nl en

Empire and Post Empire: Anti-colonialism and Decolonization


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None, but it is recommended that the student has completed Birth of the Modern World.


This class examines the meaning, process, and new worlds engendered by decolonization.

Considered as a movement, idea, and a moment, what is decolonization? This course explores political, cultural, ideational, and economic dimensions of decolonization from the 1890s to the 1970s. We will consider anticolonial writings and ideas from Asia, Africa, and the Americas as well as their circulation, translation, and adaptation across geographic contexts. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship between anticolonial thought and the rise of a global “color line” (Dubois).

In recent decades, historical understanding of the end of empire as the inevitable endpoint of European colonization has been transformed. Instead of seeing formal decolonization in the twentieth century as preordained by the violence and exploitation of empire, historians have emphasized the uneven, disjointed, and contingent nature of the decolonization process as well as its impact on European societies. Through individual and interconnected case studies, we will delineate the convergences and contradictions that constituted the decolonizing process across urban, rural, national, regional, imperial, and global contexts.

Did formal decolonization signal the end of imperialism as a mode of global order? This class will explore how the end of empire articulated with the rise of international institutions of health, governance, and finance. Through understanding how the economic and cultural dimensions of imperial rule were transformed and rewoven into a post-imperial world order, we will better understand how the end of empires shapes the world we live in today.

Course Objectives


  • Compare and contrast ideas from anticolonial thinkers and evaluate their circulation and impact in different temporal and geographical contexts

  • Distinguish and evaluation connections between anticolonial ideas in primary sources and decolonization as a political and economic process


  • Describe decolonization as both a moment and a movement that transcended the end of formal empire and continues to impact European societies

  • Evaluate how decolonization shaped twentieth-century global history, including global integration and new systems and processes of global governance

  • Identify the convergences, contradictions, and interconnections among anticolonial thinkers

  • Identify possibilities for post-imperial political communities and evaluate the reasons for their success or failure


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, seminars, group presentations, general debates.

Assessment Method

  • 15% - Active participation in classroom discussion

  • 15% - One group presentation on weekly readings

  • 30% - Two reading responses; 500-750 words each (week 2 and 3)

  • 40% - One essay on historical topic that engages with historiography and primary sources; max 3,000 words (week 7)

Reading list

Europe After Empire: Decolonization, Society, and Culture by Elizabeth Buettner


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Josh Mentako