Imperial States: Race, War, and Expansion in American History, 1860s-1920s HIST4279

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • 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

Short Description

This course explores the history of the United States in a time of continental consolidation and overseas expansion (1860s-1920s). The period witnessed the violent closing of the frontier, the rise of new race regimes in former slave states, an increasing fixation on foreign markets and labour, and the formal acquisition of a colonial empire. US power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also relied upon new circuitries of exchange in a rapidly connecting world. These global transfers complicated distinctions between nation and empire, and placed the United States in close conversation with European imperial formations. In studying overlapping histories of nation and empire, the course traces the origins and character of US global power.


10 x 2-hour seminars per student. 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





Primary Source Document Analysis - 35% - 1500 words

Research Essay - 60% - 3000 words

Seminar contribution - 5% 

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. Where, exceptionally, reassessment on Honours courses is required to satisfy professional/accreditation requirements, only the overall course grade achieved at the first attempt will 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 aims to:


■ Analyse the significance of empire in US history during a period of tremendous national and global change.

■ Use empire as a category of analysis in historical study.

■ Consider and assess innovative methodological approaches to US history from a variety of disciplinary sub-fields.

■ Hone their abilities as historians by evaluating and critiquing primary and secondary source documentation on weekly topics of study.

■ Review relevant scholarly articles and primary sources and present their findings to their peers.

■ Interrogate popular narratives about America's place in modern global history.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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


■ Explain how race, war, and empire informed the creation of American empire.

■ Determine the origin points of contemporary US global power by analysing its formation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

■ Identify practical and conceptual linkages between the construction of the American nation-state and the acquisition of overseas territories.

■ Critically assess salient historiographical questions and debates surrounding the period of US history under study.

■ Construct reflective and convincing written arguments based on their readings of primary and secondary source literature.

■ Discuss and debate complex topics related to US empire, both as individuals and in small group settings.

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.