HST2505: The End of Empire? Decolonization, Postcolonialism and Colonial Violence, 1945-1975

20 credits (semester 2)

Module Leader: Dr Oliver Godsmark


Module Summary

The years that followed the Second World War witnessed the retreat of European empires from Asia and Africa. This module will consider the various pressures – social, economic, cultural and political – that led to Europe’s imperial retrenchment. It will concentrate on four case studies drawn from across three decades of European decolonization: in British India and Malaya; in French Algeria; and in Portuguese Africa. These case studies will provide the opportunity to engage with concepts of informal empire, colonial violence and counterinsurgency, and postcolonial theory. Key issues to be addressed in lectures and seminars include the impact of the Cold War, domestic reconstruction, and anticolonial nationalism. What explains the eclipse of European power around the world?


This unit aims to...
Provide you with an overview of European decolonization in Asia and Africa, by employing four case studies as different temporal and spatial settings through which to consider the end of empire. You will be encouraged to engage with the burgeoning historiography on this subject, drawing upon both postcolonial theory and new academic literature on colonial violence. These approaches have undermined older scholarship that presents decolonization as primarily a constitutional exercise: an arid, straightforward, and relatively peaceful ‘transfer of power’. You will instead explore the continuing influence of European powers over formerly colonised territories after independence, the role of the United States and Soviet Union in both decolonization and informal empire, and postcolonial literatures that have called for the ‘decolonization of the mind’. You will consider whether linkages between former colonial territories and their colonisers are more tenuous when the process of decolonization was marked by violence. Drawing upon published government and political party documents, military reports, oral testimony, memoirs and colonial novels, you will also be encouraged to develop their skills in the handling of primary source materials that relate to these historiographical debates.

Teaching and Assessment

This module will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures will introduce you to the various case studies of decolonization considered on this module, providing specific information and background context ahead of seminars and assessment. Seminars will be based around more precise themes that emerge from the lecture, and that are relatable to each particular case study, e.g. the lecture on Malaya will be followed by a seminar dedicated to the Malayan Emergency and British counterinsurgency practices. During seminars, you will be expected to articulate views, defend positions, make critical evaluations, and learn to interact as a group.

The total teaching and assessment methods should be based on 10 notional learning hours per credit as agreed by the Learning and Teaching Committee; i.e. a total of 200 learning hours (teaching and assessment) for a 20-credit unit. The projected hours of independent study are intended as guidelines only, but are important to ensure a balanced workload between units. For further information on assessment please refer to LeTS policy pages on assessment.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Intended Learning Outcomes
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