– The British Experience 1789-1914 –

Instructor: Professor Y.A. Bennett

In the period from 1789 to 1914, Britain was involved in several conflicts, including the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Second South African War and numerous other shorter conflicts. This half credit course is a survey of the experience of these wars and their consequences for British society.

The course matter pays close attention to historiographical change, to the emergence of new evidence and to the reconsideration of older approaches, interpretations and arguments. An equally strong emphasis is placed upon the development of research, writing and analytical skills. The course is designed to help students to develop an ability to think clearly and critically, to ask significant questions, to read and interpret historical materials intelligently and to express ideas in a logical, concise manner. To this end, several of the two weekly 1.5 hours of lecture periods will be devoted to discussion and research workshops. Course work will probably comprise of a document analysis (30%), a research essay based on newspaper sources (40%) and a final examination (30%).  Please note that this is a second year level course and second year level standards will apply. First year students should only enroll in the course if they are confident that they have the ability and background to manage the demands of a 2000 level class.

At the end of the course it is hoped that students will be able to:

  • identify and discuss some of the key events and historical debates in the study of British society’s experience of war in the period from 1789 to 1914.
  • sift and analyse  primary source materials
  • dissect the arguments of others and assemble their own
  • improve their writing skills
  • be able to call themselves “research hounds”, with keen bibliographic skills, confidently able to navigate the Library and its resources.


As much as possible primary source materials found in digital archives like those which preserve The Times newspaper (of London), the Guardian, the Observer, the Illustrated London News, the House of Commons Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) and the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, are used together with scholarly articles and e –books, available through the Library, and a variety of other materials freely available on the web.

A final decision has not been made regarding texts, but interested students may enjoy reading William Lawrence’s, The Autobiography of Sergeant William Lawrence: a Hero of the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns (London, 1886), which you will find at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29263/29263-h/29263-h.htm and which is also available at: https://archive.org/stream/theautobiography29263gut/pg29263.txt or A.E.W. Mason, The Four Feathers (London, 1902). Several editions are available at the Internet Archive. See https://archive.org/details/thefourfeathers18883gut or listen to the book at: https://archive.org/details/four_feathers_1203_librivox

The novel has been made into several films, including the 2002 version starring the late Heath Ledger. The 1939 version is still widely regarded as the best one.

Instructor: Y.A. Bennett.

Any questions, please e-mail: aleksandra_bennett@carleton.ca


This course precludes additional credit for HIST2801 which is no longer offered