Art and Empire

Ref: C3741330

European imperialism has been an important feature of world history over the last 500 years. This course will explore the relationship between British imperialism and visual culture with particular emphasis on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By drawing on a range of sources – including paintings, photographs and printed material – the course will explore how British artists, travellers and settlers across the Empire responded to the people and places they encountered, how their approach was influenced by their preconceptions, and what impact their work had back in Europe. Each session will be structured around a broad theme, and will involve the discussion of a range of relevant images and texts. Themes to be covered will include exploration, landscapes, the recording of historical events, imperial architecture, and depictions of colonised peoples and colonial societies.

Course aim

To consider a range of works of art associated with the British Empire in their social and historical contexts, investigating their role in recording and shaping contemporary attitudes and debates.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • explain some key concepts underlying the study of colonial history and culture
  • analyse critically paintings, buildings, visual displays and ceremonial associated with British imperialism
  • use examples to discuss the role of the visual in recording and shaping imperial cultures

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No preparatory reading is required, but some suggestions for general reading include: Laurence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1995) P. J. Marshall (ed), The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire (1996)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full Course information sheet

Art and Empire


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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