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HYM5185 - Colonial Encounters: Ideas of Race and 'Otherness' in the British World, 1650-1900

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Katherine Ellinghaus


Not offered in 2007


This unit will explore the ways that Britons interacted with people they encountered in locations as diverse as Western and Southern Africa, North America, India, Australia, the Pacific and the Caribbean in the era of exploration and colonisation. It will examine how these newly encountered groups of people were depicted, and will trace the histories of racial designations such as black, white and red. Racism remains a huge problem in 21st century society: this unit will explore the background to this issue, not just narrating the events of British expansion, but putting the issue of 'otherness' and the formation of racial categories at the forefront of the story.


At the end of the unit students will be expected to have a detailed knowledge of British overseas expansion and exploration in the era covered, and be able to grasp the context in which other groups of people were encountered. They will also be expected to understand the theoretical arguments about the differences which constituted "otherness" from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and how race came to play an increasingly important role in such classifications. Through use of primary documents in class, they will be able to critically examine contemporary texts and drawings to evaluate what they reveal to he historian about ideas of race in the era. Through class presentation and weekly discussion they will show that they can fully articulate their ideas about these documents. Additionally, students will be expected to show their capacity to devise, research and complete an essay on some aspect of Colonial Encounters based on their own study of the sources and scholarship. The unit will also aim to enable students to be able to reflect on the way in which history has influenced the present, through evaluating how our present-day racial formations are not as fixed categories but historically and geographically unstable constructs. Students successfully completing HYM5185 will be expected to demonstrate, in addition, excellent skills in the analysis of competing historical interpretations and positions, and a strong degree of independence in the locating, evaluation and critical use of historical resources.


Tutorial presentation (Approx. 1,000 words) 10%; Report (2,000 words)20%;Research Essay 4,000 words)50%;Take-home Test (2,000 words)20%

Contact hours

One two-hour seminar per week.


HYM4185 and HSY4185