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Ages of Empire

Why should I take this Trinity Elective?

Empires have powerfully shaped the modern world, politically and economically, socially and environmentally, driving change from mass population movements to the spread of global languages or ecological transformations driven by capitalist energies. This Elective module rises to the challenge posed by the sheer diversity and range of impacts produced by empires from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, and across the globe, by exploring a wide range of ‘imperial moments’. Some of these will be a historical event such as a battle or a treaty, but others could be a text (a personal memoir, a speech, a manifesto), an image (a poster, painting, map or photograph), an artefact (like an item of clothing) or a site. They allow the opportunity to range across space and time, exploring empire as understood or advanced by imperial powers or as received, endured or engaged with by colonized peoples. The module should appeal to you if you are interested in powerful forces which shaped the modern world, but also in the lived experiences of people encountering ‘empire’. It will give you lots of scope to explore topics, times and places of particular interest to you, whether individually or in groups.

What will I learn?

The module will use the study of ‘imperial moments’ to open out broader questions about the nature, meaning and impact of empires from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. These could include how a seemingly insatiable European demand for beaver pelts for the manufacture of waterproof headgear sparked an ever-expanding fur trade in North America in the eighteenth century drove a colonial frontier deeper into the continent, shaped relationships between Europeans, especially the French, and First Nations peoples, radically altered indigenous societies and cultures and effected profound change in regional ecological balance. Or how the Russian Empress Catherine II embarked on a six-month tour to inspect following the annexation of Crimea, a trip perhaps best remembered for ‘Potemkin villages’, fake settlements allegedly presented along the route to impress Catherine and an episode revealing of Russia’s ideology of empire and indeed about the ideals and realities of expanding empires. Topics will include political, cultural, social and intellectual developments, spread geographically from Asia to the Americas, Europe to Africa and Oceania.

Your learning will span key historical events and developments, combining focused lectures and reading with space to develop your own interests.

The module aims to:
  • introduce students to a new subject area, and to current research about the history of empires.
  • enable students to assess both past developments in the history of empires (using different sources, methodologies and techniques) and also to consider issues and concerns of major import for understanding the contemporary world.
  • allow students to address the wider implications of specific topic or incident in the history of empires, by means of critical analysis, fostered through direct teaching, seminar and group discussion, formative assignments and independent student research.
  • facilitate students in enhancing their reflective, analytical, critical and presentation skills through interlocking formative and summative assessments about the histories of empires.

What will I do?

  • Attend a weekly lecture which will cover a range of ‘imperial moments’ and four tutorial classes, where there will be opportunity to discuss themes in more detail and look at how to go about completing your assignments.
  • Read key texts about empire, both what historians call ‘primary sources’ (produced by historical figures themselves) or modern scholarly literature (books, essays and articles).
  • Work with a group of students to produce a five-minute presentation on a group-selected, independently-researched ‘imperial moment’.
  • Produce a response paper, offering a short analysis of an individual text/image/document representing an ‘imperial moment’ and an essay on a subject to be agreed in advance with module coordinators relating to an incident or text chosen to fit with the wider themes from the module.

How will this be delivered?

  • Eleven one-hour lectures.
  • Four tutorials. These will be used to debate issues arising from the two previous lectures, using structured discussion (including pre-circulated questions). Space will be devoted to an essay-planning exercise, including discussion of the requirements for essay-writing in the humanities and of topics and readings.
  • Approximately 30 hours of independent reading and other preparation linked to the lectures and tutorials.
  • Approximately 24 hours of participation in group activities: producing a five-minute video presentation on group-selected, independently-researched ‘imperial moment’, and watching and responding to other groups’ presentations.
  • Approximately 38 hours of assessment preparation: Students will be required to write and submit a short document analysis and a longer essay for assessment.

How will this be assessed?

  • Essay: 70% of total grade. This independent research project will see students analyse the character and consequence of a chosen ‘imperial moment’. The essay may build from material covered in lectures, tutorials, group work, assigned readings and reading lists and address a topic agreed with the module coordinators, and relates the incident or text chosen to wider themes from the module. Word count: 2500 words
  • Group Project presentation: 30% of total grade. Students will work together in small groups, use resources in Trinity Library as well as online, to produce a five-minute video presentation on group-selected, independently-researched ‘imperial moment’.
  • Formative assessments: there are two formative assessments, which do not carry a mark towards the final grade, but serve as important preparation for graded assignments, and as training in historical methods and skills. There are: o Source analysis. A response paper, arising from group tutorial discussions, offering a short analysis of an individual text/image/document representing an ‘imperial moment’. Word count: 400 words. o Group Project presentation response. An uploaded report on a presentation video produced by one other group, as peer-review exercise, helping to develop critical historical skills.

Who can take this Trinity Elective?

  • Any student eligible to take a Trinity Elective can select this Elective except for students who are registered for Single Honours History, Joint Honours History or a New Minor Subject in History.

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