Online course

Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism

The British Empire continues to cause enormous disagreement among historians. Find out why and join the debate.

Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism

Explore the British Empire through six controversial themes

Over six weeks, we’ll explore the British Empire through six themes - money, violence, race, religion, gender and sex, and propaganda. You’ll get to hear the stories of the fascinating individuals who contributed to both its rise and fall.

Along the way, you’ll be able to debate the questions these themes raise with learners from around the world, and draw your own conclusions.

You can start to explore the Empire and find out more about the Centre for Imperial and Global History on its blog, Imperial & Global Forum, or by following @ExeterCIGH on Twitter.

Skip to 0 minutes and 14 secondsThe story of the British Empire begins with the Elizabethan Age and with galleons like this one, the Golden Hind, captained by the famous explorer, Sir Francis Drake. It grew to become the largest empire that the world has ever seen, at its height ruling over a quarter of the world's population. It shaped our modern world through the development of the phenomenon with which we're increasingly familiar, globalisation. But how did the British Empire happen? What were the forces that created it, that held it together, and that ultimately led to its demise. I'm Richard Toye and I'm professor of modern history at the University of Exeter.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsI've gather together a group of experts who, over the course of six weeks, will give you a fresh and exciting new perspective on the British Empire. We'll be exploring the British Empire through related themes, including money, violence, race, religion, and sex and gender. We'll be thinking about the ways in which British culture might be understood to have sanctioned and sustained British imperialism and how the attitude of the British public towards empire was pivotal in its development and demise. Through the small stories of individual people's lives, we will discover how the grittiness of day-to-day imperial power was played out, not though policy, but through the men and women who made the empire happen.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 secondsThe British Empire is something that causes enormous disagreement amongst historians. And along the way, there will be lots of opportunity for you to debate the questions they have raised and to draw your own conclusions. As we enter an age of unprecedented interconnections and a truly global economy, we can look back to its roots in the British Empire. Join us and find out more.

What topics will you cover?

  • The relationship between Empire and money
  • The nature of violence within Empire
  • The connection between race, religion and British imperialism
  • The role of women in Empire and how attitudes to sex influenced British imperialism
  • The significance of British imperial culture
  • British decolonisation and the concept of ‘neo-imperialism’

When would you like to start?

  • Available now
    This course started 10 September 2018

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Identify key themes through which the controversies of British Imperialism can be explored
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of British Imperialism through debate and contributions to the learning community
  • Develop your understanding of British imperialism

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in imperial history. It doesn’t require any reading before you start or previous experience of studying the subject.

Who will you learn with?

Richard Toye

I am Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. I am Lead Educator on the FutureLearn course Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism.

Who developed the course?

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university. It combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction.

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