Colonialism and the History of the British Empire: Course Description

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BMNAN12600A (Colonialism)

Autumn 2015

Colonialism and the History of the British Empire: Course Description
Lecturers: Karáth Tamás PhD and Török Gábor PhD candidate

Classes: Thu 8:30-10:00 and 10:15-11:45; Tárogató #104

Welcome to this course. We invite you to investigate the changing concepts of colonialism, to survey the historical development, growth and disintegration of the British Empire and to understand the impacts of European colonization in present-day conflicts. This introduction into the study of colonialism and postcolonial history will offer you with a useful background to your ensuing literary classes in the postcolonial literatures specialization. While our focus will be the British Empire, we will attempt to grasp some general patterns of colonization and draw parallels between Britain and other colonizing powers of the modern period.
Methods and organization

This course is designed as a workshop preparing for the presentation of a project at an end-of-term mini-conference. Your preparation will be aided by individual consultations and tasks. The stages of this work are described in the course calendar below. As part of the workshop discussions we will also ask you to read the assigned readings. The theoretical background for these readings will be provided in form of interactive lectures. Lectures and text discussion classes will alternate. Your awareness of the assigned readings and lectures will be tested at an oral exam concluding the course (in the examination period).


For the achievement of this credit, you will be expected to fulfil the following tasks:

  • Regular presence: a max. of 5 times 90 minutes of absence is tolerated. Make sure you do not miss the consultation classes and the mini-conference

  • Preparation of assigned readings and active participation in class discussions

  • Writing a review of a scholarly book related to your project. Your choice of the book must be accepted by the supervisor of your project. Contents and form of the review will be described in a separate guide. The deadline of submission is 12 pm 31 Oct (via e-mail to both lecturers).

  • Presentation of an individual project at the end-of-term mini-conference

  • Passing an oral exam based on the assigned readings and the content of the lectures

Grading and Plagiarism

Prerequisite for a valid course: no excessive absences; respecting the deadlines

Graded components of the course: (1) written assignments (book review), (2) project presentation at the mini-conference, and (3) oral exam. The average of the three components will be your final grade. Failure of two or all the graded tasks means the automatic failure of the course. Averages of .5 will be rounded according to your participation in the class discussions.

In all the tasks of this course, you are expected to respect academic ethics. If you borrow materials from other sources, you are required to clearly indicate your source. Always use academically reliable sources. Plagiarism (either deliberate or not) will be sanctioned with the failure of the respective task; serious cases of academic theft will incur the failure of the course.

Course calendar

Contents / Activity / Readings

Tasks and deadlines

10 Sep


Presentation of the course: Procedure and tasks


Discussion: What was before post-colonialism? (with follow-up readings)

17 Sep


Consultation 1: Narrowing down the project topic

Choosing a project topic for the conference presentation

24 Sep


Lecture (TG): The Roots and Patterns of European and British Colonialism

(Cf. reading)


Discussion: Colonial legacy

Reading: Martin J. Wiener, “The Idea of ‘Colonial Legacy’ and the Historiography of Empire,” The Journal of the Historical Society 13 (2013): 1-32

1 Oct


Lecture (KT): Medieval Colonialism on the British Isles


Discussion: Medieval Anglo-Irish encounters

Readings: (1) The Statutes of Kilkenny, 1367, /celtic/KilkennyStatutes.html

(2) R.R. Davies, “Patterns of Domination,” in Domination and Conquest: The Experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1100-1300, 1-24 (CUP, 1990);

(3) John Gillingham, “The English Invasion of Ireland,” in Representing Ireland: Literature and the origins of conflict, 1534-1660, ed. Brendan Bradshaw, Andrew Hatfield and Willy Maley, 24-42 (CUP, 1993)

(Cf. reading)

8 Oct


Consultation 2: Plan/outline of project, methods, bibliography

Choosing the book for the book review


Lecture (KT): The Beginnings of an English Empire: Early Modern English Colonisations

15 Oct


Lecture (TG): Canada: From Cartier to Westminster (1931)


Discussion: Puritans in North America

Reading: Excerpts from Puritan writings (John Smith, John Winthrop, John Cotton, William Bradford and Cotton Mather) – provided on copies

(Cf. reading)

22 Oct


Discussion: The formation of the first dominion

Readings: Perspectives on the War of 1812 at (The British and the Canadian perspectives); speech of George-Etienne Cartier on Canadian Confederation (1865)

(Cf. reading)


Lecture: The American Frontier from the Colonial Perspective (KT)

29 Oct

Autumn break

Book review (submission via e-mail until 31 Oct)

5 Nov


Lecture (TG): Australia and New Zealand until the fall of Singapore (1942).


Consultation 3: Assessment of the book reviews

12 Nov


Discussion: Australia and New Zealand

Reading: Excerpts from Captain Cook's journal and Arthur Phillip’s letter

(Cf. reading)


Lecture (KT): History of the British Empire (1783-1918)

19 Nov


Discussion: Colonial (Pre-independence) India

Readings: Tapan Raychaudhuri, “British Rule in India: An assessment,” in The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire, ed. P. J. Marshall, 357-69, (CUP, 1996)

Mahatma Gandhi’s statement in the great trial of 1922

(Cf. reading)


Lecture (TG): Decolonization

26 Nov


Lecture (KT): The Impacts of Decolonization on British Society and Politics


Discussion: Postcolonial crisis in Britain

Reading: Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech, Margaret Thatcher’s Cheltenham speech (3 July 1982), and Salman Rushdie’s “The Empire within Britain”

(Cf. reading)

3 Dec


Consultation 4: Discussion of conference ppt

First draft of ppt


Concluding remarks and discussion

10 Dec



Presentation of individual projects

Project information
Project topics

Topics supervised by Karáth Tamás:

  1. North American puritanism and the idea of civilising mission

  2. The ideology of white supremacy and its institutions in British Africa

  3. Racial, religious and cultural diversity in colonial Caribbeans or East Africa

  4. Decolonization and British identity

Topics supervised by Török Gábor (Australia / Canada / India / New Zealand):

  1. Colonization and the Australian Aborigines and the New Zealand Maoris

  2. From French Canada to British Canada

  3. The social and economic impact of British colonization in India

  4. The ANZAC theme and the birth of modern nations (Australia and New Zealand)

Assessment of the project presentations

Aspects of assessment

Maximum point

I. Project


1.1 Presenting research question and outlining the problem, thesis and argument


1.2 Structure


1.3 Methods and use of scholarly literature


1.4 Relevance


1.5 Conclusions


II. Oral Delivery


2.1 Fluency, pace, pauses, emphases


2.2 Grammar and appropriacy


2.3 Audience involvement (contact)


III. PPT Design


3.1 Esthetic


3.2 Visibility of text


3.3 Balance of text and images


3.4 ppt text (spelling, grammar, style)


IV. PPT Structure and Use of Sources


4.1 Cover and contents pages


4.2 List of sources


4.3 Overall organization


4.4 Correct use of sources (indication of the source of quotes, correct quotation marks)


V. Responding to Questions





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