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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: The British Empire in Political Thought (PGHC11445)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course looks at the major British thinkers who conceptualised the British Empire and what they saw as its foundational ideas. The focus will be on how empire was understood, justified, or critiqued through a variety of conceptual arrangements, often in tension with one another.
Course description This course examines the various ways in which British thinkers have conceptualised empire and imperialism over 300 years. Weekly seminars progress chronologically and take into account changing historical contexts and also focus on a particular ideological perspective on empire. By critically engaging with a series of canonical texts/themes in dialogue with one another students will gain an understanding of the multifaceted and multivalent intellectual foundations of British imperialism. A major outcome for those taking this course will be to understand how Britain could justify its global empire in a liberal age. In class we will critically assess the sources and historiography to evaluate whether varying strands of liberal thought were complicit in imperialism and to what extent. Was there a difference in understanding the dependencies and white settler colonies? Additionally, we will ask whether the critics of liberalism and empire really had the interests of the colonised at heart. More fundamentally, we will conclude by considering: 'what is empire in the modern age?'.

1. Occupation, Property, and Sovereignty: John Locke
2. Commerce and Empire: David Hume and Adam Smith
3. The Limits of Political Economy: Edmund Burke and Colonial Capitalism
4. The English Utilitarians: Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, and J. S. Mill
5. Liberal Historicism: Thomas Babbington Macaulay's Global Romance
6. The Positivist Critique of Empire: Frederic Harrison and Richard Congreve
7. The Theorists of New Imperialism: Charles Dilke, John Seeley, James Froude, and Henry Sidgwick
8. British Idealists, New Liberals and Imperialism
9. Marx and British Socialists
10. Empire or Commonwealth? Goldwin Smith and Alfred Zimmern
11. Conclusions
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate in online forum posts a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge concerning British political thought on empire, key contextual and attendant theoretical shifts, and dialogue between key thinkers.
  2. Demonstrate in online forum posts an ability to analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning modern British political thought and its place in histories of imperial expansion and governance, primary source materials concerning empire, property, commerce, sovereignty, liberal historicism, the state, and internationalism.
  3. Demonstrate in online forum posts and seminar participation, an ability to understand and apply specialised research or professional skills, techniques and practices considered in the course.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to develop and sustain original scholarly arguments in oral and written form in seminar discussions, presentations, and online forum posts by independently formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence considered in the course.
  5. Demonstrate in seminar discussions, forum posts, and written coursework originality and independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers; and a considerable degree of autonomy.
Reading List
Armitage, David, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge, 2000).
Bell, Duncan, The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order, 1860-1900 (Princeton, NJ, 2007).
Bell, Duncan ed., Victorian Visions of Global Order: Empire and International Relations in Nineteenth-Century Political Thought (Cambridge, 2007).
Fitzmaurice, Andrew, Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500-2000 (Cambridge, 2014).
Kelly, Duncan ed., The Historical Roots of British Imperial Thought (Oxford, 2009).
Koditschek, Theodore, Liberalism, Imperialism, and the Historical Imagination: Nineteenth-Century Visions of a Greater Britain (Cambridge, 2011).
Matikkala, Mira, Empire and Imperial Ambition: Liberty, Englishness and Anti-Imperialism in Late Victorian Britain (London, 2011).
Morefield, Jeanne, Covenants without Swords: Idealist Liberalism and the Spirit of Empire (Princeton, NJ, 2004).
Muthu, Sankar, ed, Empire and Modern Political Thought (Cambridge, 2012).
Pitts, Jennifer, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton, NJ, 2005).
Schulz, Bart and Varouxakis, Georgios eds., Utilitarianism and Empire (Oxford, 2005).
Varouxakis, Georgios, Liberty Abroad: J. S. Mill on International Relations (Cambridge, 2013).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills In addition to the traits acquired at SCQF Level 10, this course at SCQF Level 11 will impart the ability to exercise substantial autonomy in an independent project with originality and creativity. Data and conclusions will be communicated using a range of IT resources (online forums, powerpoint) to a broad audience of student peers and specialists. The Forum posts will allow ample opportunity to reflect and make informed judgements on the work of others.
KeywordsBritish Empire,Political Thought
Course organiserMr Vikram Visana
Tel: (0131 6)50 3585
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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