HI5051 - British Empires: The First Two Hundred Years

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will learn to think comparatively about processes of historical change, using Britain’s earliest imperial ventures in the Atlantic World, as well as subsequent endeavours in Australasia, as the testing ground. You will develop your knowledge and understanding of how Britain came to attain an Empire in North America, exploring early migration and settlement patterns, but also how the British interacted with indigenous peoples. You will further learn about how Britain, despite defeat in the American Revolution (1776-1783), was able to retain a presence in the Americas, examining, for example, the movement of Loyalists to what became Canada. You will then consider these North American developments in broader global context, exploring how Britain first came to acquire India, the “jewel in the crown”, before extending its reach even further to Australia by establishing it as a penal colony. Finally, the module will equip you to think critically and develop your own view about academic literature, primary sources, and comparative historical interpretation.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module through a combination of interactive lectures and seminars. Key themes and concepts will be introduced in lectures, supported by seminars that allow further group and individual working, discussion and debate. There will also be opportunities for more hands-on, practical work on primary sources. In addition to learning during taught hours with the module tutor, you will be expected to individually prepare for weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading, and will build on your independent reading by presenting your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. All learning materials, tasks and readings will be made available to you on the eLearning Portal (Blackboard) to enable you to participate actively in seminars. You will also participate in formative assessment activities, such as in-class essay tutorials, and receive feedback, and will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning. Summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The module’s lectures and seminars will enable you to advance your academic knowledge and skills, helping you attain the module learning outcomes. Your academic development will also be facilitated through engagement with the course material, resources available on the eLearning portal, and formative assessment opportunities in class. Discussing readings and your ideas with your peers and the module tutor about will be an important element of the development. Academic support is provided by the module tutor in class and through group/individual tutorials which allow specific issues to be addressed and to promote progress in your academic development. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised feedback & consultation hours, and via email, providing feedback and advice. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks. Your peers will offer a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key issues, debates and concepts in the history of the first British Empire.
2. Demonstrate a critical consideration the concepts of ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonisation’

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Exhibit engagement with historical theories and methodologies to investigate and analyse comparatively British imperial expansion in North America and Australasia.

4. Apply knowledge and communicate in written form about the development of the first British Empire in debates.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Demonstrate an awareness of historical developments and how they relate to the modern world.

How will I be assessed?

Your knowledge and understanding of British imperial history, and your ability to analyse and critically discuss relevant historiographical theories and concepts and their application, and your ability to present and compare diverse primary evidence, will be tested in:

1/ One 2,000 word essay. [MLOs 1-5]

2/ A 2,000-word primary source essay in which you explore a seminar topic of your choice through the study of three discrete primary sources. This analysis is to be comprised of an assessment of the primary sources themselves, i.e. the kind of sources you have chosen, their respective audience, potential source bias and problems, as well as a commentary on what the sources tell us about the topic within the wider context of existing scholarship. [MLOs 1-4]
3/ Portfolio of presentations and online seminar contributions. Individuals will work in groups to present on questions and sources relating to the seminar theme for that week. Groups will be asked to present in multiple weeks, and the overall mark awarded to individuals for this component (which might be distinct from that awarded to other members of the presentation group) will also reflect the extent to which they have engaged – either through questions or comments – with the presentations of others. [MLOs 1-5]

You will also have the opportunity to present your work in the seminars and will receive formative feedback from your lecturer in classroom discussions, debates, and tutorial sessions. Formative assessment through your lecturer will be written and verbal, and you will also receive feedback through engagement with your peers who will enable you to test your explanations about the nature of British imperial expansion before 1800.





Module abstract

When we think about empire we are often drawn to the nineteenth century, and events such as the Opium Wars, the scramble for Africa, and genocide in Australia. This module shows that the ‘new imperialism’ of this later empire had a pre-history in the pre-1800 period. This first, or early-modern, empire was one of slavery, migration, conquest, war and revolution; it was also an era of exploration, of encounters, and of trade and exchange. In this module you will develop your understanding of empire in the British Isles, how the settlement of Ireland was extended to North America, and how the English, then British, interacted with indigenous peoples – sometimes violently, but not always. You will consider these North American developments in broader global contexts, such as the colonialism of the East India Company in India, exploration in the Pacific, the creation of penal settlements in Australia, and liberation efforts by abolitionists in Sierra Leone. You will examine these case studies through a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, including hands-on primary source work. The concepts of ‘imperialism’ and ‘colonisation’ lie at the heart of the module, and you will be challenged to consider their meaning and significance in the different geographical locations this module focuses on. This will provide you with critical tools to form your own understanding of controversial issues concerning Britain’s global expansion, and how they resonate to this day.

Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023 or September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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