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India & the Raj 1857-1947 - 30 credits (HS1765)

Module Tutor: Dr Padma Anagol

Course Description

This course is designed to provide a critical introduction to the political, social, economic and cultural history of modern India from the assumption of direct rule by the Crown to independence. The module follows a broadly chronological framework along major themes which include – the consolidation of British rule after 1857; rebellion and resistance by Indians including subordinated groups; the impact of colonialism on the Indian economy and the rise of ‘economic nationalism’; the emergence of early nationalist organisations and the success and failures of the early Congress; changes in the role and status of women; the significance of social reform and religious and revivalist Hindu and Islamic movements; elite leadership and the growth of communal identities; and finally the debates on partition and understanding how and why it took place. An India-centred approach is adopted here which looks at indigenous forces of change as a critical factor in the formation of colonial and present-day India. It is hoped that such an approach will allow for a more sensitive understanding of the history of peoples in a non-European society. The study of the Indian economy, politics and society will be useful for students planning an in-depth study of the sub-continent in their final year. It will prove to be an excellent starting point for the third year Advanced Option HS1855 Race, Sex and Empire: Britain and India, 1765-1929 and indispensable for students planning to pursue an Independent Study in the second year of the degree or dissertation topic on the sub continent in their final year.

Credits: 30

Availability of module: Every year


Necessary for

Teaching methods

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues. The syllabus is divided into a series of major course themes, then sub-divided into principal topics for the study of each theme.
The aim of the lectures is to provide a brief introduction to a particular topic, establishing the salient features of major course themes, identifying key issues and providing historiographical guidance. The lectures aim to provide a basic framework for understanding and should be thought of as useful starting points for further discussion and individual study. Where appropriate, handouts and other materials may be distributed to reinforce the material discussed.
The primary aim of seminars will be to generate debate and discussion amongst course participants. Seminars for each of the course topics will provide an opportunity for students to analyse and further discuss key issues and topics relating to lectures.


Students will be assessed by means of a combination of one 1000 word assessed essay [15%], one 2000 word assessed essay [35%] and one two-hour unseen written examination paper in which the student will answer two questions [50%].

Course assignments:

Assessed Essay 1 will contribute 15% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 1,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

Assessed Essay 2 will contribute 35% of the final mark for the module. It is designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to review evidence, draw appropriate conclusions from it and employ the formal conventions of scholarly presentation. It must be no longer than 2,000 words (excluding empirical appendices and references).

The Examination will take place during the second assessment period [May/June] and will consist of an unseen two hour paper that will contribute the remaining 50% of the final mark for this module. Students must write 2 answers in total.

Summary of course content

Introduction to Indian history through the centuries
Film Workshop: The idea of Empire
Key terms and concepts in Indian history
Revolt of 1857 (1): Causes & Course of Events
Approaches to Indian History
Revolt of 1857 (2): Nature and Consequences
Causes & Nature of the 1857 Revolt
Consolidation of British Rule, 1857-1914
British policy after Mutiny, 1857-1914
Indian Society and British rule
Impact of Colonialism on Indian Economy
Social change and social reform
Film Workshop: 1857
Eco. Nationalism & impact of Colonialism
Women in colonial India
Position of women in modern India
Emergence of Indian Nationalism
The Early Congress
Film Workshop: Amritsar 1919
Gandhi’s Rise to Power
Gandhi and Mass Nationalism
The Emergence of the Mahatma
Film Workshop: Mahatma Gandhi
Non-cooperation and Civil Disobedience
Partition of India

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module students will be able to:

  • demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of the changes that took place in Indian politics and society during colonial rule.
  • critically assess the different approaches to the study of the Indian past and
  • appreciate the importance of an India-centred approach imparted through lectures and visual images via film workshops.
  • gain new insights from the history of subordinated groups including women and peasants as well as the history of minority religious groups such as Muslims.
  • demonstrate the ability to analyse the significance of events at an All-India level as well as understand the importance of regional differences.

Skills that will be practised and developed

  • Students will extend their ability to:
  • communicate ideas and arguments effectively, whether in class discussion or in written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner.
  • formulate and justify arguments and conclusions about a range of issues, and present appropriate supporting evidence
  • modify as well as to defend their own position.
  • think critically and challenge assumptions about Indian history and politics
  • use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation.
  • Effective time management skills and an ability to independently organise their own study methods and workload.
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.    

Suggested book purchases


Suggested preparatory reading

Judith Brown, Modern India: The Origins of an Asian Democracy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985)
Sekhar Bandopadhyay, From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India, (Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2004)
Bipan Chandra, (et al), India's Struggle for Independence, (Penguin, 1989) (as indicated in the title this book covers the nationalist period only and gives elite history an exhaustive treatment).
Crispin Bates, Subalterns and the Raj, (Anthem, 2008), good for subaltern histories
H. Kulke & D. Rothermund, A History of India, (London and New York, Routledge, 1992) (very broad survey from ancient to modern Indian periods of history).
Sumit Sarkar, Modern India, 1885-1947, (London, Macmillan, 1985) (a detailed study of specific subaltern movements, nothing on women and gender).
Metcalf & Metcalf, A Concise History of India, (Cambridge, CUP), £12. (good overview)
Burton Stein, History of India, (London, Blackwell, 1997) (in-depth, analytical and erudite, although limited topics).
Stanley Wolpert, A New History of India, (Oxford, O.U.P., 1997) (Chapters 14 to 23 treat the topics of Indian modernisation well, with 2 chapters on the impact of the world wars on the Indian economy)
Peter Robb,  A History of India, (New York, Palgrave, 2002). (Brief but good for modern period of Indian history especially on the ‘economy’).