Tutorial in the History of the Modern British Empire


Course Description: This graduate-level tutorial introduces the major themes, debates, and methods of historical writing on the British Empire from around 1750.  It is intended particularly, though not exclusively, as field preparation for the general examination.  Rather than attempting to master a series of local and national histories, we ask how imperialism operated as a global system, tracing connections between metropole and colony and identifying patterns and divergences which emerged from imperial rule in different parts of the world.  Topics include the uses of expert knowledge, the peculiarities of settler colonialism, the lure of liberalism as imperial ideology, and the role of violence.

Sample Reading List:

David Armitage, “Greater Britain: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis?”
David Anderson, Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire
David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India
C.A. Bayly, Empire and Information: The British Empire and the World, 1780-1830
C.A. Bayly, Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World
James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World
Duncan Bell, The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order
Edward Berenson, Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa
Christopher L. Brown, Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism
Elizabeth Buettner, Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India
Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India
Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World
E.M. Collingham, Imperial Bodies: The Physical Experience of the Raj
Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa
Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
Richard Drayton, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the “Improvement” of the World
James Epstein, Scandal of Colonial Rule: Power and Subversion in the British Atlantic during the Age of Revolution
Matthew Edney, Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India
Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya
David French, The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1967
Durba Ghosh, Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire
Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination
James Hevia, English Lessons: The Pedagogy of Imperialism in Nineteenth-Century China

A.J. Hopkins, “Rethinking Decolonization”
Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World
Dane Kennedy, Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia
Elizabeth Kolsky, Colonial Justice in British India: White Violence and the Rule of Law
Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Color Line: White Men’s Countries and the Challenge of Racial Equality
Alan Lester and Fae Dussart, Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance: Protecting Aborigines across the Nineteenth-Century British Empire
Philippa Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire
Joanna Lewis, Empire State-Building: War and Welfare in Kenya
J.A. Mangan, The Games Ethic and Imperialism
P.J. Marshall, The Making and Unmaking of Empires: Britain, India, and America
Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj
Stephanie Newell, The Forger’s Tale: The Search for Odeziaku
Miles Ogborn, Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company
Richard Price, Making Empire: Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa
Martin Thomas, Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers and Protest in the European Colonial Empires
Megan Vaughan, Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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