Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

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

40 creditsClass Size: 16

Module manager: Professor Andrea Major

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

Year running 2024/25

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 (EIC) 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, as the rise of proselytising evangelicalism and the emergence of ‘humanitarian’ and anti-slavery sentiment intersected with growing concerns about the way in which the East India Company was administering its Indian territories. Meanwhile, the increased movement of people, goods, and ideas between Britain and India was catalysing profound changes in British society and culture, the legacies of which can still be seen today. This module explores how observers in Britain represented, debated, and understood India and its place in the empire across the period of East India Company rule. Drawing on a wide range of textual and visual sources, it will explore British attitudes to India from a variety of perspectives, from ‘old India hands’, East India Company directors, and politicians, to missionaries, anti-slavery activists, social reformers, and consumers. Through a close, critical study of key contemporary texts - including speeches, pamphlets, personal correspondence, newspaper reports, advertisements, plays and poems, paintings, engravings, and satirical cartoons - it explores how information about India reached the British public and how the consequences of East India Company rule in India were experienced and understood in Britain. In doing so it asks how empire in India shaped British imperial identities in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, as well as exploring its legacies today.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 how people in Britain understood India and its place within the British empire during the period 1757-1857.
2. To consider various contexts in which people Britain encountered empire ‘at home’ and how debates about, goods from, and interactions with India helped shape British politics, society, and culture.
3. To examine how changing ideas about race, religion, gender, slavery and freedom, consumption, and colonial exploitation intersected with debates about India, Indians, and the nature of East India Company rule.
4. To analyse a range of textual and visual primary sources relating to these issues and to read these critically, against the grain, using appropriate theoretical approaches.
5. To enable students to formulate sophisticated and nuanced arguments in relation to these issues, in written and verbal form.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will demonstrate:

A. A detailed understanding of the various contexts in which people in Britain encountered ideas about, debates concerning, and goods from India and how this helped shaped British society, identity, and attitudes to empire.
B. A nuanced appreciation of the factors that influenced the representation of India and Indians in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Britain and how to approach these in historical context.
C. A close critical familiarity with key primary texts relating to these issues and the ability to read these critically and analytically.
D. A sophisticated knowledge of the relevant historiography, including the most recent developments in the field and relevant theoretical and methodological approaches.
E. The ability to develop sophisticated and well-evidenced arguments in relation to these issues and to communicate them effectively through a range of written and verbal formats.

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


Beginning in 1757 – the year conventionally considered to mark the beginning of British rule in India – and ending with the cataclysmic events of the Indian Uprising of 1857-8, the module explores a century of ‘Company Raj’ in India through the lens of metropolitan British politics, society, and culture. Themes covered may include: the political problems posed by the EIC expansion; controversies surrounding returning EIC officials or ‘nabobs’; the impact of colonial commodities into British consumer culture; the rise of evangelicalism and the missionary movement; attitudes to Indian religion and social practices; debates about colonial production, slavery, indenture, and ‘free’ labour; reform movements, colonial philanthropy and ideas of ‘civilising mission’; the experience of Indians in Britain; criticism of the EIC, including responses to colonial expansion, violence and exploitation; responses to Indian resistance, conflict, and revolt; legacies of empire in Britain today.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours352.00
Total Contact hours48.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)400.00

Private study

Reading to prepare for seminars (120 hours);
Further self-directed reading (66 hours);
Preparing and researching for the portfolio, including formative elements (80 hours);
Preparing and researching the essay, including formative elements (80 hours);
Reflection on feedback (6 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the opportunity to receive formative feedback on elements of the portfolio as the module progresses (e.g. they will submit one 500-word blog post for formative feedback in Semester 1, and will deliver an unassessed 5-minute presentation for feedback during seminars in Semester 2). There will be opportunities for one-to-one feedback meetings on essay plans and portfolio plans (both max one side of A4) in Sem 1 and Sem 2 respectively.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 word essay50.00
Portfolio3 activities from a choice of 5 to make up a portfolio50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

For their portfolio, students will do activities a and b, and will chose one option for c. a. 3 x 500-word blog posts b. 1 x 5-minute presentation (with PPT and accompanying 750-word script) c. 1 x 1,500-word primary source analysis OR 1 x 1,500-word literature review OR 1 x 1,500-word book/film/art/play review.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:15:05


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019