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2017/18 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3737 Afterlives of Empire: A History of the Present

20 creditsClass Size: 14

Module manager: Will Jackson

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2017/18

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module gives students the historical context to better understand some of the major news stories that they read, watch and tweet about today. It does so by reaching back into the imperial and colonial past of Britain, France and the USA. It combines this, essentially recuperative, historical approach with critical readings of contemporary news media. Doing so allows students to effectively historicise land invasions in Zimbabwe, terrorism in Paris, massacres in South Africa and Britain’s own military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Responding as it does to the evolving present, the module, whilst retaining its core structure, will be updated each year to keep its content current.


The goals of this module are:
1. To equip students with a sound knowledge of a series of colonial and postcolonial histories, including the involvement of Britain and France in the Middle East, the inter-relation of capital and colonialism in Southern Africa, the imperial history of the United States of America and the politics of race and nationality in Britain and Europe today.
2. To encourage students to develop a sophisticated conceptual understanding of empire, decolonisation, post-colonialism, capital and the global and transnational distribution of power.
3. To encourage students to understand the world around them as in part a product of colonial history and to be able to think politically of their own place in it.

Learning outcomes
1. On completion of the module, students will have gained a sophisticated understanding of the histories of European and American colonialism in the making of the contemporary world.

2. Students will have learned how to respond critically – and historically – to the discursive world that surrounds them, by utilising the primary source material of their everyday lives - newspapers, twitter feeds, blogs and rolling news – as the entry way into a series of historical investigations.

3. Students will be able to debate with their class-mates with sensitivity, sophistication and respect on issues around Britishness, immigration and difference and on challenging topics concerning race, violence and terrorism.

4. By encouraging an historical reading of today’s news – the past of the present – students will have gained the skills to understand historically not just the topics included in the course but other aspects of the contemporary world.


The module is comprised of eleven two hour tutorials. These are – provisionally – as follows:
1. Introduction: Empire now and then
2. Our war? Historicising Helmand
3. A problem of land: farm invasions in Zimbabwe
4. Colonists, capitalists and mines: the massacre at Marikana
5. Rhodes must fall? Decolonising campus
6. Before ISIS: Britain and France in the Middle East
7. Students’ essay writing workshop (see below)
8. The life and times of Jihadi John: Londonistan and the war on terror
9. Je suis Charlie? Citoyens in Paris and Algiers
10. Homophobes and Human Rights: Sex and sexuality in Africa
11. Reflections

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 hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students are expected to prepare thoroughly for each seminar. This will include:
• The reading and analysis of set materials
• Broader, directed reading
• Engagement with the work of other seminar participants.
The module includes one piece of formal written assessment and one element based on a critical response to a contemporary media source. For these students will need to:
• Carry out independent research
• Read widely and consistently in order to develop a breadth of knowledge adequate for class participation
• Develop appropriate skills of criticism, analysis, referencing and written and spoken communication.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored via assessed and non-assessed work, students’ preparation for and participation during tutorials and through one on one meetings with the module tutor in officer hours and by appointment.

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
Essay2,000 words30.00
Group ProjectBased on primary source material10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

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

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc) (S1)2 hr 00 mins60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

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: 19/09/2017


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