History 434: 
European Colonialism

Prof. Jeffrey Auerbach
History Department
Fall 2009
MW 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Sierra Hall 186

Description:  This course examines the expansion, consolidation, management, and disintegration of the modern European empires, focusing on the ambiguities of identity produced by the cnounter between American, African, Middle Eastern, Asian, and Pacific cultures.  Using readings, paintings, and film, we will explore how Europeans “civilized” themselves by constructing, denigrating, and appropriating non-European cultures, and discuss colonial and postcolonial resistances to European imperialism.  Topics include such cultural constructions as cannibalism, exoticism, orientalism, primitivism, racism, and tourism. 


Texts:   All books are available for purchase at Matador. A number of the readings are available on the internet and are linked to the syllabus.  Others will be on reserve in the library.
Conrad Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Dover, 1991): A modernist masterpiece, this is the story of Marlow's physical and psychological journey deep into the heart of the Belgian Congo in search of the mysterious trader Kurtz. It exposes the tenuous fabric that holds 'civilization' together, and the brutal horror at the center of European colonialism. Also available online.
Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa: The Tahitian Journal (Dover, 1985): In 1891, French painter Paul Gauguin fled to the island of Tahiti, 'a sixty-three days' voyage, sixty-three days of feverish expactancy.'  His diary describes his fascination with the indigenous people he encountered, and his disgust with the European 'civilization' he left behind.


Stuart Schwartz, ed. Victors and Vanquished (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000): A compilation of both Spanish and Nahua (Aztec) views of the conquest of Mexico that emphasizes the complex nature of the encounter as well as issues of perception and narration.
Michael Fisher, ed., The Travels of Dean Mahomet (University of California Press, 1997):  The autobiographical travel narrative of an Indian recalling his years as camp-follower, servant, and officer in the East India Company's army, and later his emigration to Britain where he opened what was probably the first Indian restaurant in England. Also available online.
Mehdi Charef, Tea in the Harem (Serpent's Tail, 1989): This exemplary 'beur' novel ('beur' is a French slang word for 'Arab') presents the bleak world of a forgotten post-colonial underclass. Majid, the son of Algerian immigrants, lives on the fringes of French society in a concrete slum.  Neither French nor Arab, he is the son of immigrants, caught between two cultures, two histories, two languages, and two colours of skin. 


Part I.  Early Colonial Mentalities

Aug. 24  Introduction
Case Study: Mexico
Aug. 26 Portents and Preparations
Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished, 1-78
Aug. 31 Encounter and Engagement

Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished, 79-126
Reading Worksheet #1 due

Sept. 2 Tenochtitlan

Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished , 127-213

Sept. 7 Campus Closed

Sept. 9 Aftermath: Empire and Opposition

Schwartz, Victors and Vanquished, 214-243
The Noble Savage
Sept. 14 Savagery and Cannibalism
Montaigne, On Cannibals (1580)
Sept. 16 The Art of Exploration in the South Pacific
Diderot, Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage (1772)
Sept. 21/23 Film: Black Robe

Sept. 28 No Class: Furlough Day
Black Robe (1991) - Directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Double Jeapardy, Breaker Morant), it documents the clash of cultures between the Huron Indians of Quebec and the Jesuit missionaries from France who are tying to convert them to Catholicism.  While focusing on the physical and spiritual journey of a single 17th century priest who is escorted through the wilderness by Algonquin Indians to find a distant mission in the dead of winter, this film empahsizes the difficulty both sides have understanding the other, and raises provocative questions about the 'civilizing' mission. 

Part II.  The Age of High Imperialism

Case Study: India

Sept. 30 Britain in India

The Travels of Dean Mahomet , Preface and Part I (pp. 1-59)

Oct. 2 British India

The Travels of Dean Mahomet, Part II (pp. 60-113)

Oct. 7 Indians in Britain
The Travels of Dean Mahomet , Part III (pp. 135-181)
Oct. 12 Orientalism
Orientalist Art
Race and Racism
Oct. 14 The Construction of Race

David Hume, "Of National Characters," Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary (1742)
Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime ( 1764)
"Negro," Encyclopedia Britannica (1798)

Oct. 19 Race, Sexuality and the Hottentot Venus

Film: The Life and Times of Sara Baartman
First Paper Due
The Life and Times of Sara Baartman (1998) - Sara Baartman, the 'Hottentot Venus', was a Khoi Khoi woman from South Africa who was taken to London in 1810 and exhibited as a freak.  Four years later she was taken to France, where she became the object of scientific and medical research, and, after her death the following year, an icon of racial inferiority and black female sexuality.  Using historical drawings, cartoons, legal documents, and interviews, this documentary by Zola Maseko has won numerous awards.
Oct. 21 Abolition
"The Dark Continent"
Oct. 26 The Scramble for Africa

Oct. 28 Darkest Africa

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1901)
Reading Worksheet #2 due

Nov. 2 Darkest Africa

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1901)

Nov. 4 The Black Man's Burden: King Leopold's Congo

Excerpts from Edward D. Morel, The Black Man's Burden (1903)

Nov. 9 No Class; Furlough Day

Nov. 11 No Class: Veterans' Day


Nov. 16 Uncivilizing the Self, Civilizing the Other

Paul Gauguin, Noa, Noa (1919)
Gauguin's Paintings

Nov. 18 Exoticism in the Pacific

Paul Gauguin, Noa, Noa (1919)

Part III.  The Empire Strikes Back

Case Study: Algeria

Nov. 23 The Struggle for Algerian Independence

Film: "The Battle for Algiers" (1965)
Second Paper Due
Battle of Algiers (1965) - A French film by an Italian director, Gillo Pontecorvo, that recreates the events leading up to Algerian independence in a pseudo-documentary style in what has become the definitive study of terrorism.  Although the director's allegiances are clear, he offers a sympathetic handling of both sides of this agonizing, brutal, struggle, offering a comment on all manifestations of political violence, whether perpetrated in the name of liberty by freedom fighters, or under the banner of law and order by colonial forces. This movie foregrounds the role of women in Algeria's struggle for nationhood.

Nov. 25 Fighting (with) Terror

Film: "The Battle for Algiers"

Nov. 30 Veiling and Unveiling

Franz Fanon, "Algeria Unveiled" from Studies in a Dying Colonialism (1959)

Postcolonial Europe
Dec. 2  Return of the Native

Mehdi Charef, Tea in the Harem (1989)

Dec. 7 Beurs and Pakis: Colonial Immigration in Europe

Mehdi Charef, Tea in the Harem (1989)

Dec. 9 Conclusion
Final Exam: Dec. 16, 8:00-10:00 a.m. No exceptions or alternatives!
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