Britain and the Making of the Modern World image

Britain and the Making of the Modern World

Academic Coordinator: Dr Simon Peplow

For much of the 19th and 20th century Britain was the world’s superpower, and its imperial connections not only left deep traces in America, Africa and Asia, but also in Britain itself. Thus to understand modern British history it is necessary to see it in a global perspective: not only were British politics and economics influenced by imperial considerations, but also most of its wars were global conflicts.  Furthermore, British culture – food, fashion and architecture – was, and still is, shaped by its imperial legacy. By combining political, social and military history, this module introduces you to the key developments, ideas, events and people that shaped modern British history.

The module encourages you to explore the interdependency of national and global history in the last two hundred years through different scholarly methods and sources. You will learn how global events, like the slave trade, the First World War or the conflict in the Middle East, are linked with British history. You will also consider how life in Britain, for wealthy and ordinary people in London, Exeter or Bath, was influenced through global connections.

You will work with varied primary sources and with the rich collections of imperial artefacts at the University’s Cinema Museum and the Exeter Royal Albert Memorial Museum.  In this way you will not only study written texts, but you will also have the chance to work with the objects British travellers brought back from all over the world, and to see how Britain’s imperial past influenced its film industry.  As well as giving you a different perspective on academic history, this will encourage you to think about how museums present British history and the objects associated with it to the wider public.  

Key texts:

John Darwin, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World System 1830-1970 (Cambridge, 2009)

More information on the structure of the programme and our teaching style can be found on our Academic programme page.  If you have any questions please email iss@exeter.ac.uk