H234 Colonialism and Culture in Modern South Asia

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

his module will explore the structures and processes by which colonialism was established in South Asia.

It will examine how the land was transformed into a colonial territory and the impact this had on peasants and forest-dwellers. It will show how urbanization created new forms of labour and how new technologies integrated South Asia firmly into the wider global economy. We will look at how colonialism shaped people's everyday lives and how people themselves responded to this new colonial environment.

The social institution of caste, religious practices and the use of language went through profound change. We will ask how religious and cultural reform movements became ways of recasting identities in a changing world. Gender figures in our analysis through the module.


  • This Module is capped at 30 places on a first-come first-served basis.
  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator.

Objectives and learning outcomes

  • have gained a broad understanding and knowledge of the social, intellectual and political history of colonialism in South Asia and responses to it.
  • understand historical controversies of this period and to engage in critical debate with their peers on a range of historiographical issues and historical events pertaining to the period.
  • write critical, well-structured, well-researched and persuasive essays.
  • challenge many of their assumptions about colonialism and think more critically about the present.

Scope and syllabus

  • Introduction
  • New Technologies
  • Peasants and Tribals
  • Urban Spaces
  • Social Histories of Caste
  • Caste as Colonial Knowledge
  • Law, Custom and Criminality
  • Christianity and Conversion
  • Hindu and Muslim Reform Movements
  • Language, Region and Identity

Method of assessment

  • An essay of 2,000 words (60% )
  • Source analysis of 1500 words (40%)

Suggested reading

There are a series of general histories that you should make good use of.

  • Bose, S. and Jalal, A., Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London, 1998)
  • Ludden, David, India and South Asia, A Short History (Oxford, 2002)
  • Metcalf, Barbara D. and Metcalf, Thomas, A Concise History of India (Cambridge, 2002)
  • Robb, Peter, A History of India (Basingstoke, 2002)
  • Sarkar, Sumit, Modern India 1885-1947 (London, 1989)
  • Stein, Burton, A History of India (Oxford, 1998)

These also have bibliographic essays and thematic guides to readings on modern South Asian history that you should consult.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules