What you will study
This module covers three main themes in the history of empires, namely power, resistance, and legacies from the fifteenth century to the present day. In doing this, it emphasises multivocality: helping you to access the voices, perspectives, agency and documents of contrasting groups of subjects and imperialists, so you can understand them on their own terms.
Block 1: What are empires?
This block gives you the frameworks and tools needed to compare and contrast different peoples, places and empires across the centuries. The main themes are outlined, and it shows you the overarching chronology and shape of empires through looking at mapping. You'll also begin to learn about the key concepts, tools and historiography.
Block 2: How do empires begin?
You’ll look at contrasting examples of how empires, and imperial systems of power, begin. You'll also consider ‘the conquest after the conquest’: that is, how imperial power is consolidated. Examples range from European maritime expansion to the land empires of the Mughals and Ottomans. In doing this, you'll also look at the role played by African kingdoms in the formation of the ‘Atlantic World’ and at the nature and fate of the ‘Aztec’ empire.
Block 3: How do empires work?
In this block, you'll probe deeper into the ‘sinews of power’ that sustain empire: coercive, economic, cultural and bureaucratic. Three units will each take a distinctive theme, while the fourth brings these and more together in looking at how one empire, the Qing Chinese, operated from its origins to its ending.
Block 4: How are empires experienced?
The focus of this block is on groups and individuals. How did individuals – from imperialist ‘explorers’ and missionaries to First Peoples and the enslaved – experience empire? What methods do we have for recovering the voices of different classes, genders and ethnicities, including the nonliterate? In asking these questions, our exploration of the legacies of empire will be taken further, asking about the impact of empire on different groups and how the experience of empire is inscribed on particular locations.
Block 5: How do empires decline, end and persist?
Earlier blocks will have introduced you to examples of different types of resistance to empire. You'll now be shown how such resistance, combined with metropolitan and international factors, corroded imperial power. This involves looking at the rise of colonial nationalism, for instance, in India and Africa, the impact of global wars, and changing attitudes to power and freedom. A final unit takes this up to present day, by looking at the question of how, how far and in what ways we can talk of the metropolis (the imperial centre) ‘decolonising’ itself.