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HIS2133 : Society and Politics in Colonial India, 1880s-1947

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Samiksha Sehrawat
  • Lecturer: Dr Willow Berridge
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module is for students interested in non-European history who have never studied it before. India is increasingly becoming important for British investors after market-based reforms which converted it into the second fastest growing economy in the world. The British ruled India for 200 years and modern Indian history is very closely related to British history. The popularity of curries in Britain, the presence of large numbers of South Asians in Britain and the strong educational links between the two countries are just some of the reminders of the British connection with India. This module gives students who are unfamiliar with this history an opportunity to engage with it. The main aims of the module are to introduce students to South Asian history and to develop their understanding of British imperial history and colonialism.

The module will cover some of the social, economic and political developments that have shaped contemporary India. It will trace the history of nationalist protests that made India the first British colony in Asia or Africa to become free in 1947. Students will be introduced to important historical figures like Gandhi, who were very influential – shaping the culture of protest in other countries by leaders like Nelson Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King Jr. To understand the history of Indian nationalist politics is to understand the process of decolonization and the decline of the British empire. Its significance lies not merely for Indian history but for the history of anti-colonialism in the British empire. The module will introduce students to the importance of caste in Indian society and explain one of the most important and least known political developments in India today – the rise of lower-caste Dalit politics. Another theme at the heart of the module is the challenge of multi-culturalism. India is a very diverse society. There are numerous religious groups in India including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. India has the world's third largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country. This religious diversity has produced tensions in Indian politics which led to the partition of India and the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947.The rise of the Hindu Right has many commonalities with the discourse against Islam that has become pervasive since the 9/11 terror attacks and students will discuss the implications of living in societies where different religious groups have different cultural practices. The emphasis of teaching is on learning in a friendly atmosphere, where student interaction and curiosity is encouraged.

Outline Of Syllabus

Lecture topics may include:

Early nationalism (1): ‘Moderates’
Early nationalism (2): ‘Extremists’, Swadeshi Movement
Communalism and ‘Muslim Separatism’ & Early Gandhian Movements
Gandhian Philosophy: Political Thought, Techniques, Critiques
Khilafat, Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience
Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience: Participation of peasants, tribals and bourgeoisie
Historiographical Interpretations of Indian History
Caste: Concepts and Introduction to early political mobilization
Caste: Ambedkar and the Role of caste-based identities in colonial Indian politics
Khilafat Movement and Communalism in the 1920s
Partition (1): High Politics

Seminar topics may include:

Early Nationalism and Elite Politics
Gandhian Philosophy
Mass Nationalism and Participation of Different Social Groups: 1920s-1930s
Interpretations of Nationalist Movement
Peasant or ‘Subaltern’ Nationalism
Partition (2): Communal Violence, Gender, Community

Teaching Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials151:0015:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion501:0050:0030% of guided independent study
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities43:0012:00Film Screening
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading501:0050:0030% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities123:0023:00Individual and group reading and research preparation for small group teaching
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:00Workshop for discussing complex topics with whole cohort doing exercises in small breakout groups
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Workshop with whole cohort to allow break-out groups to discuss complex topics
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery20:301:00Essay Surgeries
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lecture materials are meant to introduce students to topics and concepts that will be very unfamiliar to them. They are meant to provide a basic knowledge about the themes discussed in the course. They will make use of PowerPoint presentations and 'handouts' will provide a guide for individual study of recommended reading. Seminars will provide an opportunity to students to explore the more difficult topics further through a discussion of recommended readings These will involve group work and will require engagement in discussion and debate. Seminars will help students develop many of the skills learning outcomes described above. Workshops will allow students to explore complex topics through exercises in class around primary documents, introducing students to a range of primary sources. Film Screening will allow students to get a sense of the historical narrative and interpretations of Indian nationalism.

Assessment Methods

Please note that module leaders are reviewing the module teaching and assessment methods for Semester 2 modules, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions. There may also be a few further changes to Semester 1 modules. Final information will be available by the end of August 2020 in for Semester 1 modules and the end of October 2020 for Semester 2 modules.

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M251500 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Essay1A752500 word essay (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress.
Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 2500 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists