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COURSE NAME: "European Imperialism and the World Wars"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Vanda Wilcox
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM
PREREQUISITES: (Prerequisites: Junior Standing. Corequisite: EN 110)

History Research Seminar: 300-level history courses designated by the prefix HS-RS indicate courses being offered as Research Seminars. These courses are writing-intensive and help to train students to carry out original research by guiding them through the preparation of a significant research paper. History majors are encouraged to take these before their senior year, and especially before the semester in which they prepare their thesis.
This course will explore the evolution of European, American, and Japanese expansionism and the relation between imperial rivalries and the two world conflicts in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The course will explore events from different perspectives, analysing not only the colonising powers but also the interests and experiences of colonised peoples. Students will be introduced to different theoretical models for empire including Marxism , gender and post-colonialism and learn to apply these concepts to the material studied; we will also consider some of the critiques of these theories, engaging with some of the debates about the “new imperial history”. As well as theory, students will work with a range of primary sources (both texts and images) which present subaltern as well as European attitudes.

The course will particularly focus on examples and case studies from the two world wars, as well as post-war decolonisation. However it is not primarily a chronological study of events from a traditional diplomatic/international history approach; rather we will use the events of the period as a way to consider a variety of themes, core concepts and differing intellectual approaches to the problems of empire.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the course, students will be familiar with:

  • the core theories used by historians to analyse imperialism and colonialism;

  • late nineteenth and early twentieth century ideas about race, culture and colonialism;

  • the main elements of the relationship between imperialism and the two world wars;

  • the experiences and contributions of colonised peoples during the world wars;

  • post-war decolonization;


Students will develop the ability to explore these issues orally and in writing, and to apply core concepts to a range of case studies.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The New Imperial Histories ReaderS. HoweRoutledge978-0415424585  
Empires at War 1911-1923R. Gerwarth & John HorneOUP978-0198734932  
Voices of DecolonizationTodd ShepherdMacmillan978-1-4576-1815-4  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Promoting the colonial idea : Propaganda and Visions of Empire in FranceT. Chafer & A. Sackur (eds)Macmillan978-0333791806  
Postcolonialism: A very short introductionRJC YoungOUP978-0192801821  
War Without MercyJohn DowerPantheon 978-0394751726  
Cultures of Empire: A Reader Catherine Hall (ed)Taylor and Francis9780415929073DA16.C89 
The Japanese colonial empire, 1895-1945R.H. Myers and M. R. PeattiePrinceton UP9780691053981JV5260.J36 
The Japanese wartime empire, 1931-1945 P. Duus, R.H. Myers and M. R. PeattiePrinceton UP9780691043821 DS35 .J38 access online - chapter 5

Research paper3000 words, on a topic to be agreed individually with the instructor30%
Class participationincluding leading discussion of reading assignments, clear evidence of preparing for class20%
Mid-termCovers definitions of core terms, detailed questions on specific reading assignments25%
Annotated bibliography & paper outlinein preparation for the final research paper10%
Seminar-style presentationIntroduction and discussion of assigned reading on empire in the First World War10%
Final reflection exerciseDuring the allocated final exam session, a critical reflection exercise on the researching and writing process5%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course. This is an exceptional grade reflecting excellent work.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluate theory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture and reference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments. This is a good grade reflecting hard work and ability.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings. Written work shows a minimum level of research. It is competent but offers little originality, or it may have confused elements.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail. Written work shows little evidence of research, lacks citations or cites unacceptable sources (e.g. websites not specifically authorised by the instructor for use).
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant to the assigned task as set out on the original assignment sheet.


Attendance at class is mandatory. More than 3 unauthorised absences will cause your final overall grade to be reduced by one (ie. A- to B+, B+ to B etc). Travel plans, or mistakes in travel plans, are not an acceptable reason for missing class. However, if you have personal circumstances, including mental or physical health problems, or financial difficulties, which are affecting your ability to attend class or complete your work, please contact me so that we can work on a solution.

According to the university's policy it is not possible to arrange make-ups for mid-term or final exams. See catalogue for further details.

NB Late submission of work will incur grade penalties unless you have previously contacted me to discuss an extension.

It is also essential that you please check moodle regularly for updates e.g. assignment information, important announcements, class cancellations etc.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



S. Howe (ed), The New Imperial Histories Reader (Routledge, 2009)

R. Gerwarth & E. Mamela, (eds) Empires at War, 1911-1923 (Oxford, 2014)

T. Shephard, Voices of Decolonization (St. Martin’s, 2015)


1.      Mon 28/8: Introduction to the study of imperialism – some definitions [Howe, Intro]

2.      Weds 30/8: From early imperialism to the Scramble for Africa [Howe, Ch. 7]


3.      Mon 4/9: Practices of Empire: British rule in Africa and India [Howe, Ch. 6 and Ch. 11]

4.      Weds 6/9: Practices of Empire II: Settler colonialism and the ‘White Dominions’ [Howe, Ch. 10, 18]


5.      Mon 11/9: Theories of Empire I: Marxism and economic explanations [V. I. Lenin, “Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism”– on Moodle]

6.      Weds 13/9: Centre/periphery: the impact on the metropole [N. Macmaster, “Imperial Façades: Muslim Institutions and Propaganda in Inter-War Paris” in Chafer & Sackur – Ch. 5; optional extra, Howe, Ch. 19]


7.    Mon 18/9: Centre/periphery: constructing and upholding imperial power [Howe, Ch. 8 and Ch. 12]

8.   Weds 20/9: Theories of Empire II: Subaltern Studies & Post-colonialism[Howe, Ch. 4]

9.    Fri 22/9: Theories of Empire II: Subaltern Studies & Post-colonialism (cont) [Spivak, extract on Moodle; RJC Young, Postcolonialism, Intro.]


10.  Mon 25/9: Race, empire and soldiers’ attitudes [V. Wilcox, “Italian soldiers’ experience in the Italo-Turkish War” and D. Omissi, “Europe through Indian eyes” – both on Moodle]

11.  Wed 27/9: Empire in the First World War [Gerwarth & Manela, Introduction]


12.  Mon 2/10: The French and British Empires [Gerwarth & Manela, Ch. 6, 7, 8]

13.  Wed 4/10: The German and Italian Empires [Gerwarth & Manela, Ch. 2, 3]


14.  Mon 9/10: Non-European imperialism [Gerwarth & Manela, Ch. 10 ,11, 12]

15.  Wed 11/10 MID-TERM  


16.  Mon 16/10: Post-war settlements and colonial empires [Gerwarth & Manela, Ch. 13]

17.  Weds 18/10: The Italian conquest of Ethiopia [Essays by Rochat and Sbacchi in Italian Colonialism eds R. Ben-Ghiat & M. Fuller (Palgrave 2005) – read at least one]


18.  Mon 23/10: American attitudes to and practices of Empire [Dower Ch. 7]

19.  Wed 25/10: Intro to Japanese imperialism and race theory [M. R. Peattie, “Japanese attitudes towards colonialism 1895-1945” in The Japanese Colonial Empire 1895-1945, eds. Myers & Peattie, (Princeton 1984)]


20.  Mon 30 /10: The “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” in action [R.H. Myers, "Creating a Modern Enclave Economy" in The Japanese Wartime Empire 1931-45 eds. Duus, Myers and Peattie, 1996  ]


21. Mon 6/11: Race theory & the Pacific War [Dower, Ch. 10]

22. Wed 8/11: Race & the British Empire in the Second World War [S. O. Rose, “Sex, citizenship and the nation in World War II Britain” in C. Hall (ed) Cultures of Empire: A Reader (Manchester 2000)]


23.  Mon 13/11: Occupation and Resistance during & after the Second World War [Ken'ichi Goto, "Cooperation, Resistance and Submission of Indigenous Elites" in The Japanese Wartime Empire 1931-45, ed.s Duus, Myers and Peattie (1996); Shephard, documents 1-4]

24.  Wed 15/11: Anti-colonial movements in Europe [J. Derrick “Anticolonialism in France” in Chafer & Sackur, Ch. 4]


25.  Mon 20/11: Decolonization: [Shephard, pp.1-33, Howe Ch. 20]

26.  Wed 22/11: the Partition of India [reading tbc]


27.  Mon 27/11: Algeria [Shephard, pp. 33-38, documents 19-23]

28.  Wed 29/12: Legacies of Empire [Howe Ch. 28, Shephard, documents 38, 39]