HY484L      Half Unit
Empire, Colonialism and Globalisation

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Taylor C. Sherman, SAR.M.10


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation. This course is available on the MA in Asian and International History (LSE and NUS), MA in Modern History, MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus), MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International and Asian History and MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course covers the comparative history of empires from the fifteenth century to the present day. Students will study the Ottoman, Mughal, Qing, Spanish, and British empires in depth. Students explore the ways in which these empires encountered, understood and governed difference. The course also explores the ways in which the imperial past has helped shape the processes of globalisation. 

A number of themes are addressed: exploration and trade; empiricism, science, race and the natural world; encountering and governing indigenous peoples; gender and imperial power; translation, conversion and coexistence in the management of religious relations; slavery, indenture and other forms of unfree labour; race, science and empire; art, artefacts and collecting; museums after empire. Developing with a decolonised approach to knowledge, history and material culture, students are encouraged to think across time and space to make creative connections and comparisons.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to submit 1 draft essay (1200 words), and one formative essay (3000 words) in the LT.

Indicative reading

A full reading list will be provided. For general surveys of the subject, students may consult:

  • Jane Burbank & Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, NJ, 2010);
  • Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge and History (Berkeley, 2005);
  • Christopher A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford, 2004);
  • Alejandro Colás, Empire (Cambridge, 2007);
  • John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire (London, 2007);
  • Michael W. Doyle, Empires (Ithaca, NY, 1986);
  • Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA, 2001);
  • Stephen R. Howe, Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2002);
  • Herfried Münkler, Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States (Cambridge, 2007).


Essay (50%, 5000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (25%) and group project (25%) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information