HI6043 - Creatures of Empire: an Animal History of British Colonialism

What will I learn on this module?

In every empire, including the British case, non-human animals have been a crucial presence. Domesticated creatures, such as cows, pigs and sheep, accompanied European colonisers and assisted in the – often violent – processes that led to land clearances, changed environments, indigenous dispossession, and the spread of European settlement. This module seeks to give you a sense of the complicated and contested place of animals in empire. For some human colonisers, the hunting, killing, stuffing and exhibition of wild animals symbolised the European’s command of nature, and helped justify the whole imperial endeavour. But animals could also make trouble for empires: efforts to reproduce prized species and breeds did not always work; many animals spread disease; the growth of pest populations was a constant source of anxiety; and imported species could bring environmental changes that endangered both indigenous and European settlement.

This module considers this complicated interweaving of human and non-human histories in the British empire story, from the early modern settlements of seventeenth-century New England to the colonies of indirect rule in twentieth-century Africa. The first week will introduce you to the methodologies of animal history, and what an animal history of empire requires and might reveal. Thereafter, each week considers a species and a regional case study (e.g., rabbits/Australia; cows/southern Africa; tigers/British India). This simple structure introduces learners to themes as various as imperial masculinity and violence (hunting), ecological and social crises (epizootics), colonial community and family life (pet ownership), colonial urban history (pest control), imperial cultures in the metropole (taxidermy) and colonial national identity (animals as symbols). Importantly, the module is not exclusively structured around British and European viewpoints and actions: episodes such as the Xhosa cattle killing in 1850s southern Africa, to take one example, allows for a consideration of the differences and similarities in European and indigenous human-animal relationships.

You will learn about the relationship between empire, ecological degradation, and conservation through key themes such as ‘ecological imperialism’, ‘green imperialism’ and ‘animal agency’. Finally, this module will help you to historically contextualise current debates about human-animal relationships and the imperial roots of our ecological crisis; you may also recognise that the British empire experience provides examples and lessons that might help us rethink contemporary anthropocentric attitudes, and to develop healthier alternatives.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn on this module by attending two weekly seminars; the first will be two-hours long, the second an hour. The first seminar will include a short lecture, introducing that week’s subject and the themes for discussion. This will be followed by a focus on the set reading (available via the electronic reading list) and the historiographical debates related to the subject area. This will involve small group work and larger group discussion and will be structured around a pre-circulated worksheet, which will include a set of questions. The second, hour-long, seminar will focus on primary sources. You will receive formative feedback throughout the learning process and the summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through your module tutor, engagement with your peers, and through the programme leader. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised Feedback and Consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your degree programme, of which this module is part. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures, and resources available on the eLP. Formative feedback will be on-going through seminar activities and assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of how an animal history approach can enrich our understanding of human empire.
2. An appreciation of the origins of current attitudes and treatment of animals, and how far empire provides lessons and examples for rethinking the human-animal relationship.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate a range of transferable skills, including the ability to make independent critical judgements, to critically evaluate sources, to summarise the research of others, and to present arguments in a cogent and persuasive way.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Awareness of, and sensitivity towards, how different ethnic, religious and social groups in the former empire have interacted with non-human animals.
5. Engagement with ethical questions concerning human-animal relationships, anthropocentrism, and ‘more-than-human’ perspectives.

How will I be assessed?

1 x 1,500-word essay (weighted 25%)
This essay will ask students to reflect on the value, difficulties and challenges of writing animal-centred histories, topics discussed in the first seminars.

1 x 1,500-word primary source essay (weighted 2%).
For this assessment, students will critically assess two primary sources relating to a particular animal species, or case study.

1 x 3,000-word essay (weighted 50%).
This essay will allow students to engage with material across the module weeks; it will be written in response to one question chosen from a list provided by the module tutor.

Formative feedback for each assessment will be provided in seminars. Verbal and written feedback will be given on all summative assessed work. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable you to improve on later ones.

Pre-requisite(s)

N/A

Co-requisite(s)

N/A

Module abstract

This module will give you a sense of the complicated and contested place of animals in empire. For some human colonisers, the hunting, killing, stuffing and exhibition of wild animals symbolised the European’s command of nature, and helped justify the whole imperial endeavour. But animals could also make trouble for empires: efforts to reproduce prized species and breeds did not always work; many animals spread disease; the growth of pest populations was a constant source of anxiety; and imported species could bring environmental changes that endangered both indigenous and European settlement. This module considers this complicated interweaving of human and non-human histories in the British empire story, from the early modern settlements of seventeenth-century New England to the colonies of indirect rule in twentieth-century Africa. In taking this module, you will gain a richer sense of animal histories, the human-animal relationship, and the legacies that western empire – both its rapacious and ‘green’ varieties - has left in terms of ecologies, conservation and animal life today.

Course info

UCAS Code LV21

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.

 

Current, Relevant and Inspiring

We continuously review and improve course content in consultation with our students and employers. To make sure we can inform you of any changes to your course register for updates on the course page.


Your Learning Experience

Find out about our distinctive approach at 
www.northumbria.ac.uk/exp

Admissions Terms and Conditions
northumbria.ac.uk/terms

Fees and Funding
northumbria.ac.uk/fees

Admissions Policy
northumbria.ac.uk/adpolicy

Admissions Complaints Policy
northumbria.ac.uk/complaints