Britain’s Atlantic World, 1688-1837

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Oscar Webber


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics 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 explores the history of Britain in the Atlantic world during the ‘long eighteenth century,’ from the Glorious Revolution in 1688 to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. It is impossible fully to understand the profound transformations in British political, economic and cultural life in this period without an understanding of Britain’s growing presence in the Atlantic, in both its restive colonial empire and in the wider Atlantic political economy. The course focuses on three important forces that shaped Britain’s presence in the Atlantic world: the intermittent, nearly century-long war with France, the rapid expansion of British settler colonies and concomitant rise of American republicanism, and the expansion and entrenchment of slave labour in plantation societies in South America, the Caribbean, and southern North America. As Britain's empire expanded into the Americas, domestic British society was transformed – by Enlightenment innovations in science and political organisation, by transformations in social life and gender politics, and by rebellions in Scotland and Ireland that led to the consolidation of Great Britain as a single political unit. This course explores the many connections between the expanding British colonial empire and the increasingly confident and sophisticated British state, and frames these connections in the crucible of a dynamic and often violent Atlantic world.


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

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 formative primary source exercise (300 words) in the MT and 1 formative essay (1,500 words) in the LT.

Indicative reading

Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

Dubois, Laurent. Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Gomez, Michael A. Reversing Sail: A History of the African Diaspora. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Hay, Douglas, Peter Linebaugh, John G. Rule, E.P. Thompson, and Cal Winslow. Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England. Revised. London: Verso, 2011.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. New York: Norton, 1975.

O’Malley, Gregory E. Final Passages: The Intercolonial Slave Trade of British America, 1619-1807. Chapel Hill, NC: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2014.

Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settlement of North America to 1800. New York: Penguin, 2003

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Warren, Wendy. New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America. New York: Liveright, 2016


Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Essay (35%, 3500 words) in the ST.
Presentation (15%) in the MT and LT.
Source analysis (15%) in the MT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: 18

Average class size 2018/19: 9

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills