HST3307: Conflict, Cultures and (De)Colonisation

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader:Dr Siobhan Lambert-Hurley

Teaching Team (2019-20): Dr Danica Summerlin, Dr Caroline Dodds Pennock


Thematic Option Description

The Thematic Option (formerly Comparative Option) is a type of 20-credit, one semester module at level 3. Thematic Options take major historical themes and explore these across a broad time-frame and in a variety of different cultural and geographic settings. Each Thematic Option is taught by a team of lecturers whose own research relates to aspects of the topic under discussion, and they are designed to involve students and the teaching staff in a dialogue about how we approach key questions in the study of past societies. The topics selected for the modules all represent areas of lively, current historiographical debate and offer opportunities to respond to interpretations and theories emerging in other disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, geography and political science. For this reason they will appeal especially to students with an interest in thinking across disciplines in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, including those studying for dual degrees. All of the Thematic Options raise issues with strong resonances in our contemporary culture.

Thematic Options have been created to complement the more specialised work at Level Three, looking beyond the detailed focus on one specific place and time to ask more conceptual questions and allow for the space to engage with significant themes that run across many of the periods that we tend to study in isolation. How can we compare historical experiences separated in time and space? Can we gain insights into understanding one period by knowing how similar challenges were met in a very different historical context? Do we learn more from what periods have in common, or from the differences that emerge?

The modules are taught through a series of lectures and ninety-minute seminars, placing an emphasis on collaborative learning and the encouragement of active student participation in researching and presenting material in class. The assessment is a mixture of coursework and marks for oral performance in the seminars.



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


Module Summary

This module examines the rise and fall of empires as processes that shaped the colonised and the coloniser. It considers the growth and governance of empires, and the role of decolonisation struggles, in shaping our contemporary world. The module approaches this history from multiple vantage points, and asks: who held power both during empire and after empire’s end? Drawing upon diverse historiographical traditions, and examining a wide range of time periods and places, we will question the centrality of empires in the telling of global history. In doing so, we will bring the past to bear on contemporary debates about race, globalisation, migration, and decolonisation.



This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to the study of colonisation and decolonisation across a wide range of geographies and chronologies;
  • Develop students’ understanding of methods of studying imperial and global history, and encourage engagement with a diverse range of historiographical traditions;
  • Build students’ skills in analysing a range of scholarly writings and connecting them both across times and spaces and in relation to contemporary contexts; 
  • Develop students’ abilities to critique and evaluate the writing of others, and to then express their opinions of that writing clearly and with respect;
  • Develop students’ abilities to debate and discuss the histories of colonisation and decolonisation, and to express their conclusions fluently both orally and in writing.


Teaching and Assessment

The module is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. The lectures introduce the themes covered in the course and provide the necessary background and framework for exploring the subject. The 90-minute seminars provide opportunities for students to reflect in detail and to discuss ides and themes arising from the lectures, and from secondary readings.

The module is assessed by two pieces of written coursework, one formative (33%) and one summative (50%), and by oral assessment of the student's performance in seminars (17%). The essays (2000 and 3000 words) test students' ability to formulate written arguments, synthesise historiography, and develop their own style.

Information on assessment can be found at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level3


Intended Learning Outcomes
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