HY488      Half Unit
European Empires and Global Conflict, 1935-1948

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Motadel SAR 3.16


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

Course content

The course examines the history of the European empires in the Second World War. It covers the history of the war fought in the imperial world and its impact on the lives of millions of colonial civilians; the political, military, and social history of colonial soldiers who fought in Europe’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious armies; the history of anti-colonial movements during the war, from Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh to Gandhi’s Quit India movement; and the history of the war’s impact on decolonisation and the twentieth century world order. Overall, the course explores the non-European experience of the Second World War, examining the ways in which the conflict shaped societies and political orders in Africa, Asia, and beyond. Drawing on key secondary texts, primary sources, and visual material, the course provides a broad introduction to the most destructive and cataclysmic conflict in modern global history.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in the LT

The School aims to run in-person seminars, subject to circumstances, with some online provision as and where necessary.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one essay (2,000 to 2,500 words) and one presentation in the LT.  Students will also be required to prepare short summaries of the readings (bullet points) for the weekly meetings.

Indicative reading

  • C. A. Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire and the War with Japan (London, 2004).
  • Judith A. Byfield, Carolyn A. Brown, Timothy Parsons, and Ahmad Alawad Sikainga (eds.), Africa and World War II (Cambridge, 2015).
  • Ronald Hyam, Britain's Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-1968 (Cambridge, 2007).
  • Ashley Jackson, The British Empire and the Second World War (London, 2006).
  • Eric T. Jennings, Vichy in the Tropics: Pétain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe and Indochina, 1940-1944 (Stanford, 2001).
  • John Kent, The Internationalization of Colonialism: Britain, France and Black Africa, 1939-1956 (Oxford, 1992).
  • Yasmin Khan, The Raj at War: A People’s History Of India’s Second World War (London, 2015).
  • David Killingray and Richard Rathbone (ed.), Africa and the Second World War (London, 1986).
  • William Roger Louis, Imperialism at Bay, 1941-45: The United States and the Decolonization of the British Empire (Oxford, 1977).
  • Emily S. Rosenberg (ed.), A World Connecting, 1870-1945 (Cambridge, MA, 2012).
  • Aviel Roshwald, Estranged Bedfellows: Britain and France in the Middle East during the Second World War (New York, 1990).
  • Alberto Sbacchi, Ethiopia under Mussolini: Fascism and the Colonial Experience (London, 1985).
  • Martin Thomas, The French Empire at War, 1940-1945 (Manchester, 1998).
  • Stein Tønnesson, The Vietnamese Revolution of 1945: Roosevelt, Ho Chi Minh and de Gaulle in a World at War (London, 1991).
  • Gerhard L. Weinberg, A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (Cambridge, 2005).


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

Assessment will be via one 5,000 word essay. The essay will be submitted in week 1 of ST. Essay titles will be drawn from an approved list supplied at the start of the course.

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

Personal development skills

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