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Empire: 1492-1975

Empires have had a remarkable impact on world history over the last five centuries. The six blocks of this module each focus on a particular question, from ‘What are empires?’ to ‘Why do empires end?’, considering the British Empire in detail before drawing comparisons with others, including those of France, the Netherlands, Russia, China and Spain. You’ll study a wide range of primary sources, including letters and diaries, newspapers, political papers, paintings, photographs and newsreel footage. The module is a natural choice if you have already studied Exploring history: medieval to modern 1400-1900 (A200), and can be included in a range of degree programmes.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
A326
Credits
60
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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Student Reviews

A good course and certainly one that broadened my understanding of empires and not just the British. There is a...
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As a level 3 module I was slightly anxious about starting this module. I thought the topics covered in the...
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What you will study

The development of the modern world has been shaped to an astonishing degree by empires. By the 1930s, for example, colonies and ex-colonies covered around 85 per cent of the land surface of the globe. Empires have precipitated some of the most brutal violence ever recorded, and yet the world as we know it would be unrecognisable without them. After all, English is an official language in countries as far apart as Botswana, India and Jamaica, not because of any intrinsic communicative merit, but rather because it was the language of the largest empire the world has ever known.

In this module, you’ll undertake comparative study of a range of empires. The history and significance of the British Empire is a thread running throughout the module, but you will also encounter the empires of France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, China and Russia. This comparative perspective will enable you to think analytically about what exactly constitutes an empire, and why they have proved such an enduring way of arranging human affairs.

In addition to this geographically comparative approach, the module considers the history of empires over a long period of time – roughly speaking, from Christopher Columbus’ first journey to the Americas in 1492 to the Portuguese withdrawal from its African colonies in the mid-1970s. Although you will not look at this entire period in the same level of detail, this broad time span enables the consideration of a range of fascinating issues – from the role of germs in the European conquest of South America to the armed struggle by which Algerians won independence during the 1950s (which proved to be beneficial for France but a disaster for Algeria).

To enable a valid comparative approach over such a broad geographical and temporal range, the teaching materials are tightly structured around a series of key questions – What are empires? How do empires begin and end? How are empires experienced? How do empires ‘work’? What are their legacies? The module also considers the ‘experience’ of empire and asks: what is (or was) it like living in an empire?

A326 places a lot of emphasis on the use of original primary-source materials. As you study this module, you will be provided with (and guided through) sources as diverse as personal diaries, journals and letters, government papers, newspaper articles, and visual material such as paintings, photographs and newsreel footage. In addition, a module DVD contains original archive footage of twentieth-century events such as the wars of decolonisation in Algeria, colonial exhibitions in Britain and interviews with those experiencing empire in Africa.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material, and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance at any point in the module. There will also be structured tuition (a mix of face-to-face and online tutorials, and face-to-face day schools) that you are encouraged, but not required, to participate in. The location of the day schools and the mix of online/face-to-face tuition may vary according to the distribution of students taking the module. Your nearest regional or national centre can also provide you with both general and specialist help with your studies.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Your end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


Entry

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

To study this module you require sound skills in analytical thought and essay writing, and the ability to assimilate and critique a diverse range of source materials. These skills are all taught in OU level 2 history modules such as Exploring history: medieval to modern 1400–1900 (A200). There is no requirement for you to have completed OU level 2 study prior to taking A326, but it’s highly recommended. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

There is no prescribed preparatory work. However, you might wish to have a look at some of the popular treatments of the British Empire aimed at a general reader, such as Niall Ferguson’s Empire, or John Darwin’s After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire. Alternatively, David Day’s Conquest tackles the topic from a narrower, settlement empire perspective. You will find helpful advice on study skills in The Arts Good Study Guide (E. Chambers & A. Northedge, The Open University).

Register

Start End Fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2020.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.


Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2015. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation. Fees for courses starting from 1 August 2015 will be available in March 2015.
This information was provided on 21/12/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed material, DVD and audio CD.

You will need

You will need access to DVD and audio CD players (or a computer with DVD and CD drives) at various points during the module.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

In addition to the teaching and ancillary materials, one of the distinctive features of A326 is the online provision of a wide range of primary source materials (copies of original historical documents). It is intended that these documents will be available in Portable Document Format (PDF), as will any printed study materials. Some PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. 

Descriptions will be supplied for most images in the teaching units and the visual sources book. However, the module will include the study of a number of maps and, due to their complexity, audio descriptions of these cannot be provided. In addition, some exercises in the module will be based on viewing footage on the module DVD. However, the parts of the module involving viewing maps and the module DVD are sufficiently few to ensure that students who are unable to complete these sections of the teaching materials will still be able to complete the module successfully. Written transcripts of any audio and DVD components will be available and other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.