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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3100 Colonial Bodies: Life and Death in British India, 1757-1900

20 creditsClass Size: 28

Module manager: Prof Andrea Major

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

HIST2308Life and Death in British India, 1690-1871

Module replaces

HIST2308 Life and Death in British India

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How did eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europeans experience life in British India? The subcontinent represented a site of financial, social and sexual opportunity, but it was also seen as a place of physical and 'moral' peril. Large fortunes, military reputations and political careers could all be made there, but only if one survived the long sea voyage, enervating climate and deadly tropical diseases of the subcontinent. This module explores experiences of life – and death – in British India, and the attempts made by both individuals and the state to mitigate the challenges of living in a tropical climate. It emphasises how attempts to manage bodily experiences and physical environments impacted British social life and on Indian communities. It places a particular focus on everyday encounters and the physical experience of empire - places and spaces, social and sexual intimacies, climate, environment, disease and death. Drawing heavily on colonial accounts, memoirs, travel narratives and other primary sources, it assess the various ways in which these experiences of empire were reflected in colonial policy and in the social and spatial ordering of colonial society. Content note: this module deals with themes relating to the expansion of and attitudes to empire in India and touches on a range of issues relating to race, gender, and colonial violence that you may find difficult. These include eighteenth and nineteenth-century ideas about race, including racist language and ideas, slavery, gendered and sexual violence, colonial violence, and mortality. This content will be flagged to you as the module progresses, and the tutor can provide more information if required.


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: public spaces, social relationships and sexual intimacies, climactic and environmental conditions, and illness and death in the colonial context.
2. To understand how attitudes and policies relating to the above issues intersected with wider debates about race, gender, empire and identity, and how the impacted on the experience of both Britons and Indians.
3. To critically analyse a range of primary sources, both written and visual, relating to these issues.
4. To formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form.
5. To further develop generic, transferable and subject specific skills.

Learning outcomes
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.
5. The ability to transmit complex historical and conceptual ideas in verbal and written form.


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

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning320.001.00
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Preparatory reading for lectures and seminars. (66 hours)

Preparing presentations (46 hours)

Essay (67 hours)

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through their preparation for and participation in a range of activities during seminars, as well as during scheduled and unscheduled one to one meetings and the submission in advance of outline plans for both presentations and essay.    

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1 x 3,000-word essay60.00
Presentation15 mins with PowerPoint Slides and 1500 word transcript40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The presentation can be replaced by a 2000 word essay.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:41:11


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