Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Empire in the 'Orient': The British in Asia, 1600-1857 HIST4267

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course assesses English and, after 1707, British imperial interests in Asia between 1600 and 1857. It considers the creation and evolution of the English East India Company, the City of London corporation subcontracted by the Crown to pursue expansion in Asia. Cultural stereotypes of the 'Orient', and the new, virtuous forms of 'commercial empire' that legitimated the Company's trade and establishment of fortified bases in India, are highlighted. After c.1750 the Company acquired substantial territorial possessions in India, developed a large fiscal-military machine, and consolidated its global commercial reach in areas as diverse as the Gulf, China and North America. This 'crisis of expansion' in the 1750s to 1780s exposed deep anxieties in British political culture about the nature of the new empire in the 'Orient' and brought the Company under firmer state control. The later sections of the course look at the significant role of the Scots and Irish, and the new emphasis from the 1830s onwards on the 'reform' of Indian society, as well as growing conflict with China. The course ends by exploring the 1857 'Rising', the single most violent indigenous reaction to British rule in the history of the Empire, an event which revealed the considerable strengths and weaknesses of Britain's imperialism in Asia.    


12x1 hr lecture; 3x 1 hour workshop; 5x1 hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Essay (3000 words) - 60%

Word Source review essay (2000 words) - 30%

Seminar Presentation of 5 minutes with PowerPoint/ or Handout - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:


■ Identify, develop and utilise intellectual and analytical skills in History

■ Evaluate the history of the English East India Company to better understand and engage with debates on the nature of early modern Europe's commercial and territorial expansion in Asia 

■ Assess and formulate analyses on the dynamics and tensions within the processes of imperialism, empire, and European cultural attitudes to Asian societies.

■ Identify, differentiate and assess primary sources, and relate these critically to concepts and arguments in the secondary literature.

■ Reflect upon and practice key transferable skills in structuring written work and delivering oral presentations

■ Better appreciate the requirements, challenges and responsibilities of working autonomously and in

  groups, as well as those required to participate in collective debate.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Illustrate a broad knowledge of English and British expansion in Asia between 1600-1857

■ Evaluate interpretations relating to the changing nature of the East India Company and the character of British commercial and territorial empire in Asia (with a particular emphasis on South Asia)

■ Explain and critique theories relating to the role of non-western populations in the creation, consolidation and rejection of British imperialism in Asia.

■ Select, assess, compare and inter-relate relevant secondary literature and primary sources

■ Find and use online databases of primary material.

■ Develop and utilize transferable skills in critical analyses and the structuring and presentation of written and oral work.

■ Draw wider conclusions regarding the nature of early modern imperialism

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.