985); Dipesh Chakrabarty, Rochona Majumdar and Andrew Sartori (eds.), From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition (Oxford University Press, 2007); Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India (Penguin, 1997); Ian Talbot, Pakistan: a Modern History (Hurst, 1998)


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 3000 words).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Capped 2015/16: No

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