Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Nancy J. Curtin

HSRU 4450
Prof. Nancy Curtin
Spring 2009

Course description

This seminar focuses on a selected topic in the history of Great Britain and Ireland ---- history and historiography of the British Empire and decolonization from the 16th to the 20th centuries.  We will look at specific case studies, including Ireland, India, Jamaica, and South Africa, to explore both a typology and chronology of empire as well as the more detailed interaction between metropole and periphery.  We will also take a more general and critical look at explanatory metanarratives of empire such as western capitalist expansion or cultural notions of European superiority.  Each student will be assigned a colony to report on and make the subject of an historiographical essay.


Meaningful class participation – 50%

Paper (15-20 pages) – 50%

Required Texts

Niall Fergusson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power

Elleke Boehmer, Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature, 1870-1918

All journal articles are available on-line as Electronic Journals via Fordham Library

The syllabus as well as forthcoming course documents and a discussion board are on Blackboard.

Schedule of Meetings

Jan. 14 – Introduction

Jan. 21 – Empire I

Fergusson, ch. 1-3

Jan. 28 –  Empire II

Fergusson, ch. 4-6

Feb. 4 – The Economies of Empire

P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas I. The Old Colonial System, 1688-1850,” The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Nov., 1986), pp. 501-525

P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas II. New Imperialism, 1850-1945,” The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Feb., 1987), pp. 1-26

            Patrick O’Brien, “The Costs and Benefits of British Imperialism, 1846-1914,” Past and Present, No. 120 (Aug., 1988), pp. 163-200

            Paul Kennedy, “The Costs and Benefits of British Imperialism, 1846-1914,”  Past and Present, No. 125 (Nov., 1989), pp. 186-192

Patrick, O’Brien, “The Costs and Benefits of British Imperialism 1846-1914: Reply,” Past and Present, No. 125 (Nov., 1989), pp. 192-199



Feb. 11 – Irish Studies Lecture

            Michael Gillespie, “The Myth if Irish Cinema”

            2:00, Flom Auditorium, Walsh Library


Feb. 18 – Gender, Race, and Sexuality

Mary A. Procida, “Good Sports and Right Sorts: Guns, Gender, and Imperialism in British India,” The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 454-488

Luise White, “Separating the Men from the Boys: Constructions of Gender, Sexuality, and Terrorism in Central Kenya, 1939-1959,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1990), pp. 1-25

Seymour Drescher, “The Ending of the Slave Trade and the Evolution of European Scientific Racism,” Social Science History, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1990), pp. 415-450

Douglas Lorimer, “Theoretical Racism in Late-Victorian Anthropology, 1870-1900,” Victorian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Spring, 1988), pp. 405-430



Feb. 25 --  An Empire of Law or Force?

B. A. Knox, “The British Government and the Governor Eyre Controversy, 1865-1875,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Dec., 1976), pp. 877-900.

Charles Townshend, “Martial Law: Legal and Administrative Problems of Civil Emergency in Britain and the Empire, 1800-1940,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Mar., 1982), pp. 167-195

Purnima Bose; Laura Lyons, “Dyer Consequences: The Trope of Amritsar, Ireland, and the Lessons of the "Minimum" Force Debate,” boundary 2, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 199-229.

Barbara English, “The Kanpur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857,” Past and Present, No. 142 (Feb., 1994), pp. 169-178

Rudrangshu Mukherjee, “’Satan Let Loose upon Earth’: The Kanpur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857,” Past and Present, No. 128 (Aug., 1990), pp. 92-116

Rudrangshu Mukherjee, “The Kanpur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857: Reply,” Past and Present, No. 142 (Feb., 1994), pp. 178-189

Derek Sayer, “British Reaction to the Amritsar Massacre 1919-1920,” Past and Present, No. 131 (May, 1991), pp. 130-164



Mar. 4 – God and Mammon

Brian Stanley, “'Commerce and Christianity': Providence Theory, the Missionary Movement, and the Imperialism of Free Trade, 1842-1860,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Mar., 1983), pp. 71-94

Andrew Porter, “'Commerce and Christianity': The Rise and Fall of a Nineteenth-Century Missionary Slogan,” The Historical Journal, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Sep., 1985), pp. 597-621

Felix Driver, “Henry Morton Stanley and His Critics: Geography, Exploration and Empire,” Past and Present, No. 133 (Nov., 1991), pp. 134-166

John Darwin, “Imperialism and the Victorians: The Dynamics of Territorial Expansion,” The English Historical Review, Vol. 112, No. 447 (Jun., 1997), pp. 614-642


Mar. 11 – Empire and Popular Culture

Patrick A. Dunae, “Boys' Literature and the Idea of Empire, 1870-1914,” Victorian Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 105-121

Brian Stoddart, ”Sport, Cultural Imperialism, and Colonial Response in the British Empire,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. 649-673

Martin Hall, “The Legend of the Lost City; Or, the Man with Golden Balls,” Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 179-199

Paul R. Deslandes, ”’The Foreign Element’: Newcomers and the Rhetoric of Race, Nation, and Empire in "Oxbridge" Undergraduate Culture, 1850-1920,” The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 54-90

Andrew S. Thompson, “The Language of Imperialism and the Meanings of Empire: Imperial Discourse in British Politics, 1895-1914,” The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 147-177



Mar. 25 – Reports





Apr. 1—Reports



           South Africa


Apr. 8 – Selected readings from Boehmer, TBA


Apr. 15—Reports





Apr. 22—Reports

            Aden (Yemen)




Apr. 29 – Reports




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