Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
—Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, June 18, 1940

Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.
—Dean Acheson, former US Secretary of State, December 5, 1962

AT THE TURN of the twentieth century the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the most powerful nation on earth. As the first industrial society it had for decades dominated a global economy based on free trade, and in 1900 it was still the world's greatest creditor nation as well as the most technologically advanced. Britain's empire controlled a quarter of the world's population and a fifth of its dry surface while its navy and merchant fleet enjoyed unchallenged mastery over the oceans.

In the hundred years that followed, Britain and the British Empire experienced dramatic transformations. In the first half of the century these included the anxiety and trauma of two world wars, the political separation of Ireland, and oscillating periods of austerity and affluence. Yet while Britain's political, economic and military power declined on the world stage, its people at home achieved a level of material security, political equality, and social parity unequalled in their history. Abject poverty was virtually eradicated in the new welfare state while Britain's famous class hierarchy was diminished (though never eliminated). In the second half of the century, the dismantling of the British Empire and the concurrent rise of the Commonwealth brought waves of immigration into Britain from its former colonies. This phenomenon remade the nation—especially in the cities—into a dynamic multicultural and multiracial society with deep connections to the rest of the world. The final decades of the century saw Britain pulled in opposite directions by the forces of European integration on one side and nationalism and regional devolution within the British Isles on the other. Throughout the century many Britons lamented their country's slow and seemingly irreversible decline, but by the beginning of the twenty-first century Britain appeared to many to be a vibrant and young society transforming itself in remarkable ways and with a bright future.

This seminar traces the diverse and interconnected strands of the history of Great Britain and its empire throughout the tumultuous twentieth century. The first half of the course is devoted to reading scholarly books and articles accompanied by the occasional primary source. The scope of the readings and discussions will address the political, economic, social, cultural, gender, and intellectual dimensions of twentieth-century Britain and its empire. Through group discussion, students will become acquainted with the most significant debates and historical schools of thought about this era in British and imperial history. The second half of the course is devoted to individual research and presentations as students prepare their theses.

David Campion
Pamplin Associate Professor of History
Miller 409 | MSC 41

Lewis & Clark College
0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
Portland, Oregon 97219 USA

Tel: 503.768.7435
Fax: 503.768.7418
Email: campion@lclark.edu

Class Hours:
TuTh 9:40-11:10
Miller 319

Office Hours:
MTh 1:00-3:00
(or by appointment)
Miller 409

Course Requirements

Schedule of Classes

Research Paper Guidelines

British History Online

British History in Film

Prof. Campion's Other Courses

Top (left to right):
1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, at the Battle of the Somme, July 1916 © Imperial War Museums
Night skyline of the City of London and St. Paul's Cathedral on the North Bank of the Thames
Statue of Britannia at the National Armada Memorial, Plymouth
Labour Party poster, December 1910 General Election, J. Howitt & Son, Nottingham
Newcaste-upon-Tyne, c.1950, photo by Bert Hardy © Hulton/Getty

Bottom (left to right):
Royal couple and Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during V-E Day, 8 May 1945 © Getty Images
The Viceroy's House, New Delhi, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, completed 1931
London police constables on bicycle patrol, 1960s
The Rt. Hon. Chris Patten, Last Governor of Hong Kong, 30 June 1997 © BBC
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) march in Derry, Sunday, 30 January 1972 ("Bloody Sunday")

Created by campion@lclark.edu | Updated February 2016