The Imperial Economy: Britain and the Wider World, 1815-1914

Module code: HS3614

This module explores the relationship between British ‘imperialism’ and the expansion of Britain’s society and economy in the century leading up to 1914. Where did the British Empire begin and end? What exactly do we mean by ‘empire’? And would it be better to talk about a British ‘world system’ in which the ‘formal’ empire was only its most visible part?

Geographically, these range from the ‘colonies of white settlement’ (e.g. Canada and Australia) to India and Africa, and finally to places like China and the independent republics of South America which you might not necessarily associate with the British Empire at all. You’ll begin by studying the ways in which historians have tried to answer these questions since the 1930s, before looking at specific case studies.

These sources will focus on the different ways in which the British may have exercised power and influence as merchants, colonisers, rulers, imperialists, capitalists and competitors in international relations. You’ll finish by looking at the contemporary radical critique of British imperialism. All seminars make extended use of contemporary sources.