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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Elizabeth Sundermann
T HIST 375
Tacoma Campus

British Empire

Examines origins, expansion, and decline of British imperialism at home and abroad. Analyzes culture, society, economics, and politics of British imperialism using scholarly, popular, and primary sources from imperialists, anti-imperialists, colonists, and the colonized. Prerequisite: any 100- or 200-level T HIST course.

Class description

This is a brand new class! It is still under construction but here is the basic gist of the course: The study of the British Empire is crucial for examination of modern European, Western, and world history. The British Empire is seen, by both its critics and apologists, as a primary force in the shaping of contemporary ideas about empires, imperialism, and post-colonialism, as well as the pros and cons of Western liberal political and economic systems. As one of the most successful global empires – at least in terms of its widespread geography –the British Empire continues today to serve as a model (albeit a conflicted one) for imperialism especially in regards to the methods of power and global domination used by the United States since its revolution. British imperial history thus fills a special niche for American students due to the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain. Yet study of the British Empire is also a natural segue into the study of themes of modern world history – as Ann Laura Stoler, Frederick Cooper, and other scholars have argued European empires and imperialism served as both catalysts for cultural hybridity and the “laboratories of modernity” that characterize the ages of imperialism and globalization that emerged after 1492.

Required Texts: Miles Ogborn, Global Lives: Britain and the World, 1550-1800 Ronald Hyam, Understanding the British Empire Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (2009, 6th edition)

Additional readings from The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume I: The Origins of Empire, ed. Nicolas Canny, and Volume IV: The Twentieth Century, eds. Wm. Roger Louis and Judith M. Brown will be provided in PDF form.

You will also have a "your choice reading" from a list of novels/memoirs focused on British Empire.

The course will be designated as a writing course but don't let that frighten you away! The basic criteria for a "W" course are as follows: Not all courses that include writing assignments qualify as W courses. This course does not necessarily have MORE writing assignments than a typical history course but meets certain criteria for a designated “W” or writing course. 1) Two shorter writing projects (3-5 pages each) 2) Students must revise one of the reviews and resubmit it—noted improvement can increase the final grade on the assignment. A revision process is important in order for students to reflect on writing feedback. 3) I will provide feedback on writing limited to 2 or 3 areas for improvement (research shows this strategy to be most effective for improving student skills). 4) We will spend some class time dedicated to building writing skills needed for success in projects: critical analysis skills, knowledge of genre conventions of the project, research skills as needed, basic style issues. 5) Occasional, brief, ungraded writing assignments to promote critical thinking, fluency, and increased retention of subject matter. Examples of such writing may include responses to questions posed in class or summaries of key ideas from a discussion.

Student learning goals

In accordance with UWT/IAS history major objectives students will learn to: • Understand basic comprehension of chronology and cause and effect reasoning • Gather information from primary and secondary sources • Cull and analyze that information and identify its most significant aspects • Reach conclusions based on that analysis • Produce well-written narratives and oral presentations relating the contents and results of their work • Demonstrate knowledge of relevant historical facts and context among diverse areas of history

In accordance with THIST 476 British Empire objectives students will learn to: • Hone skills in critical writing, reading, and analysis through historical study and research leading to development and completion of original research appropriate for an upper-division history course. • Further develop background knowledge in British Studies in an area-specific upper-division course through a focused study of British Empire and its relationship to world history. • Examine traditional and alternative models in the shaping of human history focused on political, economic, and cultural developments. Specifically, students will learn to understand how diverse and global forms of British identity, rather than just traditional ideas of nationalism, shaped British imperial and world history. • Better appreciate historiography and the processes of globalization through investigation of the British Empire’s role in shaping its national identity and its influence on global trends and themes. Specifically, this course adheres to a British Studies thesis that British imperial history is global and integrated, rather than isolated by time, place, or culture.

General method of instruction

I use a wide variety of media: readings, film, websites, etc. I also use a variety of instructional methods including lectures, discussions, reading an writing, local field trips and more. Class is generally a laid-back format and student interaction is encouraged.

Recommended preparation

Prerequisite: Students must have successfully completed one of the following before enrolling in THIST 476 British Empire: THIST 150 World History: Prehistory to 1500, THIST 151 World History: 1500 – Present, or THIST 260: Empires and Imperialism in World History.

Class assignments and grading

TBA but see the W course guidelines below for a general idea: Not all courses that include writing assignments qualify as W courses. This course does not necessarily have MORE writing assignments than a typical history course but meets certain criteria for a designated “W” or writing course. 1) Two shorter writing projects (3-5 pages each) 2) Students must revise one of the reviews and resubmit it—noted improvement can increase the final grade on the assignment. A revision process is important in order for students to reflect on writing feedback. 3) I will provide feedback on writing limited to 2 or 3 areas for improvement (research shows this strategy to be most effective for improving student skills). 4) We will spend some class time dedicated to building writing skills needed for success in projects: critical analysis skills, knowledge of genre conventions of the project, research skills as needed, basic style issues. 5) Occasional, brief, ungraded writing assignments to promote critical thinking, fluency, and increased retention of subject matter. Examples of such writing may include responses to questions posed in class or summaries of key ideas from a discussion.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Elizabeth Sundermann
Date: 02/04/2013