Britain and its Empire (Online)
The British Empire shaped the planet's geopolitical landscape and played a major role in creating the modern world. While impacting on the lives of millions of people overseas, it created modern Britain too. This course examines the rise and fall of empire and its manifold legacies in Britain and beyond.
The British Empire was the most significant political entity in the world until the middle of the twentieth century and profoundly affected the lives of millions of people. Processes of imperial expansion and rule were integral to globalization, and the disintegration of the European empires significantly shaped the world in which we live today. The Empire deeply influenced Britain, too. The aim of this course is to provide students with a working knowledge of the causes, course and consequences of British imperial history, from the origins of empire to decolonization and Britain's position in the world today. The subject is a broad one, but can be approached holistically given the proliferation of quality overviews of the Empire's history. The course focuses upon a number of key themes within the study of British imperial history and allows a wide range of choice for students in approaching their studies.
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
1. Defining the British Empire
- The red on the map: Size and structure
- Informal empire
- A trading and economic zone
- A network of networks
- A military system: Maritime power and overseas garrisons
2. The engines of imperial expansion I
- The urge to empire
- Theories of British imperial expansion
- Trade and the quest for resources
- Migration, overseas settlement, and taking possession of land
- War, strategy, and the challenges of imperial defence
3. The engines of imperial expansion II
- Knowledge and empire
- Discovery and exploration
- Exploring the explorers
- Science, technology and empire
- Religion and missionaries
- Humanitarianism, trusteeship and philanthropy
4. Phases and regions of imperial expansion
- The early empire: 1200s to 1600s
- The eighteenth-century empire
- The nineteenth-century empire
- The twentieth-century empire
5. Governing the Empire
- The role of the monarch and the Royal Family
- Offices of state and imperial proconsuls
- Colonial rule on the ground: District commissioners and the colonial civil services
- Colonial rule on the ground: The role of indigenous leaders
- Dominion self-government
6. Living in the Empire
- Race and empire
- Colonial lives
- Changing cultures
- Orientalism, culture and imperialism
7. The Empire at home
- Empire, British culture and everyday life
- Branding and marketing the Empire
- The British larder and diet
- The Empire in British politics
8. Displaying and exhibiting the Empire
- Botanical gardens
- Empire day, jubilees and military tattoos
- Imperial London
- The British Empire Exhibition, 1924–25 and Glasgow Empire Exhibition, 1938
9. The end of empire
- Decolonisation in context
- The impact of the Second World War
- The pattern of decolonisation
- When did the British Empire actually end?
10. Legacies of empire
- The Commonwealth
- Remaining dependent territories
- Post-war immigration and multiracial Britain
- The natural world and the built environment
- Auditing the British Empire
To participate in this course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:
Dalziel, N., Penguin Historical Atlas of the British Empire (London: Penguin, 2006)
Darwin, J., Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain (London: Penguin, 2013)
Jackson, A., The British Empire: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Dr Iain JohnstonIain Johnston received his PhD from the University of Cambridge before holding positions at Sciences Po, Paris, and the Houses of Parliament. He has published on the British Commonwealth in several journals and edited volumes, and has a forthcoming book, The British Commonwealth and Victory in the Second World War.
This course aims to introduce students to the rise and fall of the British Empire and its place in modern international history. Its focus will be to argue that the empire story is central to an understanding of British history, not an adjunct to it, and to an understanding of the modern world because it was deeply shaped by British imperialism.
This course will enable participants to:
- Understand the causes of British imperial expansion.
- Understand the course and consequences of British imperial history, from the origins of empire to decolonization and Britain's position in the world today.
- Develop an understanding of the chronological phases of British expansion and the regions of the world in which it occurred.
- Develop a range of historical skills by evaluating primary and secondary sources, and the historiography of the period.
- Guided reading of documents.
- Research topics with student feedback.
- Discussion sessions.
- Set questions on primary materials.
- Questions to be answered in personal folders.
- Quizzes Guided exercises on acquiring a range of historical skills.
By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:
- The definition of the British Empire on multiple levels.
- The expansion of the British Empire.
- The governance and administration of the British Empire.
- The Empire's influence on British culture and politics.
- The end of the British Empire Imperial legacies in the world today.
By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:
- To be able to analyse and evaluate a range of explanations for, and interpretations of, the rise and fall of the British Empire.
- The ability to think and speak incisively about a complex historical topic.
- To write critical, balanced and informed assessment of key historical issues and communicate their ideas successfully.
- The ability to evaluate and interpret primary sources.
- The ability to use electronic media both to discover and to present information and ideas.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support