HST3156/3157: Humanitarianism, Internationalism and the British Empire, 1900-2000

40 credits (semesters 1 and 2)

Module Leader: Dr Emily Baughan



A pass in at least two history modules at level two.


Module Summary

What is humanitarianism? How has it shaped, and been shaped by, beliefs about Britain’s role in the world? Why, in the eyes of politicians and the public, did British interests, and the interests of ‘humanity’ so often coincide?

The unit analyses British humanitarianismfrom 1900 to 2000. We situate British humanitarianism within the history of the Empire, globalization, U.S. ascendancy, and Cold War tensions. We consider traditionally disenfranchised groups – women, children and imperial subjects – as objects and agents of humanitarian interventions, and ask whether humanitarianism can be considered as ‘political’ both in the past and in the present.


This unit will aim to provide you with an advanced critical understanding of the historiography on humanitarianism in modern Britain, the British empire and the wider world. It will focus especially on recent developments in the field, including the relationship between internationalism and imperialism and the connection between non-state aid and state-led diplomacy. Alongside scrutinizing secondary material, you will become familiar with primary sources, among them fundraising images, governmental statements on foreign aid and accounts from the ‘beneficiaries’ of humanitarian interventions. The course will enhance your ability to communicate in spoken and written form, and to develop your own critical understanding of the history of humanitarianism in Britain and beyond.


Teaching and Assessment

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/level3


Selected Reading

  • To follow.


Intended Learning Outcomes
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