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2017/18 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3392 Eastern Subjects: British Attitudes to India, 1757-1857

40 creditsClass Size: 10

Module manager: Dr Andrea Major

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2017/18

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century saw a rapid expansion in British involvement in India, as the East India Company extended its political control across the subcontinent. The same period saw significant shifts in the way in which men and women in Britain understood the Empire and Britain's emerging imperial identity. The rise of proselytising evangelicalism and the growth of anti-slavery sentiment, together with continued concerns about the way in which the East India Company was administering its Indian territories, all fed into a many sided reassessment of Britain's responsibilities to its subjects overseas. This module explores how observers in Britain represented, debated and understood India, its people and their place in the empire across the period of East India Company rule. Particular focus will be placed on evangelical and abolitionist accounts, especially the ways in which contemporaneous ideas and debates about 'slavery' and 'freedom' informed interpretations of Indian conditions in different contexts. Through a close, critical study of key contemporary texts - including speeches, pamphlets, personal correspondence, newspaper reports, paintings, engravings and satirical cartoons - it explores how attitudes to India, and to East India Company rule there, were both informed by and intersected with wider debates about issues such as race, religion, slavery and abolitionism, trade and commodity production, consumption, and civilising mission.


The objectives of this module are:
1. To explore how people in Britain understood India and its place within the British empire during the period 1757-1857.
2. To examine how social and political trends in Britain, particularly evangelicalism and anti-slavery sentiment, impacted on attitudes to India, Indians and the nature of East India Company rule.
3. To assess how attitudes to race, religion, gender, labour, consumption and empire were impacted by ideas about slavery and freedom during this period.
4. To analyse a range of primary sources, both written and visual, relating to these issues and to read these critically, against the grain, using appropriate theoretical approaches.
5. To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form.
6. To further develop generic, transferable and subject specific skills.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will demonstrate:
1. An understanding of the various contexts in which India and its place within the Empire was debated and understood in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
2. A nuanced appreciation of the influence evangelicalism, abolitionism, racial theory and ideas about slavery and freedom had on the representation of India and Indians in metropolitan British debates at the time.
3. A firm grasp of relevant theoretical and methodological approaches, especially regarding colonial discourse and postcolonial theory.
4. A close critical familiarity with key primary texts relating to these issues.
5. 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


The course will be split into 6 blocks:

1. Orientalism, Race and Empire: This block will provide students with a firm introduction to key theoretical approaches to colonial discourse and postcolonial theory, as well as an opportunity to explore how this helps us to understand the development of ideas about race and identity in the period. It will look at the development of various theories about race and difference in the C18 and C19, and at the emergence of key tropes in British representations of India during this period.

2. The India Question: This block will look at British reactions to EIC expansion in the late eighteenth century. It will explore the political problems posed by the EIC's shift from traders to rulers in India, as well as the social and political issues raised by returning nabobs, the perceived influx of Indian wealth and the incorporation of colonial commodities into British consumer culture. Included will be discussion of ideas about Oriental Despotism, EIC tyranny and corruption, the trial of Warren Hastings etc.

3. Satan's Wretched Slaves: This block will focus on the rise of evangelicalism and the missionary movement in Britain. It will explore how the relationship between missionaries and the EIC, the ways in which Indian religion, society and culture was transmitted and distorted through missionary publications and the role of women and gender issues in the missionary project. It will include a close analysis of the 'invention' of Hinduism in missionary accounts and the influence of slavery metaphors in shaping attitudes to Indian religious and social practice (e.g. caste).

4. Not made by Slaves: This section will consider the relationship between the British anti-slavery movement and India in the years before emancipation in 1833. It will consider how attitudes to poverty, slavery and free labour in India were influenced by the imperatives of the campaign against slavery in the West Indies, and the role that Indian produce, especially sugar, played in abolitionist campaigns. It will look at ideas about free and 'unfree' labour on the subcontinent, as well as debates about sugar duties, ethical consumption and colonial commodity production.

5. Justice to India: this section will look at increased attention to India, and criticism of the East India Company in the years between 1833 and 1857. In particular it will look at the fragmentation of the abolitionist movement and the emergence of India's political, economic and 'moral' position as an issue for BFASS, the Aborigines Protection Society and the British India Society. It will explore debates about the exportation of Indian indentured labour (the 'coolie trade'), and critiques of EIC administration more generally, as well as the link between these and the continued campaign against slavery in the American South.

6. Mutiny!: This section will explore metropolitan British reactions to news of the Indian Uprising of 1857, especially as reported through the press, parliament and the public sphere. It will explore debates about the causes of the uprising, as well as reactions to massacres and reported atrocities against British civilians. It will also consider the impact that this had on attitudes to Indians, and on the direction and tone of future British governance of India, as the subcontinent was transferred from the EIC to the crown.

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 hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Preparatory reading for lectures and seminars.
Preparing presentations
Unassessed postings on the VLE
Exam revision

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Preparation for and participation in seminars, assessed presentations, essay and exam. Students will also have the opportunity to post practice answers on the VLE after each seminar and to receive written feedback on the same.

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
Essay1 x 4,000 word essay due by 12 noon Monday of exam week 2 semester 140.00
PresentationVerbal presentation, format to be determined by tutor10.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

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)3 hr 00 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

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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