From port cities to plantation houses, fortifications to town halls, places of worship to slave ships, buildings of all kinds and their image have been integral to colonial processes of dispossession, exploitation and persuasion, and it is in the built environment that imperialism and its effects remain perhaps most prominent and problematic today. Focusing on the construction of colonial spaces as part of British expansionism around the world from 1600 through to the twentieth century, while also attentive to competing European projects and indigenous resistance, this special option opens up investigation of an eclectic range of cultural endeavour across geographies and periods, enabling students to develop and deepen broadly applicable skills of research and analysis within the rich and hotly debated field of imperial and colonial/postcolonial studies.
Our case studies will cover America, Africa, Asia and Australasia, as well as Europe, involving regular site visits in and around London (and further afield) to understand the crucial architectural projects at the heart of Britain’s empire. Possible overseas fieldwork would most likely take us to the Caribbean. Engaging with diverse issues and concepts, and immersed in London’s vast archive of images, printed materials and manuscript documents including the British Library, V&A and National Maritime Museum, students will be encouraged to develop independent approaches and explore overlooked territories, actively contributing to a growing area of study – the architectural history of empire – and to architectural, cultural and social history more generally. We will also tackle together the very ‘live’ questions of heritage and preservation through decolonisation since the mid-twentieth century, which are fundamental to working in or with so many museums, archives and historical sites.