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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST2308 Life and Death in British India, 1690-1871

20 creditsClass Size: 27

Module manager: Prof Andrea Major

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is mutually exclusive with

HIST3100Colonial Bodies: Life and Death in British India, 1757-1900

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How did the establishment of colonial society impact on everyday life in British India? The subcontinent represented a site of both opportunity and peril for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britons. Large fortunes, military reputations and political careers could all be made there, but only if you survived the long sea voyage, enervating climate and deadly tropical diseases of the subcontinent. Meanwhile, the establishment of colonial rule had far-reaching impacts on Indian social, cultural and domestic life. This module explores the emergence, development and functioning of British colonial society in India during the period of imperial expansion and consolidation, and how this was experienced by both Europeans and Indians. It focuses on everyday encounters and the physical experiences of empire: places and spaces, social and sexual intimacies, climate, environment, disease, violence and death. Drawing heavily on colonial accounts, memoirs, travel narratives and other primary sources, it analyses both official policy and public perception in order to assess the various ways in which social, ideological and political imperatives of empire were reflected in spatial ordering, physical experiences and personal encounters in a colonial setting.


The objectives of this module are:
1. To explore the nature and functioning of British colonial society in India through a focus on the physical experiences of empire.
2. To examine how Britons and Indians experienced, understood and represented physical and metaphorical spaces, social relationships and sexual intimacies, climactic and environmental conditions, and illness and death in the colonial context.
3. To understand how attitudes to these issues intersected with wider debates about race, gender, empire and identity.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will demonstrate:
1. An understanding of the physical challenges and experiences of empire in India, and the ways in which colonial society was structured to deal with them.
2. A nuanced appreciation of British experiences of and attitudes to India, especially as they relate to wider issues of race, gender and identity in colonial society.
3. A close critical familiarity with some key primary texts relating to these issues.
4. A sophisticated knowledge of the relevant historiography, including the most recent developments in the field.

Skills outcomes
- in-depth study and interpretation of primary sources
- thorough understanding of historiographical debate
- development and substantiation of own arguments
- historical comparison


This thematically arranged module will cover a range of issues relating to the physical experience of life and death in colonial India. These may include: the nature of British colonial society; public spaces and the colonial city; gender and the colonial home; the environment and climate; famine; disease and medicine; death; religious practices; experiences of violence, conflict and captivity.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Preparatory reading for lectures and seminars
Preparing presentations
Exam revision

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Preparation for and participation in seminars,performance in the essay and blog postings.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,500 word essay due by 12noon in exam week 150.00
Assignment3 x 750 word blog postings50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:40:26


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