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

Why join the course?

The British Empire was the largest empire ever seen. It ruled over a quarter of the world’s population and paved the way for today’s global economy. But British imperialism isn’t without controversy, and it continues to cause enormous disagreement among historians today.

Explore the British Empire through six controversial themes

This free online course will help you understand why. 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 both course educators and learners from around the world - and draw your own conclusions.

Learn with experts in imperial history

Experts from the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the University of Exeter will be your guides. The Centre brings together the strong research expertise of the University’s eminent imperial historians. It comprises one of the largest groups of imperial and global historians currently working in the UK.

The lead educator for this course is Richard Toye - Professor of Modern History and author of several acclaimed books, including “Churchill’s Empire: the World That Made Him and the World He Made.” Richard has provided a taste of this course in his post for the FutureLearn blog: “Why is the British Empire still so controversial?

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.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 18 March 2019

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.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.

$54.00