Professor Chester

Office: Hellems 225


Office Hours: Tue 2-3, Thu 12:30-1:30, and by appointment


History 6020

Modern Empires: Readings in Imperial History



Introducing major themes in imperial history, this course offers an overview of the modern colonial empires.  Students will read works relating to central theories of empire, ranging from economic and political motivations for expansion, to the cultural and social impact of empire, to post-colonialism.  After submitting a paper prospectus, making an in-class presentation about their paper topic, and writing two short book reviews, students will write a historiographical paper.  The writing, reading, and presentation workload will be heavy.  Prior knowledge of imperial history will be helpful but is not required.


Required Texts (available at CU bookstore)

Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge (Princeton: PUP, 1996)

Linda Colley, Captives (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002)

Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism (New York: CUP, 1993)

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Evergreen, 1967)

Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s, 1994)


Recommended Background Reading:

Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Theories of Imperialism (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1977)

Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994)


Reading Packet (available at CU bookstore)

Winfried Baumgart, Imperialism. The Idea and Reality of British and French Colonial Expansion, 1880-1914 (Oxford: OUP, 1982): 1-9.

C. A. Bayly, "Rallying around the Subaltern," Journal of Peasant Studies 16:1 (Oct 1988): 110-120.

P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, “Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas II: New Imperialism, 1850-1945,” Economic History Review 40:1 (Feb 1987): 1-26.

D.K. Fieldhouse, The Colonial Empires: A Comparative Survey from the Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. (Houndmills, UK: Macmillan, 1982): 303-371.

John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Free Trade,” Economic History Review 2nd series, 6:1 (1953): 1-15.

Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1990): 1-136, 200-217.

Philippa Levine, ed. Gender and Empire (New York: OUP, 2004): 1-13, 77-111, 134-155, 281-294.

Wm. Roger Louis, “Introduction” in Robin W. Winks, ed. Historiography, vol. 5 of The Oxford History of the British Empire (Oxford: OUP, 1999): 1-42.

Anne McClintock, “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Postcolonialism’,” in Barker, Hulme and Iversen, eds., Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory (New York: Manchester UP, 1994): 253-266.

Gyan Prakash, "Subaltern Studies as Postcolonial Criticism," American Historical Review 99:5 (Dec 1994): 1475-1490.

Stephen Slemon, “The Scramble for Post-colonialism,” in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, eds., The Post-colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995): 45-52.

Tony Smith, “A Comparative Study of French and British Decolonization,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 20:1 (Jan 1978): 70-102.

Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography” in Guha and Spivak, eds. Selected Subaltern Studies (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988): 3-32.

Ronald Robinson, “Non-European Foundations of European Imperialism: Sketch for a Theory of Collaboration,” in Owen and Sutcliffe, eds., Studies in the Theory of Imperialism (London: Longman, 1972): 118-40.

Stephen Slemon, “The Scramble for Post-colonialism,” in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, eds., The Post-colonial Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 1995): 45-52.




            During one week of the semester, you will be responsible for leading discussion.


Paper Prospectus (3-5 pages)— Due Week Seven

            Identify an area of imperial historiography that you will explore in your final paper.  We will discuss appropriate paper topics in class.

            Specify the question or questions you will attempt to answer.  Include a preliminary bibliography of relevant texts. You will present

            your prospectus in class (pass/fail).


Book Reviews (2 pages)—Due Weeks Nine and Twelve

Identify at least two secondary accounts you will use in writing your final paper.  Write a 1-2 page book review of each, following standard format for Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History reviews.


Paper Presentation—Weeks Fourteen and Fifteen

            Present your paper and respond to audience questions as you would at a professional conference.  This exercise is pass/fail.


Final Paper (15-25 pages)—Due Week Sixteen

This paper must examine the literature relevant to your chosen topic in imperial history and identify gaps in the existing historiography.



Grades will be determined on the basis of prospectus (10%); prospectus presentation (5%); books reviews (15% each, for a total of 30%); final paper (30%); paper presentation (5%); discussion leadership (10%) and class participation (10%).  Students who do not participate regularly in class discussion will receive a final grade no higher than B+.  If you need an extension, discuss it with me in advance.  Late work will be penalized.


Religious Obligations and Class Conflicts

If you have a conflict with exams, assignments, or class/recitation meetings because of religious obligations, please let me or your TA know at least two weeks in advance.  We will work together to arrange appropriate accommodations.


CU Disability Services

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services as soon as possible so that your needs can be addressed.  You can reach Disability Services at (303) 492-8671, at Willard 322, or through their website <>; they determine accommodations based on documented disabilities.


Honor Code

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior.  It is my intention to report all incidents of academic misconduct to the Honor Code Council (; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Additional information on the Honor Code can be found at <>.



Plagiarism will not be tolerated.  As a violation of the CU Honor Code and the university’s policy on Academic Integrity, it is punishable by dismissal from the university.  I will refer incidents of plagiarism to the Honor Code Council.  We will discuss proper citation in class, but you are responsible for familiarizing yourself with the meanings of plagiarism.  The Chicago Manual of Style is the definitive guide, but you may also find “Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgement,” published by Dartmouth College, a useful resource; see <>.


As part of the effort to control plagiarism and to ensure that students’ submitted works are fully their own, the University has subscribed to


The following material is from the Honor Code website - “This service allows faculty to submit sentences, paragraphs, or entire term/research papers or other scholarly works to the website for review.  After the service scans more than 1.5 billion pages on the Internet, the faculty member will receive a report including the percentage of the material that has been identified as drawn from other sources, the degree of similarity in the matching material, and live hyperlinks to the original source material so that each faculty member can determine for themselves whether plagiarism has indeed occurred.”  The electronic files submitted will then become part of the TurnItIn “closed database”.  According to the CU Honor Code website, “This procedure not only ensures that multiple submissions of the same material can be detected, regardless of the passage of time or the location of the submission, but protects the integrity of each student's scholarly efforts. No additional access to, use, or publication of the material in this paper bank is made by”


It is my intention to submit all student papers to, to give a grade of F in the course to any student in violation of the CU Honor Code, and to report violators to the Honor Board.  Note that you cannot submit the same paper for two different classes without the express permission of both instructors.  You must obtain my written permission before submitting work that you have already submitted or plan to submit for credit at CU or elsewhere.


If you have any questions about this procedure or about any matter regarding proper citation or the Honor Code, please talk to me.


Classroom Behavior

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Students who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Faculty members have the professional responsibility to treat all students with understanding, dignity and respect, to guide classroom discussion and to set reasonable limits on the manner in which they and their students express opinions.  Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender variance, and nationalities.  Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  See polices at <> and at <>.

In this class, we will all treat each other with respect.  Civil discussion of differing viewpoints is an essential part of the study of imperial.  Appropriate classroom behavior includes arriving on time and remaining for the entire class; let me know before class if you will need to leave early.  Please turn cell phones off at the beginning of class.


Discrimination and Harassment

University policies on Discrimination and Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the ODH and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at <> and at <>.

Course Outline

Aug 31: Introduction to Imperial History


Sep 7: Early Colonial Expansion

Louis, Baumgart, Fieldhouse 303-324 (in reader); James 3-168


Sep 14: Colonial Consolidation

James 169-352; Fieldhouse 325-371 (in reader)


Sep 21: Colonial Decline

James 353-630


Sep 28: Rethinking the Early Empire



Oct 5: Empire and Environment



oct 12:  Empire and Violence

Paper prospectus due in class.



oct 19:  Empire and Information



oct 26:  Empire and Economics

Book review due in class.

Gallagher and Robinson, Cain and Hopkins


Nov 2:  Empire and Literature

Choose one novel from list on course website


nov 9:  Sexuality and Gender

Hyam, Levine (in reader)


nov 16: Race and Identity

Book review due in class.



Nov 23: Happy Thanksgiving!


nov 30: Decolonization and Subaltern Studies

Smith, Spivak, Bayly, Prakash (in reader)


dec 7: Post-Colonial Studies

McClintock, Sleman (in reader)

FCQ administration


Dec 14: Legacies of Empire; Course Wrapup

Final paper due in class.

Read the international section of the New York Times or Washington Post this week, considering imperial legacies in the contemporary world.  Both newspapers are available online at <> and <>.